Toyota's Game-of-Life ads highlight the much-anticipated Prius C - a smaller, less expensive version of the Prius. Ford is is promoting its new gas-saving Focus - the SFE version. Meanwhile, Honda is advertising its new Civic fuel-saver - the HF, while Chevy is touting its Cruze Eco.
So how well can these four vehicles stretch your fuel dollars? Let's start with the Prius C.
"In city driving, the Prius C delivers an amazing 37 miler per gallon, which is the highest of any car Consumer Reports has tested," Consumer Reports' Rik Paul said.
But the Prius C is slow to accelerate, and the ride is stiff and cabin noisy.
As for the other cars, manufacturers made current models more fuel-efficient with modifications like low-rolling-resistance tires and aerodynamic add-ons. These vehicles are all promising 40 miles per gallon or better on the highway.
Consumer Reports used a special device to measure highway mileage. Tests show all three cars do get 40 miles per gallon or better, as promised.
"We found an improvement of one to three miles per gallon overall with these cars," Paul said. "But you pay $500 to $800 extra for those fuel-saving options."
Instead, consider the Mazda3 i Skyactiv, which rated higher in Consumer Reports' tests.
The Mazda gets 32 miles per gallon in Consumer Reports' combined city and highway fuel economy tests. That's better than either the Cruze Eco or the Focus SFE - and the Skyactiv costs less, too.
If your heart is set on a Prius, Consumer Reports suggests that rather than buying a Prius C, get a good used Prius. It scores much higher in tests, is reliable, gets 44 miles per gallon and gives you a lot more room.
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