Transmissions Affect Fuel Economy Too Transmissions get li...
Top 2008 Fuel Economy Faves
Suddenly, it's cool to drive a more environmentally mindful vehicle. High fuel prices, an unstable oil market, and world political forces are changing attitudes and vehicle preferences as a matter of economic necessity for both consumers and the auto industry. Shopping for a new vehicle today means paying attention not only to purchase price, monthly payments, and insurance costs, but for the first time since the oil crisis of the 1970s, fuel economy as well.
Automakers now have a business case for building fuel efficient cars for the North American market. As demand grows, moving the large number of high mileage cars necessary to maintain profitability becomes easier to achieve. That's good news for all since greener cars are easier on the environment, conserve natural resources, and save drivers money through lower operating costs.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the savings achieved by a car that gets 30 mpg compared to one that gets 20 mpg amounts to $775 per year, assuming 15,000 miles of driving annually and a fuel cost of $3.10. Add this up over the years a vehicle is typically in your driveway and the potential dollar savings is eye-opening.
Selecting a more fuel efficient car, truck, or SUV is a matter of choice and not necessarily price. Here, we've singled out 10 mileage standouts at five different price points that start below $15,000 and rise to over $30,000. Other vehicles are offered for consideration at each price level. The top selections aren't always the two highest fuel economy choices in a price range, but rather the most significant when functionality and drivability are taken into account. Considered, too, are consumer needs ranging from family size to vehicle styling. Clearly, there are lots of choices out there that fit differing needs and "greenness" will always be subjective. Here are 10 of our favorites that won't steer you wrong.
HONDA FIT, 28 CITY/34 HIGHWAY MPG, $13,950
EPA classifies the Honda Fit as a small station wagon, making it the fuel economy leader in that segment. But in reality, the Fit competes more closely with the Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa subcompacts, cars that are small on the outside and big on the inside. Regardless, Honda's little five-door hatch is a very functional economy car/wagon that easily delivers fuel economy in the low to mid-30 mpg range. Power comes from a 109 horsepower, 1.5 liter VTEC four-cylinder and either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission.
FORD FOCUS, 24 CITY/35 HIGHWAY MPG, $14,300
Ford's new 2008 Focus is proof that domestic manufacturers can produce great small cars. The Focus is offered as either a sporty two door coupe or four door sedan in base S, mid-range SE, and higher-end SES trim levels. The new car has a stiffer body structure than before, allowing a greater level of suspension tuning that makes it fun to drive and pleasant to live with daily. It comes standard with Ford's Duratec 2.0-liter four cylinder engine that can be ordered as a PZEV (Partial Zero Emission Vehicle) variant in many states.
Toyota Yaris, 29 city/36 highway mpg, $11,350
Nissan Versa, 26 city/31 highway mpg, $12,710
Chevrolet Aveo, 24 city/34 highway mpg, $10,895
CHEVROLET MALIBU, 22 CITY/30 HIGHWAY MPG, $19,995
The completely redesigned 2008 Chevy Malibu may well restore your faith in domestic automakers. This fresh-from-the-tread-up design delivers considerable value in a good size family sedan. A base price under 20 grand represents considerable value when you consider it includes traction control, four wheel ABS, a year of OnStar, XM Satellite radio, and an automatic transmission. Bolstering its family appeal is a five star frontal and side impact crash rating. A 2.4-liter double overhead cam Ecotec engine is standard with a 3.6-liter V-6 optional. The Malibu is also offered in a mild hybrid version that delivers 24/32 mpg, but it doesn't make the under 20 grand cut.
NISSAN ROGUE, 22 CITY/27 HIGHWAY MPG, $19,250
Crossover vehicles try to be many things to many people, a feat the 2008 Nissan Rogue manages with surprising ease. The Rogue hits a sweet spot between true economy car thriftiness and SUV versatility. A smaller crossover package, the Rogue is easy to maneuver around town and parks more like a compact car than SUV. It is offered in both front wheel drive and all wheel drive powertrains, so if you live in snow country you may want to step up to all-weather capability with only a one mpg loss in both city and highway driving. This is made possible by Nissan's choice of a very willing 170 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder that delivers V-6 like power through a continuously variable transmission.
