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Fight high gas prices with 11 top high-mileage cars

Tuesday - 5/10/2011, 2:40pm  ET

Evan Haning, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Electric cars aren't the only option for drivers who want to spend less on gas.

Popular Mechanics' list of the top 11 high-mileage cars to beat high gas prices proves you can still get impressive miles per gallon with a standard engine.

Most of these cars are under $30,000, and one is half that price.

  • The price tag on a Chevrolet Cruze Eco is $19,745. Some of the credit for its economy is due to its active grill louver system. When the engine needs cooling, air flows through. But when it doesn't need cooling, the louvers keep it out, which means less drag. PM-Tested Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 28/42.

  • The test-driver compares the Fiat 500 to a Sardinian skateboard, with its toy-like look and small wheelbase. Other test-drivers have also been smitten with this stylish micro-car, and for more than its $18,150 price. PM-Tested Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 30/38.

  • Ford continues to win friends and awards, and PM rated the Focus SFE the most consistently economical car they tested. In addition to its solidity and triple-sealed doors, PM liked Sync, the LED interior lighting, dazzling instrumentation, and $20,780 price. PM-Tested Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 28/40.

  • Hyundai is winning plenty of friends, as well. The $17,760 Elantra's "fluidic sculpture" looks good (if not flashy) and has an optional automatic transmission that delivers fuel-economy equal to its manual version. PM-Tested Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 29/40.

  • The Volkswagen Jetta TDI is roomier than before, but PM calls the interior "cheaper and ... more antiseptic" than most VWs. This car sells for $24,965 and has many satisfying features. But it runs on diesel, which costs a little more than gasoline. PM-Tested Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 30/42.

  • At $33,000, the Audi A3 TDI breaks the $30K barrier. But PM likes its German engineering, handling and excellent fuel efficiency. They give it top grades for luxury and comfort as well. PM-Tested Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 35.7/42.

  • PM calls the Honda Insight a worthy competitor to Toyota's Prius, even with its slightly rougher ride. At $23,810, the cost is low, and their test-drive gave them confidence the Insight could be a dependable ride for decades. PM-Tested Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 45.3/43.3.

  • The Smart Fortwo Passion is the lowest-priced on this list at $15,205. But PM found a few shortcomings, including a noisy ride and tinny feel. During the test drive, passing trucks caused the Smart to flutter (like a Leaf?), but it did just fine in the city. PM-Tested Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 39/36.3.

  • Another Ford made the list: the $31,940 Fusion Hybrid. PM rates its powertrain several rungs above its price class, getting even better highway fuel-economy than the Smart. PM-Tested Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 38.4/38.

  • Chevrolet's Volt was priced to $41,000 when tested, but after the federal environmental rebate, the cost was $33,500. The test-drive was smooth and quieter than a Cadillac. PM-Tested Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 37.5/38.2.

  • When drivers cash the $7,500 federal environmental rebate check, the bottom line for owners of the Nissan Leaf is $25,280. PM rates its 100-mile range as probably enough for most commuters, city-dwellers and suburbanites. It wins compliments for being a rational set of wheels "that doesn't drive like a science project." PM-tested EV range: 82 miles

To see the list, click here.

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