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Saving fuel’s a gas

 

CNET.com

Hybrid and electric cars turn in the best fuel economy numbers, but if you are not ready to trust that newfangled technology, there are other options. For this roundup, we stuck with recent models we have driven. These are our favorite gas-driven cars that manage very good mileage.

2013 Chevrolet Spark

The good: Integrates navigation into its dashboard running off a smartphone. OnStar provides a number of emergency and concierge services. Fuel economy is in the mid-30s.

The bad: The Bluetooth streaming tech can’t handle phone calls and audio streaming from the same device. Voice command is limited to the hands-free phone system. You get slow starts and limited passing ability, thanks to the 84-horsepower engine.

The cost: $13,745

The bottom line: The Spark includes some intriguing features for its price, but bizarre limitations in the cabin electronics and low horsepower create too many compromises.

2013 Dodge Dart

The good: Italian underpinnings mean a multilink rear suspension and disc brakes all around. At 8.4 inches, the touch screen is huge, while the Garmin navigation software gives excellent guidance.

The bad: The 1.4-liter engine option comes with a lot of turbo lag. The Garmin software theme clashes with that of the stereo and phone screens in the car.

The cost: $15,995

The bottom line: Dodge gives the Dart an excellent cabin tech suite, impressive for a compact car, but uneven acceleration makes the 1.4-liter engine upgrade a questionable choice.

2012 Ford Fiesta

The good: Sync offers voice command over music and Bluetooth phones, along with smartphone app integration. The rigid suspension makes the car feel very maneuverable.

The bad: The ride can feel a little harsh, and the engine makes a tortured whine at high rpms. Onboard navigation is not available.

The cost: $17,500

The bottom line: Sync and AppLink give the Fiesta an impressive techie edge, while body design and decent fuel economy lend to overall practicality, but the car does not punch above its class in comfort.

2012 Scion iQ

The good: A new head unit includes Pandora integration. Smartly designed for an ultracompact, the iQ has eye-catching looks. Fuel economy is rated in the mid-30s.

The bad: Scion locks out music libraries and contact lists when the car is moving, and does not offer voice command. The engine makes an annoying grinding noise.

The cost: $15,265

The bottom line: With its compact size, the iQ is excellent for cities, offering easy parking and good drivability. But harsh engine noise will make longer trips uncomfortable.

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