It’s been a long time since you could fill your gas tank for a couple of dollars. If you are in the market for a fuel-efficient new car, you don’t have to spring for a hybrid. Consider this quartet of models that all get at least 35 miles to the gallon and are not hybrids or electrics.
As a bonus, all four of these family-friendly cars cost less than $25,000 new, even when you opt for one of the higher-priced models with a larger or eco-boost engine and things I call “creature features,” such as keyless entry and a sun roof.
Ford Fiesta: This is the best-selling small car in Europe. Ford is now importing the 3-cylinder engine so popular there for use in U.S. cars, in part because it offers more than 40 miles per gallon. That’s a crucial cost factor in countries where gas costs close to $10 a gallon. There’s nothing puny about this engine, since it is turbo-charged and more powerful than its larger and non-turbo 4-cylinder siblings, which get fuel economy in the 30s. I had the opportunity to test-drive the 4-cylinder 2014 Fiesta recently, and the sporty styling is matched by sporty handling.
Honda Civic: A best-seller for more than two decades, the Civic clocks in at 28 MPG city and 39 on the highway. The 2013 sedan and coupe models were the only small cars to get the top rating from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) in frontal crash testing. My advice is to opt for the HF model, which gets 41/29 MPG from its aerodynamic deck-lid spoiler and low-resistance tires. The 2013 Civic and the Honda Accord are both on the Kelley Blue Book Top 10 list of sedans under $25,000.
Chevrolet Cruze: With its Eco engine, this comfortable compact gets 42 mpg on the highway, a bit less with a 1.4L turbocharged engine. It offers more standard safety features than other models in its class, including driver-side knee airbags, and such crash avoidance technologies as rear park assist, blind zone alert and cross-traffic alert.
Hyundai Sonata: I think the Sonata is one of the best-value vehicles on the road, with snappy styling and Hyundai’s top-rated warranties. The Sonata has outsold competitors Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima and Chevrolet Malibu, in part because it costs less for at least 20 more horsepower – a hunky 200 horses — and similar fuel economy. Stats for the 2014 aren’t out yet, but the 2013 rated at 24/35 MPG. The Sonata also has the largest interior space of its competitors, including the Toyota Camry.