Recent gas prices have taken some of the fun out of shopping for a new car, but they certainly haven't limited your choices. There are plenty of fuel-efficient vehicles that go easy on your wallet and the earth, with even more options anticipated in the future. Here are the most fuel-efficient cars across a wide range of car classes.
|Car||Class||MPG Rating||Annual Fuel Cost*|
|Toyota Yaris||Affordable Small Cars||29 City/36 Highway||$1,812|
|Honda Civic Hybrid||Affordable Small Car/Hybrid||40/45||$1,335|
|Toyota Prius||Affordable Midsize Car/Hybrid||48/45||$1,217|
|Nissan Altima Hybrid||Affordable Midsize Car/Hybrid
|Ford Escape Hybrid||Affordable Compact SUV/Hybrid||34/30||$1,756|
|Mazda5||Affordable Compact Wagon||22/28||$2,339|
|BMW 3-Series||Upscale Midsize Cars||20/29||$2,842|
|Audi TT||Luxury Sports Cars||23/31||$2,298|
|Lexus GS 450 Hybrid||Luxury Large Cars||22/25||$2,597|
|Tesla Roadster||Exotic Sports Cars||100 percent electric||N/A|
|*MPG and Fuel Cost Courtesy of www.fueleconomy.gov. Annual Fuel Costs based on 45% highway, 55% city driving, recommended fuel grade and 15000 miles annually|
The Yaris has one of the starkest cabins, a shape only a mother could love, and one of the most non-thrilling rides you'll find from a four-cylinder engine. But in these penny-pinching, energy-conserving times, the Yaris' good qualities far outweigh its mediocre traits. Reviewers appreciate the hatch's spacious seating, abundant cargo room, and especially its fuel-sipping engine. At less than $15,000, the Yaris is one of the biggest steals of the small car class.
Honda Civic Hybrid
If you find the Civic Hybrid appealing, you like the personal satisfaction of saving the environment over the public acknowledgement that you're doing it. The Civic's trump card is providing gas mileage almost as good as the hybrid standard, the Toyota Prius, all while offering the sex appeal and quality associated with the gas-engine Civic. The Civic Hybrid is also good for the impatient -- the 2009 model is available now, with no waiting list.
The Toyota Prius is not the car for those who enjoy the feel of the wind in their hair or the thrill of the open road. But it's a great car for those who get their jollies from helping the environment. In addition, the Prius' space-age design has become the unofficial symbol of green driving. The 2008 model's combined 46 mpg rating is the highest of any hybrid available, and there are rumors that the 2009 could even get up to 80 mpg.
Nissan Altima Hybrid
The Altima distinguishes itself by providing one of the most engaging driving experiences available for a midsize hybrid. Plus it saves serious fuel with a combined 34 mpg rating. But that efficiency comes with some compromises. The Altima Hybrid is not as well equipped in its base form as other green cars, and its option packages can cost as much as $7,000. You'll also burn considerable fuel on a trip to the dealership, as the Altima Hybrid is only sold in eight states.
Ford Escape Hybrid
Given our current oil predicament, it's no wonder that the best-selling SUV in the United States features hybrid technology. The Ford Escape Hybrid is perfect for anyone who doesn't want to be punished at the gas pump for needing an SUV's utility. Among other hybrid SUVs, the Escape is both the most fuel-efficient and the most cost-effective. The base model sells for less than $22,000, which is cheaper than some Honda Civic trims.
With the shape and sizing of a wagon, the rear sliding doors and seating configuration of a minivan, and the gas tank of a small car, auto writers have a hard time classifying the Mazda5. But they all agree that a combined 25 mpg rating makes it a definite winner for savings at the pump.
With so many other winning qualities, the benchmark 3-Series' fuel economy numbers might not be its first characteristic to come to mind. But the high-performing car has one of the highest mpg ratings of the upscale midsize class, even without the four-cylinder engine option that several of its competitors provide.
Reviewers actually prefer the TT's turbocharged four-cylinder to the meatier V6 engine because its performance is almost as good, with an added benefit of less money up front and over time. In addition to a 26 combined mpg, the TT Coupe boasts pristine cabin finish and an aggressive exterior.
Lexus GS 450 Hybrid
The Lexus GS 450 Hybrid proves you don't have to sacrifice the environment to enjoy the sumptuous space, features and styling of a luxury large car. The first mass-production rear-wheel drive hybrid luxury car, the GS 450 ranks high in its class for having all-around excellence, a sleek design and cutting-edge safety equipment. Its combined 23 mpg rating is just a bonus.
Nikola Tesla was one of the most celebrated public figures of the early 20th century for his theories on modern electricity. Unfortunately, he also died virtually penniless in 1943. Seventy years later, he is the namesake of one of the most expensive green cars available. The $110,000 Tesla Roadster is more than fuel-efficient -- it doesn't run on fuel at all. A 100 percent electric car with a 1,000-lb battery, it's also 100 percent sports car and boasts 100 percent torque all the time. Plus, it runs for 220 miles with 248 horsepower before needing a recharge.
For a closer look at these fuel sippers, see our slideshow.