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Slide Show | January 2014

14 Most Fuel-Efficient New Cars, 2014

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The vehicles we spotlight here are the least thirsty in their price categories, based on annual fuel costs. The fuel cost assumes 15,000 miles of combined city and highway driving each year and gasoline prices of $3.40 a gallon for regular, $3.70 for premium and $3.90 for diesel, or for electric cars, 12 cents per kilowatt hour.

Many of the winners sport an alternative powertrain: either gas-electric hybrid or all electric. "Green" is still a red-hot buzzword in the auto industry, with carmakers competing to showcase their commitment to fuel economy. All electric vehicles qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

To be eligible for the most-fuel-efficient award, each model must have been designated a top 25 pick in its category, and no vehicle can win if another trim level of that model has won in a lower-price category.

Because of the increase in crossover models, this year we split the large and midsize crossovers into separate categories. SOURCES: Kelley Blue Book (new-vehicle data, ownership costs); Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (Top Safety Picks); FuelEconomy.gov (plug-in vehicle annual fuel costs)


14 Most Fuel-Efficient New Cars, 2014

Cars Under $20,000: Toyota Prius c One

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Toyota

Fuel efficient iconMPG: City: 53; Hwy: 46

Sticker price: $19,890

Invoice price: $18,937

KBB Fair Purchase Price: NA

Resale value: 3-year: 53%; 5-year: 37%

The littlest Prius has a strong family resemblance to the full-size Prius and a name that has earned green cred over the years. Delivering 50 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, the affordable Prius c boasts the best city fuel economy of any vehicle that doesn't plug in. It costs just a grand a year to fuel.

Cars Under $20,000: Toyota Prius c One

Cars $20,000-$25,000: Honda Insight LX

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Honda

Fuel efficient iconMPG: City: 41; Hwy: 44

Sticker price: $21,290

Invoice price: $20,317

KBB Fair Purchase Price: NA

Resale value: 3-year: 45%; 5-year: 33%

Honda’s Insight offers utility and reliability with a low price of entry into the hybrid market (the base model has a sticker price of $19,515). Combined city and highway driving nets 42 miles per gallon and keeps your annual fuel cost to $1,200. An Eco Display and score based on your driving efficiency coach you to save even more fuel.

Cars $20,000-$25,000: Honda Insight LX

Cars $25,000-$30,000: Chevrolet Spark EV

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Chevrolet

Fuel efficient iconMPGe: City: 128; Hwy: 109

Sticker price: $27,495 (1LT)

Invoice price: $26,428

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $26,628

Resale value: 3-year: 42%; 5-year: 26%

The all-electric version of Chevy’s subcompact is wallet-friendly: Charging for a year adds just $500 to your electric bill. It’s a blast to drive, too, with 400 lb-ft of instant torque. Technology includes Chevy MyLink with apps for Pandora and Stitcher radio as well as iPhone functionality with Siri Personal Assistant. The Spark EV features ten airbags and made the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick list. As with all EVs, the Spark qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Cars $25,000-$30,000: Chevrolet Spark EV

Cars $30,000-$40,000: Honda Fit EV

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Honda

Fuel efficient iconMPGe: City: 132; Hwy: 105

Sticker price: $37,415

Invoice price: NA

KBB Fair Purchase Price: NA

Resale value: 3-year: 38%; 5-year: 25%

Honda's Fit EV costs $500 a year to charge and has a range of 82 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The zippy subcompact is available only for lease in a handful of states (California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island). But it has a new price, lowering the leasing cost to $259 a month.

Cars $30,000-$40,000: Honda Fit EV

Cars $40,000-$50,000: Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid

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Honda

Fuel efficient iconMPG: City: 47; Hwy: 46

Sticker price: $40,570

Invoice price: $37,148

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $37,567

Resale value: 3-year: 51%; 5-year: 39%

The gas-engine Accord is also our Best in Class winner in the $25,000-$30,000 price category. The plug-in model is loaded with standard features, such as dual-zone climate control and heated seats, a rearview camera, a navigation system and safety features such as forward collision and lane departure warning. It was named a Top Safety Pick + by the IIHS.

Cars $40,000-$50,000: Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid

Cars $50,000 and Over: Tesla Model S P85

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Tesla

Fuel efficient iconMPGe: City: 88; Hwy: 90

Sticker price: $91,070

Invoice price: NA

KBB Fair Purchase Price: NA

Resale value: 3-year: NA; 5-year: NA

The Tesla’s high price tag is less daunting when you compare the luxury EV’s “fuel economy” with that of the luxury competition. The EPA gives the Model S a 265-mile range and annual charging cost of just $700. And the $7,500 tax credit trims the sticker price. The 60 kWh model, which has a 208-mile range, starts at $71,070.

