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The Gas Engines Members Only 40-MPG Club

By Evelyn Kanter, March 24th, 2012

Fuel economy is always a priority for new car buyers, especially now as fuel prices are persistently increasing. For buyers who want a gasoline engine, not a hybrid or electric motor, we've narrowed down some excellent choices for gas engines that deliver superior fuel economy ? as high as 40 miles per gallon highway. These 2012 models are priced starting below $25,000.

-- The Chevy Cruze Eco is a best-seller worldwide for Chevrolet. This small sedan has the interior room of a midsize car and top safety ratings in both Europe and North America. It's the only vehicle in the segment with 10 airbags, including roof rail-mounted curtain side airbags and front row knee airbags, plus OnStar. The gas-sipping Cruze Eco model a four-cylinder 1.4L Ecotec turbocharged engine to achieve an EPA-estimated 42 mpg highway with a manual transmission and 39 mpg with the automatic. The 2012 Chevy Cruze Eco has a base price of $19,325.

-- The Ford Focus seats five, has a fun, sporty driving feel, a top safety rating, and a base price of $16,500. Even the fully-loaded top-of-the-line model clocks in at just $22,500. No wonder this compact is one of the bright stars in the Ford garage. It's got a peppy 2.0L, 160-horsepower inline four-cylinder engine, and drives more like a sporty little European model than a plain vanilla compact. The SFE (Super Fuel Economy) package delivers an EPA-certified 40 mpg highway and 28 mpg city through its advanced six-speed automatic transmission.

-- The Hyundai Elantra achieves its 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway with both the six-speed automatic and manual transmissions, giving this good-looking sedan a driving range of up to 500 miles on a single tank. The 2012 Hyundai Elantra is powered by an eco-friendly 1.8L four-cylinder engine. Safety features include six airbags and a brake assist system that provides maximum force when a panic stop is detected. The Elantra is roomy enough inside that the EPA classifies it as a midsize vehicle, not a compact. All of this for a base price of $15,195.

-- The 2012 Mazda3 is available as a sedan or hatchback with the new fuel-saving SKYACTIV technology, giving it a rating of 40 mpg highway with the six-speed manual and 39 mpg with the automatic transmission. It's also praised for its sporty handling, staying true to Mazda's "zoom zoom" branding. The new engine delivers 10 percent more torque and 5 percent more fuel efficiency than its predecessor. No wonder the Mazda3 is the automaker's best-selling model worldwide, accounting for nearly half of the brand's sales in the U.S. Safety features include traction control and brake assist, and optional blind spot monitoring for a base price of $20,145.

-- The Volkswagen Jetta TDI benefits from precision German engineering and safety features, plus lots of cabin and cargo space, and "creature features." Combine all of this with fuel economy of up to 42 mpg highway from a turbocharged clean diesel engine with a base price of $22,775 and you've got a top choice in performance, efficiency and amenities with the 2012 Jetta TDI.

Volkswagen is the world market leader for producing energy efficient clean diesels. All Jetta models -- including a new GLI performance sport sedan and the wagon -- include VW's Intelligent Crash Response System, which shuts off the fuel pump, activates the hazard lights and unlocks the doors in case of an accident with airbag deployment. This safety feature is common on more expensive vehicles -- but not in models at this price. There also are six airbags equipped in the Jetta.

Safety, style, fuel economy and affordability -- these 2012 models are stand-outs for today's fuel-pump conscious buyers.

Autonomous Driving: Our New Reality

01/23

Autonomous Driving: Our New Reality

Autonomous vehicles are on the road and being tested -- and predictions are that we're moving rapidly towards this reality. We contacted Ron Montoya, senior editor at Edmunds.com and Jeremy Anwyl, an independent auto industry consultant and analyst by email to get their take on the issues.

The Used Porsche Test-Drive: So Far, So Good

01/16

The Used Porsche Test-Drive: So Far, So Good

You may recall, in part one of this story, we'd set out to learn whether one could truly find happiness behind the wheel of a $15,000 used Porsche. To recap, we'd just acquired the cleanest, most mechanically sound 2005 Porsche Boxster S we could find.

Meet Rich Miller: Nissan's Avid Outdoors Truck Man

01/02

Meet Rich Miller: Nissan's Avid Outdoors Truck Man

Rich Miller is chief product specialist of Nissan Product Planning for Titan and Armada and is a life-long truck enthusiast. Miller has been with Nissan trucks for over 18 years, and he has an inside view of what a customer wants and needs in the truck market segment.

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