The EPA's Top 10 Fuel-Efficient Cars (And Some for the Family)

November 11, 2010

Sometimes, you need to replace the family car. Saving money on gas is certainly one consideration that comes into play.

There's more advice available to you now, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its list of the most fuel-efficient cars. It's always a good idea to save money on gas--but it takes on even greater importance during times when American families are stretched thin financially, in danger of losing jobs and homes, and trying to eke out as many miles as possible from family vehicles. 

So, while not everyone is rushing out to buy a new vehicle unless absolutely necessary, it’s good to know that there are some very fuel-stingy cars that fall into the affordable range on many levels: inexpensive purchase price, high fuel economy, low cost to own, and so on. Note that the EPA guide is ranked by city driving numbers first. And, since regenerative braking allows most gasoline-electric hybrids to do better in city driving, they dominate the list. In fact, the top 10 most fuel-efficient cars are all hybrids, with the exception of smart fortwo. Here, then, are the EPA’s Top 10 Fuel Sippers:


 2011 Toyota Prius

No surprise here. The 2011 Toyota Prius, with 51 mpg city/48 mpg highway, is numero uno for quite a few years running. The combined hybrid vehicle can be propelled by gasoline engine or electric power. The Prius internal combustion engine is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder, and is paired with a planetary-gear transmission with variable gear ratios.

2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid

2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid (tied with Mercury Milan Hybrid/Lincoln MKZ Hybrid)

Corporate siblings, led by the higher-volume Fusion from Ford, all three mid-size sedans achieve EPA-estimated 41 mpg city/36 mpg highway fuel economy. All three share the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder automatic engine with variable gear ratios paired with an electric motor. 

2010 Honda Civic Hybrid

2010 Honda Civic Hybrid

2011 Honda Civic Hybrid (tied with 2011 Honda Insight Hybrid)

Both models achieve 40 mpg city/43 mpg highway and both are reasonably inexpensive small cars. The Insight costs thousands less than the Toyota Prius, but also has less space. The Honda Civic, according to some reviewers, is slow in comparison to other hybrids such as the Prius.


2011 Honda CR-Z (automatic)

The first sport-hybrid, the 2011 Honda CR-Z gets EPA-estimated 35 mpg city/39 mpg highway when mated with automatic transmission. The CR-Z only offers seating for two and is best considered as a second- or third-car addition to the family vehicle lineup. It does offer 25.1 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s more than Honda Civic Hybrid but less than Honda Insight and Toyota Prius.

2011 Lexus HS 250h

2011 Lexus HS 250h

2011 Lexus HS 250h

Seeking to appeal to Toyota owners who yearn for a more luxurious green car than the Prius, the 2011 Lexus HS 250h may be the answer. It does offer more luxury features and is meant to emphasize fuel economy, but it’s numbers are still lower than chart-topping Prius. The 2011 Lexus HS 250h achieves EPA-estimated 35 mpg city/34 mpg highway.

2010 Ford Escape Hybrid

2010 Ford Escape Hybrid

2011 Ford Escape Hybrid FWD (tied with Mazda Tribute Hybrid 2WD/Mercury Mariner Hybrid FWD)

This duo of corporate sibling compact hybrid SUVs (Ford Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid) along with the Mazda Tribute Hybrid each achieve EPA-estimated 34 mpg city/31 mpg highway. They also feel and drive like their gasoline counterparts – although they cost thousands more. As a comparison, Ford Escape Hybrid for 2011 carries a starting MSRP of $29,865 – nearly $9,000 more than the non-hybrid Escape’s starting MSRP of $21,060.

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