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The Best -- and Worst -- Fuel Efficient Cars According to Consumer Reports

By Sam Grossman | June 08, 2011
The latest rise in gas prices is once again impacting both driving habits and vehicle purchase decisions. So it’s not surprising that small cars are dominating the sales charts as new car buyers gravitate yet again toward more fuel efficient cars, crossovers, and SUVs. Not so long ago there weren’t a lot of higher mileage powertrain options to choose from in each vehicle category but that has definitely changed. In an effort to better inform car buying decisions, Consumer Reports has come out with a list of the best new cars that offer the best mix of both fuel economy and base price in each class based on its recent testing, along with what it deems is the worst option for those looking for more efficient transportation. When you think of a car that gets the highest gas mileage in EPA estimates, more often than not it’s a hybrid or a diesel. But should the fact that they’re more expensive be a turn-off? Not necessarily says David Champion, senior director at Consumer Reports. “Hybrid and diesel vehicles provide better fuel economy than conventional cars, but they usually cost more to buy, and as gas prices rise, the pay-back time gets shorter.” The first class on the Consumer Reports list is the subcompact. The best car in this class for fuel economy is the Honda Fit. This vehicle gets 30 mpg combined, while costing only $16,020 to start. On the contrary, the outgoing Chevrolet Aveo was the least fuel efficient car in the subcompact class at 25 mpg. That will change soon when the Aveo is replaced by the new Chevrolet Sonic, which is expected to net significantly higher mileage. Next up were the small wagons and hatchbacks. The most fuel efficient vehicle in this class proved to be the Volkswagen Golf TDI, a diesel car. This particular car had a manual transmission, and got 38 mpg, selling for a price of $24,764. Tying for least fuel efficient in this class were the Scion XB and Subaru Impreza Outback Sport (AWD) at 23 mpg. The Toyota Corolla finished on top of the small sedan class, with a fuel efficiency of 32 mpg. It also is very reasonably priced at $18,404. The least fuel efficient small sedan was the Subaru Impreza 2.5i at 24 mpg. Like the Aveo, the Impreza is also due to be replaced very soon by a new, higher mileage next-generation model. The family car class was a runaway victory for the $24,750 Toyota Prius IV (Hybrid). The Hybrid Prius got 44 mpg combined, while the Ford Fusion SEL (V6, AWD), Chevrolet Impala LTZ (V6), and Mazda 6 V6 got a family car worst 20 mpg. The Prius more than doubled the mpg of these cars. At 31 mpg, the $38,939 Lexus HS 250 h (hybrid) had the best fuel efficiency among the upscale/ sport sedans. The Lincoln MKZ had the worst fuel efficiency at 20 mpg. Last but not least are the small SUVs. The Ford Escape Hybrid, $32,575, came out on top with 26 mpg. The least fuel efficient SUV went to the Dodge Nitro SLT (3.7L) and Jeep Liberty Sport at a pathetic 16 mpg. Gas may still be outrageously expensive, but if you purchase a vehicle with best in class fuel economy you can delay getting gas, and be on your way to the gym or work.
Best Subcompact car for fuel economy: Honda Fit $16,020, 30 mpg
Worst in class: Chevrolet Aveo LT: 25 mpg   
Best Small Wagons and Hatchbacks: Volkswagen Golf TDI (Diesel, manual), $24,764, 38 mpg
Worst in class: Scion xB, Subaru Impreza Outback Sport (AWD):23 mpg   
Best Small Sedans : Toyota Corolla LE, $18,404, 32 mpg
Worst in class: Subaru Impreza 2.5i, 24 mpg   
Best Family Car: Toyota Prius IV (Hybrid), $24,750, 44 mpg
Worst in class : Ford Fusion SEL (V6, AWD), Chevrolet Impala LTZ (V6), Mazda6 V6: 20 mpg   
Best Upscale/ Sports Sedan: Lexus HS 250 h (Hybrid), $38,939, 31 mpg
Worst in class: Lincoln MKZ: 20 mpg   
Best Small SUV: Ford Escape Hybrid, $32,575, 26 mpg
Worst in class: Dodge Nitro SLT (3.7 liters), Jeep Liberty Sport 16 mpg    Source: Consumer Reports
  • 90A4392a D6be 4D1d Ba53 8Cd07273aa43 500X353
  • 2010 Toyota Prius Rear Three Quarters
  • 2011 Lexus Hs 250H Three Quarter Back
  • 2011 Toyota Corolla Front End In Motion 2
  • 2011 Volkswagen Golf Front Three Quarters
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  • 2011 Chevrolet Aveo Sedan Side View
  • 2011 Chevrolet Impala Rear Three Quarters
  • 2011 Ford Fusion Rear Three Quarters Passenger
  • 2011 Jeep Liberty Front Drivers Side Three Quarters View In Motion
  • 2011 Lincoln Mkz Front Three Quarters Low
  • 2011 Mazda 6 Front Three Quarter
 
16 comments
jaxon
jaxon

CR is so biased that everything they put out is anti-American.. they hate U.S. automobiles anyone who uses CR for an authority on cars should rethink .. i have a 2 Impala 2010 which routinely gets 31 mpg highway and an honest 20 mpg in town....

