40 Mile High Club

TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID

$26,660 – $33,985
City: 43 MPG (LE), 40 MPG (XLE)
Highway: 39 MPG (LE), 38 MPG (XLE)
Combined: 41 MPG (LE), 40 MPG (XLE)
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The Toyota Camry has been a best-seller in America for well over a decade, and we’re pleased that Toyota also offers it in a hybrid version. As you’d expect, the Toyota Camry Hybrid gets significantly better gas mileage than the regular Toyota Camry, although we can’t figure out why the plus XLE uses more fuel than the mid-level LE.

Love It: Love it: All the comfort and reliability that make the Toyota Camry an American favorite, with true hybrid fuel economy
Like It: Much nicer interior that previous versions of the Toyota Camry
Leave It: High-end XLE isn’t as efficient as mid-level LE

TOYOTA PRIUS


$24,760 – $34,885
City: 51 MPG
Highway: 48 MPG
Combined: 50 MPG
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The Prius is probably the best-known fuel-efficient car on the market. In our experience it’s the fuel economy champ, especially in stop-and-go traffic. The new Prius V variant provides SUV-like space while still returning well over 40 MPG, and a new subcompact version, the Toyota Prius C, is on the way for 2013.

Love It: “Eco” mode makes it super easy get 48 mpg or better
Like It: Choice of family-friendly hatchback or wagon body styles
Leave It: Expensive compared to traditional cars

VOLKSWAGEN JETTA HYBRID

Pricing TBA
Combined: 45 MPG (estimated)

Volkswagen has had great success with their fuel-efficient diesel cars, so we’re looking forward to the gasoline-electric hybrid version of the VW Jetta, which should achieve diesel-like fuel economy without the higher fuel prices when it comes to market this spring.

Love It: German engineering applied to a fuel-sipping hybrid
Like It: The VW Jetta never gets boring — it’s completely practical and still sporty
Leave It:Pricing hasn’t been announced, but we doubt it’s going to come cheap

DIESEL VEHICLES

Diesels are more expensive than gasoline cars, though cheaper than hybrids. They frequently exceed their EPA rated highway figures, though in slower city driving, the gap between gasoline and diesel is much narrower.

How They Work:

Diesel engines are similar in operation to gasoline engines, but they use a different type of fuel and a different way of burning it. Diesel fuel contains more energy than gasoline, so diesel cars are inherently more fuel efficient and produce lots of torque (pulling power), which makes for strong passing acceleration and good fun on a twisty road. Diesels are popular in Europe, but, strict pollution standards and varying fuel prices have made them a tough sell here in the States.

AUDI A3 TDI

$31,125 – $41,375
City: 30 MPG
Highway: 42 MPG
Combined: 34 MPG

Small, diesel-powered luxury cars like the Audi A3 are popular in Europe, but the Audi A3 wears a high price, making it a tougher sell in the US. Like most diesel cars, the Audi A3 provides great fuel economy on the highway, but if you do more city driving, you might be better of with a hybrid like the Lexus CT 200h.

Love It:Powerful engine and sharp handling makes it good fun to drive
Like It: Audi A3 has a great hatchback design
Leave It: Very expensive for what you get

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF TDI

Diesel / $24,765 – $29,935
City: 30 MPG
Highway: 42 MPG
Combined: 34 MPG

The diesel-powered VW Golf TDI is a huge seller in Europe, though less so here — it’s pricey for a small car, and many gasoline-powered cars are just as efficient in city driving. Once out on the highway, though, the sky’s the limit — a careful driver can coax the VW Golf TDI up to 48 or even 50 MPG with relative ease.

Love It: Lots of torque (pulling power) and great highway MPG
Like It: Fun to drive, small enough to park almost anywhere
Leave It: The VW Jetta TDI is larger, cheaper, and gets similar fuel economy

VOLKSWAGEN JETTA TDI

$23,295 – $29,710
City: 30 MPG
Highway: 42 MPG
Combined: 34 MPG

With prices starting just over $23k, the VW Jetta sedan is the most affordable diesel car on the market, and many owners say they get up to 50 MPG on the highway. If you haul a lot of cargo, the VW Jetta TDI SportWagen is a great choice — diesels are great load-luggers, and heavy loads don’t have a heavy effect on fuel economy.

Love it: The VW Jetta is offered both as both a roomy sedan and a spacious station wagon.
Like it: The VW Jetta TDI is the most affordable diesel car on the US market.
Leave it: The Jetta sedan’s interior is a bit chintzy.

VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT TDI

$26,765 – $32,965
City: 31 MPG (manual), 30 MPG (automatic)
Highway: 43 MPG (manual), 40 MPG (automatic)
Combined: 35 MPG (manual), 34 MPG (automatic)

The VW Passat TDI uses the same 2-liter diesel engine as the smaller VW Golf and Jetta, yet it gets even better fuel economy. The VW Passat is a great choice for road trips, as it has tons of interior space and will easily go over 700 miles on a tank of gas — in other words, New York to Los Angeles on just four fill-ups.

Love It: The VW Passat has limo-like interior space, hybrid-like fuel economy
Like It: Upscale interior, long range
Leave It: Design maybe a bit too conservative

GASOLINE VEHICLES

Good ol’ gasoline is the least-expensive and least-complicated way to get 40 MPG, but actually achieving those lofty figures can be much more difficult than in a diesel car or a hybrid. Drive at a steady 60 to 65 MPH on a straight, level freeway, and you are likely to meet or exceed 40 MPG — but higher speeds, frequent speed changes, hills and city driving will rapidly lower your fuel economy into the 30s.

How They Work:

Automakers are using every trick they know to increase the fuel economy of traditional gasoline engines. Most 40 MPG gasoline cars use a combination of fancy fuel-delivery systems, specialized transmission gearing, improved aerodynamics, and low rolling resistance tires.

CHEVY CRUZE ECO

$20,120 – $23,980
City: 28 MPG (manual), 26 MPG (automatic)
Highway: 42 MPG (manual), 39 MPG (automatic)
Combined: 33 MPG (manual), 31 MPG (automatic)
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The good news is that the Cruze easily tops 40 MPG on the highway; one Vroomie staffer took a 3-hour road trip, stuck to the speed limit, and got a Toyota Prius-like 46 MPG. The bad news: Only stick-shift drivers will see that sort of mileage, as the automatic Chevy Cruze Eco is significantly less efficient.

Love It: Good fun to drive and delivers great highway fuel economy
Like It: High-quality interior makes it a nice car to live with
Leave It: Automatic versions aren’t nearly as fuel-efficient

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2 Responses to “40 Mile High Club”

  1. Toodie says:

    VERY helpful article.

    My secret was to buy a used 2005 Prius two years ago, so the cost was lower, but the efficiency fantastic!

    Seems the owner traded it in for a newer model. And the mileage was low, which was great.

    But even with high mileage, the Prius is Queen.

    I’ve NEVER regretted this decision.

  2. John says:

    I bought a 2012 Focus S with the 5-speed manual, and have gotten 40-43 mpg on the highway with it, and my routine driving (city/mountain commuting) is in the 32-34 range. Great car, and very fun to drive. And being the base model…none of that glitchy MyFordTouch stuff to go wrong and cause problems.

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