The Best Mid-Size Cars for Gas Mileageby Richard Rowe
Though the hunt for great fuel economy is endemic in today's automotive industry, the mid-size class is where the battle transitions from academic to cutthroat. Though mileage is not necessarily a discriminating factor when shopping for trucks, performance cars or luxury cars, it's a make or break issue on family-oriented mid-sizers.
All else aside, the Toyota Prius is the sitting emperor of EPA mileage. Toyota's 48 city/51 highway figures scream from the window sticker in 24-point bold print. However, investigation past the bold print will reveal a number of flaws in the Prius. First, that MSRP is only the suggested retail price, which is often a great deal less than any given dealer will ask for with high demand items like the Prius. Additionally, the Prius accelerates a bit slower than a 1976 Chevy Chevette, and actual observed mileage figures are only a little higher than a Honda Civic Si's (autotropolis.com).
Ford Fusion Hybrid
The Fusion may have been Hecho in Mexico, but this mid-size wonder is storming America like a blitzkrieg. The Fusion's less-impressive-than-Prius 41 mpg won't win you any arguments, but it does have one major trump card. Reports indicate that, unlike the Prius, Fusion Hybrids will actually get better mileage than their EPA estimates imply. Significantly better. In a recent test by treehugger.com, one Fusion Hybrid averaged a staggering 81.4 mpg on a 1000-mile test drive. That's Orlando, Florida, to Wichita, Kansas, on about $45 in gas. It would probably be more expensive to walk. The Fusion is more than a jaw-dropping number generator, though. This Ford has all-wheel drive and a respectable 16.4-second quarter-mile time. That makes it at least as performance-oriented as a V8 Ford Explorer, with four times better fuel mileage.
Chevy Malibu Hybrid
If you're beginning to sense a theme here, it's because American cars are coming back in a big way. At 34 mpg (close to 40 when driven economically), it's one of the few contenders for the Fusion's state-side crown. GM has hyped the Malibu with more enthusiasm than Don King, and it's not alone. "The New York Times" referred to the Malibu as a "super-Accord, but from GM." "Motor Trend" rated it higher than Accord and Camry in its 2008 Car of the Year Awards, and "Car and Driver" warned Camry to "beware." The Malibu also took home top honors at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and Malibu sales have almost exceeded GM's capacity to build them.
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