In the early 1970s, soaring gas prices and long gas lines forced changes in the way Americans lived, worked, and drove. Americans quickly found out that cheap, plentiful gasoline was no longer available. After a brief lull in the 1990s, history is repeating itself here in 2008. Because of skyrocketing gas prices, Americans are increasingly ditching their gas-guzzling SUVs and opting instead for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. What cars have the best gas mileage, you ask?
Hybrid cars have specialized motors that cycle between gasoline and electric, thus saving gas. Of course, we've all heard about the Toyota Prius hybrid which gets 48 MPG/city and 45 MPG/highway. The Honda Civic hybrid is nearly as fuel-efficient at 40 MPG/city and 45 MPG/highway. But for those who can't swallow the $20-25K it takes to purchase these trendy vehicles, there are other options on the table.
The Toyota Corolla has been an industry leader in reliable fuel-efficient cars for many years. The 2009 model has been thoroughly redesigned for a more streamlined, cutting-edge look. The Corolla sells for $15,250-$18,760 and gets between 22-27 MPG/city and 30-35 MPG/highway. The Corolla competes with the Honda Civic, which sells for $14,810-$29,500 and gets between 21-26 MPG/city and 29-36 MPG/highway.
A newer entry in Toyota's fuel efficient line of vehicles is the Yaris. This hyper fuel-efficient car gets between 29 MPG/city and 35-36 MPG/highway and sells for $11,550-$13,925. It comes in either the stubby, diminutive coupe or the sleek four-door sedan. The unique (and somewhat controversial) mark of the Yaris is its center-mounted dash. Looking at the center of the dashboard rather than right in front of you to monitor your speed may take some getting used to. Otherwise, the Yaris comes with the full reliability of a Toyota.
Chevrolet Cobalt & Aveo
Chevrolet offers two fuel-efficient models as well. The Chevrolet Cobalt is the replacement for the older Cavalier and competes with the Corolla and the Civic. It sells for $15,010-$22,775 and gets between 22-25 MPG/city and 30-37/highway. Chevrolet's newer entry, the smaller, more affordable Aveo, can be purchased as a two-door hatchback or a sedan. The Aveo sells for $12,170-$13,920 and gets 23-24 MPG/city or 32-34 MPG/highway.
Heads have been turning when the new Smart ForTwo is spotted on the roadway; and for good reason. This diminutive car is so tiny, it can fit in a parking space sideways! It is even smaller than the European-flavored Mini Cooper. The Smart brand is a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler and gets 33 MPG/city and 41 MPG/highway. Purchase a Smart ForTwo for $11,590-$16,590 and get ready for lots of attention on the roadway.
Last but not least is the amazingly zippy, flexible, fun to drive Honda Fit. Last year, I purchased the Fit and can honestly tell you it's an awesome little car with the most standard options at the best price. If you still believe smaller cars have less acceleration, the Honda Fit will prove you wrong. Fuel efficiency is great at 27-28 MPG/city and 33-34 MPG/highway. Better still, the car comes packed with standard features such as front/side curtain airbags, power locks and windows, "magic seats" that fold all the way down to provide enormous trunk space, a tire pressure monitoring system, and more. The 2009 model adds more cool features including a USB input for MP3 players and a navigation system. The price for the Fit is $13,950-$15,270.