Toyota Corolla, 27 city/35 highway mpg, $15,250
Honda Civic, 26 city/34 highway mpg, $15,010
Subaru Impreza, 20 city/27 highway mpg, $16,995
HONDA CIVIC HYBRID, 40 CITY/45 HIGHWAY MPG, $22,600
In the U.S. market, the Honda Civic is the economy car by which all others are judged. Rightly so, since the Civic has set standards for space efficiency, fuel economy, and clean emissions from the start. Now, some 35 years after the first Civic was introduced, this basic economy car has morphed into a platform that satisfies buyers from the sport compact performance crowd to commuters seeking maximum economy. The Civic Hybrid is in many ways the ultimate incarnation of the Civic's low environmental impact, high fuel efficiency promise. Utilizing Honda's Integrated Motor Assist hybrid technology, the Civic Hybrid consistently delivers better than 40 mpg without sacrificing functionality.
TOYOTA PRIUS, 48 CITY/45 HIGHWAY MPG, $21,100
When you hear the word hybrid, this is the car most people envision. Pure and simple, the Toyota Prius is an icon of hybrid powertrain evolution. It has now been 10 years since the first Prius was sold in Japan, and that decade of refinement and technological advancement is evident in the current model. Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive incorporates a 1.5-liter, double overhead cam four-cylinder engine producing 76 horsepower. With the integration of a 67 horsepower electric motor this package provides 295 ft-lbs of torque from 0 rpm. The Prius is comfortable, stylish in its own quirky way, and provides drivers a high-profile statement for environmental performance.
Chevy Malibu Hybrid, 24 city/32 highway mpg, $22,790
Saturn Vue Green Line, 25 city/32 highway mpg, $24,795
Saturn Aura Green Line, 24 city/32 highway mpg, $22,790
TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID, 34 CITY/32 HIGHWAY MPG, $25,350
How do you make the best selling car in America even better? If you're Toyota, you add a hybrid version, of course. The Camry Hybrid debuted last year along with a complete redesign of the model. Utilizing Toyota's proven Hybrid Synergy Drive system, the Camry offers a combined gasoline-electric drive output of 187 horsepower. A true full hybrid like the Prius, the Camry Hybrid is capable of operating solely on electric power at slow speeds, on the gasoline engine alone, or via a combination of the two. The latest generation Camry is a solid mid-size sedan that suits a wide variety of missions well, particularly the roll of a comfortable family commuter car.
FORD ESCAPE HYBRID, 34 CITY/30 HIGHWAY MPG, $26,505
Ford continues to make strides with its hybrid program as evidenced by the 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid. The new model is not only quieter and more refined, but delivers better fuel economy than previous models as well. With 2008 EPA numbers of 34 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway for the front wheel drive model, the Escape Hybrid lays claim to being the most fuel efficient SUV available in America. The combination of a 2.3-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder gas engine and 94 horsepower electric motor allows the Escape Hybrid to deliver performance equivalent to a standard V-6 engine without sacrificing fuel economy. The Escape Hybrid is a great small SUV alternative for buyers who not willing to sacrifice utility for economy.
Nissan Altima Hybrid, 35 city/33 highway mpg, $25,710
Mercury Mariner 2WD Hybrid, 34 city/30 highway mpg, $27,195
Mazda Tribute 2WD Hybrid, 34 city/30 highway mpg, $25,310
TOYOTA HIGHLANDER HYBRID, 27 CITY/25 HIGHWAY MPG, $37,650
The family friendly Highlander Hybrid grew in size, weight, and utility for 2008, yet delivers equivalent mileage to its smaller predecessor. The roomier interior features three rows, with the center row offering a removable center section that stows in the bottom of the console for easy access to the rear. Toyota is calling the new Highlander a crossover vehicle rather than an SUV. A quieter and more refined ride clearly moves the Highlander apart from truck based SUVs. Power comes from a 3.3-liter double overhead cam V-6 that works in harmony with electric drive to produce a combined output of 270 horsepower. The new model also offers an "EV" button that provides the ability to drive more on electric power only at lower speeds and for limited distances.
MERCEDES-BENZ E320 BLUETEC, 23 CITY/32 HIGHWAY MPG, $53,025
With ultra low sulfur -- or "clean" -- diesel now the standard in the U.S., automakers are finally able offer the diesel engine's roughly 30 percent fuel economy advantage while meeting the same stringent clean air standards as gasoline cars. The luxurious Mercedes E320 Bluetec is among the first to market with clean diesel technology that meets 50 state emissions requirements. The 3.0-liter Bluetec V-6 features 210 horsepower and an impressive 400 lbs-ft of torque delivered through an electronically controlled 7-speed automatic transmission. With fuel economy on par with smaller hybrid sedans, this Mercedes can cover a lot of ground between fill ups ... nearly 700 miles in highway cruise mode.
Lexus GS 450h, 22 city/25 highway mpg, $54,900
Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, 20 city/22 highway mpg, $49,590
Lexus RX 400h, 27 city/24 highway mpg, $41,280
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