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USA: Best choices: Which new cars save the most gas?

With gas prices climbing to the heavens, what are the smartest, most price- and gas-efficient choices for car buyers?

The good news is that unlike in past gas price run-ups, this time there are more choices for buyers, whether hybrids and electrics or conventional cars made more efficient.

Here’s how Dee-Ann Durbin of the Associated Press assesses the choices. She gives these examples:

The recent graduate. The newest Toyota hybrid, the Prius c, is a compact hatchback targeted at younger buyers. It gets an estimated 50 miles per gallon, but it starts at nearly $19,000, which is high for many buyers in this bracket. One answer: Go smaller. The Scion iQ, which is just 10 feet long, gets the government’s nod as the most fuel-efficient subcompact. The four-seater gets 37 mpg and starts at $15,995. There are plenty of cheaper subcompact cars in the 33 to 34 mpg range. The Nissan Versa four-door starts at $10,990. For a more chiseled, eye-catching design, consider the Hyundai Accent, which starts at $12,545, or the Ford Fiesta, which starts at $13,200.

The family of four. The Ford Escape hybrid is a midsize SUV that gets 32 mpg, the highest in its category. But at $30,570, it’s $9,000 more than a base model Escape. There are several non-hybrid, five-seat SUVs that get 26 mpg and cost under $25,000. They include the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson.

The family of three. The Kia Optima midsize sedan has one of the lower-priced hybrid sedans on the market. It gets 37 mpg and starts at $25,700 — or $4,700 more than the gas version. Diesel cars, which are around 30% more efficient, can also save you money at the pump. Volkswagen has two diesels that cost around $26,000 (or $6,000 more than the regular gas versions): the 34-mpg Jetta SportWagon and the 35-mpg Passat midsize sedan. Diesel fuel is currently around 30 cents more than regular gas, so that will cut into the amount you save.

Going electric. Manufacturers are still working out the kinks in electric cars:


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