Consumer Reports, the venerable source of independent product info, has once again placed hybrid gas-electric vehicles at the top of its list of fuel-efficient models.
The firm recommends the top gas-sipper and gas-hog in six different categories—judging not only high MPG, but also based on tough requirements for performance, reliability and safety.
The Toyota Prius, providing 44 mpg in CR evaluations, took the prize for efficient family car. The Lexus HS 250h won for upscale/sports sedan. According to CR, the price of the HS 250h jumps to $38,939 from the Prius’s price tag of $24,750—while providing less efficient motoring at 31 mpg. The HS has a larger 2.4-liter engine—a tweaked Atkinson-cycle four cylinder from the Toyota Camry—against the 1.8-liter engine used by the Prius. The complete hybrid system in the Lexus is fully 40 percent more powerful than that of the Prius: 187 horsepower compared to 134.
The Ford Escape Hybrid is listed by CR as the best small SUV for fuel efficiency, delivering 26 mpg.
Consumer Reports also gave a nod to clean diesel technology, by naming the Volkswagen Golf TDI (diesel/manual), in the odd category of “Best Small Wagons and Hatchback.” The Golf TDI—not available as a wagon (as far as we know) apparently beat out the clean diesel Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen. The Golf TDI hatchback scored 38 mpg in CR tests.
Consumer Reports, which stakes its reputation on hyper-rational consumer purchase advice, warned about the cost of alternative fuel-efficient technologies. “Hybrid and diesel vehicles provide better fuel economy than conventional cars, but they usually cost more to buy,” said David Champion, Senior Director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center. But he acknowledged, “As gas prices rise, the pay-back time [on hybrids] gets shorter.”
The Honda Fit and Toyota Corolla are two conventional internal combustion models that offer great fuel economy for a lower price tag—taking CR fuel economy awards for subcompact and small sedan categories respectively.
The organization also gave advice that might be described as no-brainer: If you want to cut your gasoline use, buy a more fuel-efficient car. Also, regardless of whether or not you’re in the market for a car, keep your tires properly inflated, and avoid rapid acceleration and speeding.