May 18, 2014

News & Features

A look at the most fuel-efficient cars

The Virginian-Pilot

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Clockwise from top left: The Nissan Leaf, smart fortwo EV, Honda Accord Hybrid and Toyota Prius are leaders in fuel efficiency.

If you need to know how drastically the car market has changed, consider the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2014 list of the 10 most fuel-efficient vehicles: They're all powered by electricity, not gasoline.

For most consumers, however, an electric car is not a realistic solution, as most can't travel farther than 100 miles under ideal circumstances. And once depleted, batteries can takes hours to recharge.

The top two electric cars, the Chevrolet Spark EV (119 mpge, or miles per gallon equivalent) and Honda Fit EV (118 mpge), aren't available in Washington; the closest you can find them is Oregon. No. 3 Fiat 500e (116 mpge) is sold only in California.

Following are the EPA's most fuel-efficient vehicles — powered by electricity and fueled by gasoline — available in Washington. They are listed in order by their combined EPA city/highway fuel-economy rating.

Electric


Nissan Leaf

EPA rating: 114 mpge
Price: $28,980-$35,020
This vehicle's pseudo-crossover styling cloaks a vehicle that feels like a normal Japanese auto. Steering effort is light, as is the feel of the pedals. You can momentarily cancel Eco mode to get a burst of speed by flooring the accelerator. The EPA estimates its range at 84 miles. Recharging takes eight hours or more.

smart fortwo EV
EPA rating: 107 mpge
Price: $25,000-$28,000
For American car buyers, who have gorged on SUVs like starved patrons
at an all-you-can-eat buffet, the smart fortwo EV is an automotive diet lunch. It has just two seats, a top speed of 78 mph and a range of 68 miles. Recharging takes as little as six hours. And unlike other EVs, it's available as a convertible.

Gasoline

Toyota Prius, Toyota Prius C (tie)
EPA rating: 50 mpg
Prices: $24,200-$30,005 (Prius); $19,080-$23,360 (Prius C)
Toyota describes the Prius hybrid as "an enthusiast's car for a new kind of enthusiast." The thrills come not from the speedometer, but from the fuel gauge, which barely budges as the miles pass. The Prius C is 19.1 inches shorter than the Prius and returns 3 mpg more in city driving, but the Prius trumps the C on the highway.

Ford Fusion Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid (tie)
EPA rating: 47 mpg
Prices: $26,270-$32,600 (Fusion); $29,155-$34,905 (Accord)
It's hard to go wrong with either of these hybrids. That said, the Ford Fusion Hybrid is more sporty than the conservatively styled Honda Accord Hybrid. On the other hand, the Honda has a roomier cabin. The Ford is rated at 47 mpg city, 47 highway, while the Honda gets 50 mpg city, 45 mpg highway.

Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid (tie)
EPA rating: 45 mpg
Prices: $35,190 (MKZ); $27,645-$31,895 (Jetta)
The Lincoln MKZ may be mechanically related to the Fusion Hybrid, but it gives up a couple mpg in the process. That said, Lincoln doesn't charge a premium for it; its price is the same as the MKZ's conventional gas model. By contrast, Volkswagen, like many automakers, charges a premium for the hybrid version of the Jetta.

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