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The Over-40 Set

You don't need a hybrid to get better than 40 mpg

November 04, 2011
  • The all-new Ford Fiesta
The all-new Ford Fiesta

Imagine getting fuel efficiency that reaches 40 mpg and beyond, on models that sell for thousands of dollars less than hybrids. Manufacturers have delivered just that with several new and redesigned gas-sipping rides for 2012 — many of them available for less than $20,000.

In fact, much-improved gas economy is a top trend for this new model year, with Chevy and Hyundai weighing in with a handful of slick new rides in the 40-plus club. And, of course, it couldn’t come at a better time. Gas prices, already soaring, could rise even higher, reaching perhaps $4.50 a gallon, said Paul Taylor, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Assn.  

Thankfully, it’s now possible to have fabulous fuel efficiency as well as style and verve in an affordable package. In fact, some of the coolest and most exciting rides for 2012 offer distinctive and sporty flair, impressive features and unprecedented economy. 

Meet the new generation of trendy gas-sippers, class of 2012: 


Leading the way for Chevy is the Cruze Eco (starting MSRP: $19,245), a stylish midsize sedan that gets up to 42 mpg highway from a 1.4-liter Ecotec turbocharged engine, six-speed manual transmission and features that improve aerodynamics and reduce rolling resistance. Cruze Eco gets 39 mpg with an available automatic transmission.

One of the most exciting new subcompacts, the youth-oriented Chevy Sonic (starting MSRP: $13,735 to $18,495) stands out with a sharply angled body, aggressive stance and tight handling. Corvette engineers helped tune the ride, Chevy reported, and the design, inside and out, was partly based on a motorcycle motif. The Sonic comes with the same Ecotec 1.4-liter 138-horsepower four-cylinder engine as the Cruze Eco, with comparable efficiency.


A very well-received transplant from Europe, the hip Ford Fiesta (starting MSRP: $13,200 to $17,500) was a pioneer in changing the perception of subcompacts from bland to cool. With international style and sport-tuned handling to go with 40-mpg fuel efficiency and a considerable cult of personality, the new Fiesta is already turning heads stateside (no small feat, considering that the last time we had a Fiesta on this side of the pond it was about as interesting as a bowl of soup). 

Ford offers a vast number of options to personalize each Fiesta. Ford Custom Graphics by Original Wraps lets drivers choose from numerous body graphics or racing stripes (

All that and a 1.6-liter I-4 engine rated at 120 horsepower. 


The Hyundai Accent (starting MSRP $12,445 to $15,795) has undergone a dramatic redesign for 2012, becoming an all-new, smaller clone of the step-up Elantra sedan — gaining a strikingly sleek profile and wide haunches, as well as fuel economy of 40 mpg highway and 30 city. 

The Accent, available as a subcompact sedan or hatchback, sports a direct fuel-injected 1.6-liter four-cylinder all-aluminum engine, along with an Eco button on the dashboard that helps improve gas economy. 

The compact Hyundai Elantra sedan now has the same Active Eco system, and it too gets 40 mpg in a more luxurious package that nevertheless carries a base price of slightly more than $15,000. Quite a lot of of car for the price.


—Bob Young, Custom Publishing Writer


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