With the Hummer’s recent demise, the era of the gas-guzzler seems officially over, the auto industry in the grip of a revolution. Escalating gas prices and a growing desire to go green have contributed to the American populus’s want for more fuel-efficient vehicles. Though high sticker prices are often synonymous with hybrids, there are affordable hybrid and non-hybrid models on the market. And with better mileage than the majority of their competition, they’re solid contenders in the fuel-efficiency movement. Each of these models get at least 24 MPG and won’t force you to take out a second mortgage. That’s something both the environment and our wallets can celebrate.
Ford Fusion Hybrid, $27,950
Ford’s answer to the fuel-sipping Prius, the Fusion Hybrid offers fantastic MPG—41 city and 36 highway—and boasts smart safety and fuel economy technology. The Fusion shifts from gas power to electric and back with minimum effort (running up to 47 MPH in electric mode alone) and is equipped with Ford’s SmartGauge™ with EcoGuide. This system helps drivers achieve their hybrid’s peak fuel efficiency. The Fusion can go 700 miles on one fill-up. That’s about one pump stop per month for the average commuter, a chore most wouldn’t soon miss. Unless you enjoy the smell of unleaded gasoline in the morning.
Mercury Mariner Hybrid, $31,570
Sport utility fans, rejoice! Fuel efficiency and SUV are no longer inherent contradictions. Having the cleanest emissions rating possible for a fossil-fuel vehicle (from California’s Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle rating), the Mercury Mariner Hybrid gets a combined 32 MPG, 34 city and 31 highway. New and improved features for the 2010 model include a rear view camera and Active Park Assist, both excellent allies in the fight to parallel park. Parents with teenagers will enjoy the MyKey feature that enables limits to be placed on both vehicle speed and audio system volume.
Ford Focus, $16,690
Though the Focus doesn’t get quite the mileage its hybrid cousin enjoys, 24 MPG city and 35 MPG highway is nothing to scoff at. It’s a comfortable ride for four and has the cargo space necessary for a road trip. Maybe not from Washington to New York, but definitely Seattle to Yellowstone. The Focus is also safer than ever with added safety features now standard on all models, including AdvanceTrac® electronic stability control (ESC) and anti-lock brakes.
Chevrolet Cobalt, $14,990
This stylish Chevy is a compact car that is actually fun to drive. Its strong fuel-efficiency of 25 MPG city and 37 MPG highway ensures fewer visits to the gas station and more time on the open road. For drivers wanting a smooth ride without the sacrificial arm and leg, the Cobalt is a great option. One of the best stereo systems in its price range doesn’t hurt, either. Who said fuel-efficiency had to be boring?
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Erin Stork, Homer Smith Insurance