5 On Your Side

Consumer Reports lists well-priced, fuel-efficient cars

Posted May 26, 2011 4:28 p.m. EDT
Updated May 26, 2011 6:16 p.m. EDT

Gas prices have dropped a little, but many people would still like to have a more fuel-efficient car.

Consumer Reports checks the gas mileage of every car it tests, and recently came up with a list of some of the most fuel-efficient cars and SUVs on the road.

Consumer Reports engineers say the Prius is the clear gas-saving leader: it gets 44 miles per gallon in tests. It costs anywhere from about $22,000 to $30,000.

The Hyundai Elantra is not a hybrid, but tests show the compact car gets an impressive 29 miles per gallon. And at about $18,000, Consumer Reports' Tom Mutchler says it's a bargain compared to most vehicles, "If you want a larger car like a family sedan there are still some great gas-saving options."

Starting at $20,000, the Nissan Altima gets 26 miles per gallon and is roomy enough to fit five comfortably.

But what if you need an even bigger vehicle? The Toyota Highlander Hybrid tops SUVs, getting 27 miles per gallon. But its sticker price is steep at almost $50,000. Mutchler suggests a compromise. "Another great choice is a Subaru Outback. It's more of station wagon than an SUV, but it gets 24 miles per gallon, has all-wheel drive and a really roomy back seat."

And at about $24,000, the Subaru Outback is much more reasonably priced than the Highlander.

Many people just have to have an SUV, but want better mileage. Consumer Reports recommends the Ford Escape Hybrid. It starts at $22,000 and gets 26 miles per gallon.

And a reminder as you hit the road for the holiday weekend. There are some simple things you can do to save gas.

  • Don't idle: The general rule-of-thumb is turn off your car if you know you'll be stopped for more than 30 seconds.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated. Use the pressure recommended by the vehicle's manufacturer, not the maximum pressure embossed on the tire.
  • Slow down. Slowing from 75 to 55 mph boosted gas mileage 33 percent in Consumer Reports tests on a family sedan and a large SUV.
  • Avoid jack rabbit starts and stops. In Consumer Reports tests, frequent bursts of acceleration and braking reduced mileage by 2 to 3 mpg.
  • And drive light! That means get the junk OUT of your trunk, and even take off your roof rack when you're not using it. That lightened load reduces drag, and increases fuel economy.

Click here for more gas saving ideas from Consumer Reports.