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GREEN | 8 out of 10
2012 Fiat 500: 30/38 mpg (manual), 27/34 mpg (automatic)
The six-speed not only shifts smoother, it also responds to the invocation of a dash-button "Sport" mode at lower speeds. But it does come with a OPEC penalty; the hand-stirrer gets 30 mpg city and 38 mpg highway, while the automatic scores 27 mpg and 34 mpg.
These figures slightly exceed those of the base Mini Cooper but fall slightly short of the figures for the most economical versions of the Ford Fiesta or even the much larger Chevy Cruze.
While it's not the most fuel-efficient vehicle you can buy today in America, the Italian-bred Fiat 500 is pretty darn close to it, with fuel economy approaching 40 mpg for some versions.
Fiat says the 2012 500 will get an EPA-certified fuel economy of 30/38 mpg city/highway when outfitted with the standard five-speed manual transmission. As for the six-speed automatic that's an option on the 500, Fiat says it's good for 27/34 mpg.
In contrast, the manual-gearbox Ford Fiesta is rated at 28/37 mpg, while the dual-clutch Fiesta automatic earns a 30/40 mpg rating, according to Ford. Then there's the sporty-ish Honda CR-Z, which clocks its best EPA ratings with a 35/39 mpg rating, though in our experience its real-world ratings can drop deep below or soar far above those numbers.
Fiat promises an electric version of the 500 will go into production by the fourth quarter of 2012.
Fuel economy rises above most of the subcompact field, though the Fiat 500 still looks up to the likes of the Honda CR-Z and Ford Fiesta in ultimate EPA numbers.