Last Updated Apr 29, 2010 11:03 AM EDT
For its list, TrueCar looked at total cost: purchase price plus gas over six years driving 15,000 miles annually, factoring in any rebates or tax credits available. Its rock-bottom winner, at 20 cents per mile: the Hyundai Accent, a not-very-well-reviewed small car.
But since you'd want a great car, not just an economical one, MoneyWatch whittled down TrueCar's list based on our own test drives and other reviews and found four winners. One runs on gas, one's a diesel, and two are hybrids. Drumroll, please:
Small Car: Honda Fit With a $16,315 price and 35 mpg highway/28 city, the Fit has an impressively low six-year cost of 27 cents per mile. The Fit has a smooth ride, responsive handling, and roomy (for a small car) back seats that fold down for maximum cargo hauling.
Mid-size Sedan: Nissan Altima Hybrid Though much bigger than most of TrueCar's best-deal cars, the Altima still finished in the site's Top 10, at 32 cents per mile (33 mpg highway/35 city). Combine its $2,350 federal tax credit plus Nissan's $3,000 rebate and you get an alluring purchase price of $20,814. With strong acceleration, excellent handling, and comfortable seats, the Altima is one of the best-driving hybrid sedans.
Station Wagon: Volkwagen Jetta SportWagen TDI With sales of clean diesel models booming, about 85% of Jetta wagon buyers choose the diesel version. The 42 mpg highway rating (30 city) makes it an appealing choice. The Jetta will get you a $1,300 federal tax credit, and with a $25,409 average selling price, its six-year cost is just 36 cents a gallon, the best of any wagon. Like all diesels, the Jetta gives you plenty of punch when you hit the accelerator at any speed.
SUV: Mercury Mariner Hybrid You can't get a federal tax credit for this $28,692 hybrid sibling of the Ford Escape because Ford has sold more than 60,000 hybrids, after which the credits expire. But the Mariner Hybrid's 34 mpg city/31 highway brings its TrueCar cost in at 41 cents a mile, the best of any SUV. Reviewers praise its stylish looks, comfort and good cargo capacity.
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