Cars $50,000 and Over: Tesla Model S P85

Sports Cars: Scion FR-S (TIE)

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Scion

Fuel efficient iconMPG: City: 25; Hwy: 34

Sticker price: $26,555

Invoice price: $25,265

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $26,555

Resale value: 3-year: 56%; 5-year: 39%

Scion entered the enthusiast market last year with its new halo car, the FR-S. The rear-wheel-drive coupe sports a 2.0-liter, 200-horsepower engine that was a joint effort with Subaru. (The FR-S shares the engine and its platform with the Subaru BRZ; see the next slide.)

Sports Cars: Scion FR-S (TIE)

Sports Cars: Subaru BRZ Limited (TIE)

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Subaru

Fuel efficient iconMPG: City: 25; Hwy: 34

Sticker price: $29,490

Invoice price: $28,009

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $28,605

Resale value: 3-year: 57%; 5-year: 39%

You wouldn't expect it given the brand's largely utilitarian lineup, but Subaru’s BRZ is downright sexy. Its lithe body will surprise those used to Subaru's staid designs; navigation, among other higher-end features, is standard. Because it shares its 200-hp engine and rear-drive platform with the Scion FR-S, it also shares its fuel economy plaudits.

Sports Cars: Subaru BRZ Limited (TIE)

Wagons: Ford C-Max SE

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Ford

Fuel efficient iconMPG: City: 45; Hwy: 40

Sticker price: $25,995

Invoice price: $24,294

KBB Fair Purchase Price: NA

Resale value: 3-year: 51%; 5-year: 34%

Ford’s hybrid answer to Toyota’s Prius v wagon provides plenty of value to sway buyers. It has a lower price and more power than the Prius v, and it gets a smidge better fuel economy. Fueling for a year costs $1,200. An innovative hands-free lift gate feature allows you to open the rear hatch with a kick of the foot under the bumper.

Wagons: Ford C-Max SE

Minivans: Honda Odyssey LX

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Honda

Fuel efficient iconMPG: City: 19; Hwy: 28

Sticker price: $29,655

Invoice price: $28,290

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $27,128

Resale value: 3-year: 55%; 5-year: 39%

The Odyssey is a perennial Kiplinger pick for value. Its blend of reliability and safety—it is the only Top Safety Pick in the minivan space—complements its high resale values and the lowest five-year ownership cost in its category. The cost to fill up: $2,300 a year.

Minivans: Honda Odyssey LX

Small Crossovers: Nissan Rogue S

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Nissan

Fuel efficient iconMPG: City: 26; Hwy: 33

Sticker price: $23,350

Invoice price: $21,756

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $22,394

Resale value: 3-year: 50%; 5-year: 36%

Redesigned for 2014, Nissan’s best-selling crossover seats up to seven, has a comfortable and spacious cabin and, with combined city and highway mileage of 28 mpg, keeps the annual fuel cost to just $1,800. Available technology includes Nissan’s Around View Monitor, which gives you a bird’s-eye view of the vehicle and makes parking a snap.

Small Crossovers: Nissan Rogue S

Midsize Crossovers: Lexus RX 450h

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Lexus

Fuel efficient iconMPG: City: 32; Hwy: 28

Sticker price: $47,320

Invoice price: $44,535

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $45,256

Resale value: 3-year: 60%; 5-year: 45%

With 30 mpg in combined city and highway driving and an annual fuel cost of $1,850, the Lexus RX hybrid combines luxury with a green powertrain. It’s no slouch on the road, either; it puts out 295 horses, and the all-wheel drive model includes a second electric motor dedicated to the rear wheels for better performance.

Midsize Crossovers: Lexus RX 450h

Large Crossovers: Acura MDX

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Acura

Fuel efficient iconMPG: City: 20; Hwy: 28

Sticker price: $43,185

Invoice price: $40,081

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $41,297

Resale value: 3-year: 58%; 5-year: 41%

A new powertrain for 2014 allows Acura’s family-friendly crossover to save on gas. The 290-horsepower V6 features direct injection as well as variable cylinder management, which employs fewer cylinders when conditions allow. Add in a new two-wheel drive base model (the previous generation was all-wheel drive only) and annual fuel costs drop to $2,400.

Large Crossovers: Acura MDX

Truck-based SUVs: Toyota 4Runner SR5

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Toyota

Fuel efficient iconMPG: City: 17; Hwy: 22

Sticker price: $33,680

Invoice price: $31,053

KBB Fair Purchase Price: $31,507

Resale value: 3-year: 68%; 5-year: 57%

The 2014 4Runner gets new sheet metal and interior refinements such as soft-touch surfaces, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and an Eco-Driving feedback system. More legroom and reclining seats make the second row more comfortable, and a one-touch walk-in function makes the third row easily accessible.

Truck-based SUVs: Toyota 4Runner SR5

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