auto

5 great used cars for bargain hunters

If you're looking for a good used car that gets great gas mileage, you've probably shopped for what conventional wisdom says is the "best" on the market: Honda and Toyota.

When buying used, it's hard to go wrong with a Honda or Toyota. However, the downside is that those cars tend to be at the high end of the price ranges for their classes.

So what's a bargain hunter to do?

Looking deeper into the market, you'll find cars that are overlooked gems. These bargains have good reliability records, offer space and value for the money, and get at least 20 miles per gallon and as much as 36 mpg, according to federal government ratings.

To help the bargain shopper, here are some vehicles we think are worth a look. These were chosen because of their relatively affordable prices -- all but one can be bought for less than $10,000 -- and their ready availability.

They are mostly conventional sedans that rely on the tried-and-true way to improve gas mileage: a small engine in a relatively lightweight chassis.

The Pontiac Vibe made the list because it's the twin to the Toyota Matrix, but costs as much as $1,000 less because it carries the Pontiac label. The Scion xB made the list because it's stylish, has the reliability of a Toyota and can carry a lot of stuff for such a compact vehicle.

So take a test spin with our recommendations.

 2003 Mazda Protege

  • Price range: $6,400 to $7,400.
  • Fuel mileage, city/highway: 25/30 miles per gallon.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 130 horsepower.
  • Interior space: room for five.
  • Safety: optional side airbags, optional anti-lock brakes.
  • Government safety rating: driver, five stars; passenger, four stars.

  2003 Pontiac Vibe

  • Price range: $6,800 to $9,000.
  • Fuel mileage, city/highway: 29/36 mpg.
  • Engine: 1.8-liter four-cylinder, 130 horsepower.
  • Interior space: room for five.
  • Safety: side airbags optional; anti-lock brakes optional.
  • Government safety rating: driver and passenger, four stars.

  2004 Scion xB

  • Price range: $8,900 to $9,700.
  • Fuel mileage, city/highway: 30/33 mpg.
  • Engine: 1.5-liter four-cylinder, 108 horsepower.
  • Interior space: room for four.
  • Safety: no optional side airbags; anti-lock brakes standard; traction control standard.
  • Government safety rating: not rated in 2004 (four stars for driver and passenger in 2006).

  2003 Buick LeSabre

  • Price range: $6,700 to $8,700.
  • Fuel mileage, city/highway: 20/29 mpg.
  • Engine: 3.8-liter V6, 205 horsepower.
  • Interior space: room for six.
  • Safety: standard anti-lock brakes; optional side airbags.
  • Government safety rating: driver, four stars; passenger, five stars.

  2003 Subaru Impreza sedan

  • Price range: $7,900 to $10,600.
  • Fuel mileage, city/highway: 21/27 mpg.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder; 165 horsepower.
  • Interior space: room for five.
  • Safety: standard anti-lock brakes; all-wheel-drive.
  • Government safety rating: not tested.

 

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