Car Wraps Phoenix
Car Wraps Phoenix

Now Prius is one of the most wanted cars with fuel prices rising

Mac James Motors - Andy
Mac James Motors - Andy

I like the Volkswagon TDI's, they are fuel efficient and well built. The Prius gets awesome milage, however there aren't many here in Northern Alberta Canada. Winter's are very harsh here, and the Prius rides quite low to the ground... not the best for navigating through fresh snow. I was surprised with the poor showing for the Aveo, however GM has quickly caught up to some of the Japanese, Korean and European gas misers. I always enjoy these types of reports; showing the disparity in MPG between similar priced vehicles - thanks - Andy :-)

marshall Peery
marshall Peery

I have a 2011 Subaru Legacy, gettine 34MPG,driveing @ 60mph

Edmonton Dodge
Edmonton Dodge

Thank you Jon for your explanation about how CR works on getting their data and findings. Your blog has given me lots of information, especially update in the auto industry. I'm a biased Dodge enthusiast and the posts here at automotive.com provides the needed perspective of knowing where my favorite car brand stands by knowing other car brands. These blogs have been so helpful. Thanks.

Seminarski
Seminarski

I was not surprised to see so many Japanese cars in top positions but the bigger win for me is Ford Escape Hybrid. It is not a small car and in its class seams to be the best buy

Jitone
Jitone

You got a really useful blog I have been here reading for about half an hour. This is a good opinion , Thank you for the post.

Jon368
Jon368

Again, CR does not come up with lists like these by referring to EPA fuel economy numbers. They use their own test findings. CR has not fully tested the 500 yet, so they do not have all of their fuel economy data for a spread like this. Additionally, the 500 would have to score very highly enough as well.

Vancouver Dodge
Vancouver Dodge

Let us not forget the FIAT line too, specially the recently released FIAT 500. I'm surprised it's not even mentioned on the list.

Jon368
Jon368

That's great, but these are CR's data. That's how they determine which cars are the most and least efficient. Even so, if the Aveo really did get the fuel economy that the EPA sticker promises, I doubt that it would be the "best" in its respective category. Put simply, the Aveo is not a good car in the least. Also next time, try to find the difference between a metal and and action.

Mike
Mike

I know folks that have the aveo and it certainly does not get 25mph Einstein. If anything you will get something in the middle for blended driving between city and highway. Most generally EPA ratings are conservative and you can get better if you dont have a led foot.

Edmonton Dodge
Edmonton Dodge

It's quite understandable that no Dodge/Chrysler cars were included in the list because most of them belong to the gas gurgling category anyway. I am hoping that the hydraulic hybrid cars of Chrysler would make it to the list.

Jon368
Jon368

If any of you knew anything about Consumer Reports, you would know that they use real world data to compute their fuel economy. They actually buy their vehicles like anyone else would, and test them for months and thousands of miles before they come to the conclusions found in their magazines. The CR-Z is listed among sporty cars, with the liked of the VW GTI, and Mini Cooper. It might be the same size as the subcompacts, but its price is very different and so are its intentions. It competes much more with the small sporty hatchbacks then it does with the Fit, Yaris, and other subcompacts. Sure, the Aveo has an estimated 27/35, but the EPA specifically says that YOUR MPG WILL VARY. Consumer Reports found that the Aveo was not all that efficient, especially around town, with only 25 mpg combined in their real-world tests. At the same time, the VW GTI had a combined rating of 27 mpg, higher than its EPA combined rating, and CR went further to say that the GTI with DSG would likely be even more efficient. Someone needs to do their research before they bash a very well known and respected publication! LOL The LACrosse hybrid was not included because it is not on the market yet, so there is no possible way for CR to carry out their tests. Also, it has not even been rated by the EPA yet. GM has put out what they think the numbers will look like (which are impressive for such a large sedan, don't get me wrong), but the official EPA numbers and CR's own findings are still up for grabs.

Owner of Marina Auto Body
Owner of Marina Auto Body

I'm surprised that the Honda CRZ didn't get the top spot for subcompact. It's the same size as the Fit albeit $3000 more but it gets a combined 34 mpg over the Fit's 30 mpg. If this list ignored the CRZ I wonder what other good cars were left out.

Mike
Mike

This article makes no sense. The aveo gets 27 city/ 35 highway compared to the Honda Fit 27 city and 33 highway. Their numbers don't compute. Someone needs to go back to freshman math class! lol

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Auto Advertising

Wow! Buick Crosse (Hybrid) isn't included in the list. I bet it isn't one of the best nor the worst fuel efficient cars, good to know 'cause I'm thinking of buying that one. That's my apple of the eye!

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