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Skip the high-priced hybrids to save on gas

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco

EPA rating (city/highway): 28/42 mpg

Price: $19,175

What we say: Like the Ford Fiesta and Focus, the Chevrolet Cruze returns more than 40 mpg when you buy the Eco model. But there's a caveat: You must order it with the six-speed manual transmission to obtain 42 mpg. Opting for the automatic reduces highway mileage to 37 mpg. Handling and build quality is better than any small Chevy in recent memory, although rear seat legroom is tight.

2011 Smart Fortwo

EPA rating (city/highway): 33 /41 mpg

Price: $15,445

What we say: When it comes to fuel economy, the Smart Fortwo is no longer the standout it once was. But it's unique in other ways. Its diminutive size enables it to fit into parking spaces otherwise reserved for motorcycles. Its perky looks still grab attention. And two Smarts will fit in a one-car garage without any renovations. How's that for saving money? And, so far, the Smart Fortwo Cabrio is the only 40 mpg car sold in the U.S. available as a convertible.

2011 Hyundai Elantra

EPA rating (city/highway): 29/40 mpg

Price: $15,550

What we say: Unlike Ford and Chevrolet, there are no caveats to getting 40 mpg from the Elantra; all models return 40 mpg on the highway. But wait, it gets better. The car's roomy interior is large enough for the EPA to classify it a midsize car. And the styling builds on the Sonata's popular design cues. Like the Sonata, the Elantra is filled with options once reserved for luxury cars, such as heated rear seats.

2011 Ford Fiesta SE

EPA rating (city/highway): 29/40 mpg

Price: $16,885

What we say: Most models of this European Ford return 37 or 38 mpg in highway driving. Order the SE with an automatic transmission and optional SFE Super Fuel Efficient package, and highway mileage jumps to 40 mpg. The difference comes from 15-inch wheels with underbody shields, blockers on the lower grille and the six-speed automatic transmission. No matter which model you choose, you'll get a sporty interior, agile manners and acceptable acceleration.

2012 Ford Focus

EPA rating (city/highway): 28/40 mpg

Price: $19,585

What we say: Like the Ford Fiesta, the redesigned 2012 Focus gets 40 mpg when equipped with the SFE package, which includes a six-speed automatic transmission, 16-inch steel wheels with aero wheel covers, active grille shutters, high-efficiency tires, four-wheel disc brakes, rear spoiler and a special SFE badge. As for performance, consider it the Fiesta's bigger brother.

— Associated Press

Skip the high-priced hybrids to save on gas 04/23/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2011 8:46pm]
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