Consumer Reports: Best Cars for High Gas Mileage

Last Updated Jun 8, 2011 8:37 AM EDT

Even though gas prices have fallen off from their peak near $4 a gallon (see Gas Prices Set to Fall), car shoppers still are looking for models with high gas mileage. With that in mind, Consumer Reports is listing its best bets for fuel economy -- based on their own testing rather than EPA ratings. For comparison 's sake, the magazine also lists the entry with the worst mileage in each class.

Summing up the results, David Champion, senior director of the CR auto test center, notes that "hybrid and diesel vehicles provide better fuel economy than conventional cars, but they usually cost more to buy." However, he adds, with gas prices remaining high, the payback periods in gas savings are shorter for that extra expenditure. These results and additional reviews are available in the June issue of the magazine or at the Consumer Reports website if you are a subscriber.

To make this list, cars needed not only to have high mpg but also had to meet the requirements for CR's Recommended list in performance, reliability and safety. Here are CR's picks.

Subcompact: Honda Fit
The Fit averaged 30 mpg during test driving in combined city and highway settings. (Its EPA ratings are 27 mpg city, 33 highway.) CR's test drivers laud the Fit for its smooth if not overly powerful engine, its good visibility and amazing amount of interior room for its size. The Fit list price for various styles before options ranges from $15,100 to $19,240.
  • The worst mileage in this class is the Chevrolet Aveo LT at 25 mpg.
Small Wagon or Hatchback: Volkswagen Golf TDI
This diesel Golf averaged a whopping 38 mpg. (EPA ratings are 30 city, 42 highway.) Like other reviewers, the CR test drivers praise the Golf for its fun to drive quality, with responsive steering and minimal body lean through curves and corners. List price for the diesel starts at $23,225.
  • Worst MPG in the class at 23 mpg is a tie between the Scion xB and the all-wheel drive Subaru Impreza Outback.
Best Small Sedan: Toyota Corolla
The Corolla, long among the best-selling small cars, averaged 32 mpg (compared with EPA ratings of 28 city, 35 highway). The magazine praised the Corolla for its comfortable ride and record of reliability. The Corolla list price ranges from $15,900 to $18,600.
  • The small-car mpg loser was the Subaru Impreza 2.5i at 24 mpg.
Best Family Car: Toyota Prius
Though the hybrid Prius is often put in a class by itself, CR rated it with other midsize sedans. Not surprisingly, it topped the list, averaging 44 mpg. (EPA ratings are 51 city, 48 highway.) Recently the Prius has been selling at a premium to its list price, starting at $24,876, because of shortages following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. (To avoid those high prices and limited selection, consider taking over a lease with two years or less remaining.)
  • The worst in this class, with 20 mpg, were in a three-way tie: Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Impala LTZ and Mazda6.
Best Upscale Sports Sedan: Lexus HS 250
Though this hybrid Lexus won the class with an average of 31 mpg (vs. EPA 35 city, 34 highway), it was not otherwise a favorite of CR reviewers. Based on the technology in corporate stablemate Toyota Camry Hybrid, the HS 250 put off reviewers with a narrow cabin and jiggly ride. List price for this hybrid ranges from $36,330 to $39,100.
  • The mileage loser in this class is the Lincoln MKZ at 20 mpg, although the MKZ has a hybrid version for the same price as the gas model that gets much higher mileage.
Best Small SUV: Ford Escape Hybrid
This hybrid averaged 26 mpg in CR test drives (vs. EPA ratings of 30 city, 27 highway). Magazine reviewers praised Escape for its roomy interior with good cargo space and above-average reliability. The Escape Hybrid's list price ranges from $31,860 to $34,370.
  • The mileage duds in this class at 16 mpg were the Dodge Nitro SLT and the Jeep Liberty Sport.
Of course, gas mileage is only one of many factors you consider when buying a new car. But for choosing a model that will be easy on your gas budget, this list is a good place to start.

Photos courtesy of the manufacturers
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