Five Ways To Go Economy Class
None Need To Be Plugged In
By Ron Amadon
DAMACUS, MD. – Continuing concern over world oil prices may have you wondering if the time has come to consider a smaller set of wheels for your daily commute.
While world oil prices stabilized a bit late in the week, experts said that could quickly change depending on the situation in Syria. With all that in mind, here is a look at five cars that sip gas, haul stuff, and in many cases, are fun to drive.
With a complete redesign, the fun to drive 3 emerges as one of the sharpest looking compact cars on the market. It is lighter and slightly shorter, but with a longer wheelbase that adds rear seat leg room. The base engine is a 2.0-liter, 155 horsepower four with a combined EPA fuel economy of 33 mpg. Move up to the 3s model and you get a 2.5-liter four with an estimated mpg of 39 combined. Mazda claims if you add the capacitor-based regenerative engine braking system that can increase to 41 mpg highway. Prices start at $16,945. Sedan and hatchback models are offered.
Moving into the subcompact field, the Honda Fit not only delivers good gas mileage, but there are enough sporty touches engineered in to make it kind of fun to drive. For hauling there is 57 cubic feet of space out back with the 60/40 seats folded, rather surprising for a car in this class. A 1.5-liter four with 117 horsepower resides under the hood with the best EPA gas mileage coming with the 5-speed automatic – a combined 31 miles per gallon. Pricing starts at $15,425 on up to $19,790. Of course you get Honda’s reputation for long life and excellent built quality. The Fit makes ordinary run around town errand days actually enjoyable.
If you are looking for major bang for the buck in a slick looking sedan or hatch, the Rio is a model that should be on your shopping list. A 138 horsepower, 1.6-liter four mates peacefully with a six speed automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifts. Step up one notch above the base model to the EX and you add keyless entry, power windows, cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, upgraded audio system, and Bluetooth connectivity among other goodies. EPA fuel economy is 28 to 36 mpg. Pricing starts at $13,600 on up to $17,700 for the SX model. You may also want to look at its brother, the Hyundai Accent.
Hands down in terms of comfort, fuel economy and long life the Prius has run up an enviable record in the time it has been on the market. How does 50 mpg on a long interstate trip sound? That’s what I got on a Maryland to Florida run. The test car hummed along nicely at I-95 speed and was all day comfortable while neatly packing away all the stuff that Mrs. Auto Writer and I wanted to bring along on vacation. Consumer Reports said that reliability has been “well above average.” Dealer prices seem to fluctuate with gas prices so buying one is like entering the stock market. You want to buy low and sell high, hopefully. Suggested prices start at $24,200 and wind their way to $30,005 for the model Five Liftback.
Ford C-Max Hybrid
Powered by an inline four good for 141 horsepower it is very quiet on the interstates. While no sports car, the C-Max handled better than expected for this class of vehicle. Fuel economy wise, the Ford is rated at a lofty 47 mpg in both city and highway operation. In a week long test, I rang up a respectable 37.6 mpg. A screen full of information in the instrument cluster will tell you if you have been naughty or nice, economy wise. C-MAX will haul 52.6 cubic feet of stuff out back with the easy to fold seats in the down position. Prices start at $25,200. Upgrade to the SEL model and you will have a nicely equipped easy to drive hybrid that can also haul five passengers.
What is interesting here is that there are so many quality gas sippers on the market now for consumers to choose from. It may come down to which model fits your fancy and which dealer makes the best offer.