New fuel-miser cars disappoint

FRESNO, Calif.

Toyota's Game of Life ads highlight the much-anticipated Prius c, a smaller, less expensive version of the Prius. Ford is promoting its new gas-saving Focus, the SFE version. Meanwhile, Honda is advertising its new Civic fuel-saver, the HF, and Chevy is touting its Cruze Eco.

How well can those vehicles stretch your fuel dollars?

Let's start with the Prius c. It got 43 miles per gallon overall, and in city driving the Prius c delivers an amazing 37 mpg, which is the highest of any car Consumer Reports has tested. But the Prius c is slow to accelerate. The ride is stiff and the cabin is noisy, too.

The Ford Focus SFE, the Honda Civic HF, and the Chevy Cruze Eco are all promising 40 mpg or better on the highway.

Consumer Report' tests show that all three cars do get 40 mpg or better, as promised. Fuel economy was 1 to 3 mpg better than the regular versions of the cars. But you pay $500 to $800 extra for those fuel-saving options.

A better choice is the Mazda3 i Skyactiv, which rated higher in Consumer Reports' tests. Plus it gets better gas mileage and costs less than the Cruze Eco and Focus SFE.

Consumer Reports says that if your heart is set on a Prius, rather than buying a Prius c, you're better off getting a good used Prius. It scores much higher in tests, gets 44 mpg, is reliable, and gives you a lot more room.

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