12 Born-In-The-U.S.A. Fuel Sippers Page 2

August 6, 2009

EPA combined fuel economy: 30
Assembly: Lordstown, OH; UAW
Overall Rating: 6.6
Bottom Line: "The 2009 Pontiac G5 looks good from a distance and is cheap and frugal, but it lacks nearly all the other elements of a practical or enjoyable car."

The 2009 Pontiac G5 is nearly identical mechanically to the Chevy Cobalt, yet its appeal is much more limited. That's because it's only offered as a two-door coupe, and there's no higher-performance version to match the sporty Cobalt SS. The G5 might have sportier front-end styling compared to the Cobalt, but past that there's not a lot to get excited about—other than the XFE model and its highway fuel economy of up to 37 mpg.

2009 Toyota Corolla

2009 Toyota Corolla

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Toyota Corolla

EPA combined fuel economy: 30
Assembly: Fremont, CA; UAW
Overall Rating: 7.8
Bottom Line: "The 2009 Toyota Corolla has a split personality: the utilitarian base car and the slightly edgy, expensive Corolla XRS."

For decades, the Corolla has been known for its low price, low running costs, and focus on reliable transportation without a lot of frills. The Corolla was redesigned for 2009; it's become quieter and more comfortable, but commuters who only want the basics can still get a base $16k Toyota Corolla with roll-down windows, no A/C, and a five-speed manual gearbox that brings ratings of 26 mpg city, 35 highway. For now, the Corolla is U.S.-built—UAW-built, for that matter—by the joint GM-Toyota NUMMI plant in California.

2009 Honda Civic

2009 Honda Civic

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Honda Civic

EPA combined fuel economy: 29
Assembly: Greensburg, IN
Overall Rating: 8.6
Bottom Line: "The 2009 Honda Civic lineup rates well for safety, handling, and overall frugality, though those who plan to carry cargo or frequent backseat passengers should look elsewhere."

The 2009 Honda Civic is one of TheCarConnection.com's top-rated small cars; there's a lot to love in the Civic, from its more premium look and feel, energetic engines, and excellent manual transmissions, plus very respectable fuel economy (up to 25 mpg city, 36 highway). Then there's this Honda's long-earned reputation for reliability, longevity, and resale value. And for those who do mind, this is the only vehicle on this list that's not put together by UAW workers. Dedicated made-in-the-U.S.A. buyers who are also drawn to the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid might be disappointed to learn that it's built only in Japan.

2009 Ford Focus

2009 Ford Focus

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Ford Focus

EPA combined fuel economy: 28
Assembly: Wayne, MI; UAW
Overall Rating: 7.0
Bottom Line: "The 2009 Ford Focus is a solid choice if you're looking for a roomy car that rides well, with a base price that starts around $15,000."

Provided you focus on the conciliatory "It's what's inside that counts," the 2009 Ford Focus is a really good small car, with a quiet, refined, attractive interior, complemented with pace-setting features like Ford's Sync voice-command interface, a nice ride, and up to 35 mpg on the highway. The trouble comes when sizing it up from the outside. The proportions aren't endearing, especially for the coupe, but just eliminating the cheesy, embarrassing plasti-chrome side gills that appeared on the 2008 Focus definitely helps give it a smoother, more distinguished look for '09.

2009 Pontiac Vibe

2009 Pontiac Vibe

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Pontiac Vibe

EPA combined fuel economy: 28
Assembly: Fremont, CA; UAW
Overall Rating: 8.0
Bottom Line: "The small-hatchback competition is growing, but with a new look, upgraded powertrains, and bolstered safety features, the new 2009 Pontiac Vibe should be a top choice."

The Pontiac Vibe is one of our favorite tall hatchbacks—or wagons, or crossovers, depending on how you see it. To longtime import buyers, it brings the best of both worlds, with Toyota's small-car reputation and a design shared with the Toyota Matrix, mated to sharper Pontiac styling and a better-done interior. Plus, it's made in California, by UAW labor. The 2009 Pontiac Vibe is at the end of the road; it's getting phased out along with the Pontiac brand, so get one now.

2009 Dodge Caliber

2009 Dodge Caliber

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Dodge Caliber

EPA combined fuel economy: 27 (1.8)
Assembly: Belvidere, IL; UAW
Overall Rating: 7.0
Bottom Line: "The Caliber has a very practical layout and truly innovative features to get excited about, but it's lacking in driving enjoyment or refinement—even compared to its low-priced competition."

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