Fifteen Fuel Efficiency Front Runners

High energy costs have made fuel efficiency a primary consideration in the selection criteria for our means of transport.
Only a short time ago, large luxury vehicles and high-performance muscle cars averaged mpg ratings from 11 to 15, and several SUVs and four-wheel-drive trucks we tested turned in single-digit numbers for actual mpg achieved during our tests.
Stinging criticism from automotive organizations, the automotive press and governmental agencies – and dwindling sales – has been a constructive influence.
Our most recent tests, conducted using car rental agency test vehicles – not specially prepared test cars from manufacturers – have shown improvement in both fuel efficiency and greater choices of fuel grades for higher-compression, high-performance engines.
A recent test of one of the most luxurious four-door Cadillac sedans averaged 20.1 mpg, including both highway and city driving. Many pickup trucks and SUVs we have tested recently have exceeded 20 mpg. With these normally thirsty vehicles now capable of such averages, the mileage for truly fuel efficient cars must also reach higher numbers to maintain a classification of economical operation.
To classify a vehicle as fuel efficient, we factor in size, passenger capacity, weight and performance all relative to mpg of fuel.
In most cases, the vehicles we selected for fuel efficiency champs were capable of being operated at a reasonably high level of performance while achieving mpg numbers in the high 30s and 40s, some even exceeding 50 mpg.
Of the cars we have tested, the following met our criteria for economy with acceptable performance: Chevy Aveo; Nissan Versa; Mazda 3 and VW Rabbit, both in hatch back and sedan bodies; Toyota Prius, Corolla and Yaris; Kia Rio; VW Beetle; Honda Civic and Fit; Hyundai Elantra; Suzuki SX 4 Sport; Subaru Impreza; and last, but far from least, the VW Jetta TDI clean-diesel – capable of more than 50 mpg on fuel as low grade as chicken fat.
While several other vehicles were worthy of inclusion on the recommended list by virtue of miserly fuel consumption alone, they did not meet the criteria for value and rugged, dependable and comfortable performance while providing an extraordinary experience, drivewise.
Automobile designer Jerry Cumbus is director of Automotive Research Center, a national association of auto designers, engineers and drivers.

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