auto

Car buyer's dilemma: power or fuel economy

Tara Baukus MelloQuestionDear Driving for Dollars,
We drive our cars until there is no more "go" in them and now we need to replace our decade-old car. I drive 50 miles a day, so I want something that will be good on gas mileage so I'm not spending a fortune, yet will still be powerful enough to be comfortable. My husband thinks a four-cylinder wouldn't have much power. Is that right?
-- Judy

AnswerDear Judy,
You're smart to be thinking about fuel economy, especially since gasoline prices are expected to be about 50 cents higher per gallon nationwide this summer than last. Because you have a long commute, you might consider a hybrid car. It will give you better fuel economy and will provide plenty of off-the-line pep, thanks to the additional power from the electric motor. Keep in mind that you will pay a premium for a hybrid car and, if you have a lead foot, your gas mileage will be compromised as it is in any car.

You could also consider a car with a diesel engine. It will offer you better fuel economy than gasoline-powered cars that are comparable in power. Diesel fuel is generally more expensive than gasoline, so depending on where you live, you may find you spend just as much as you would on regular gas.

Generally, for gasoline-only cars, a four-cylinder engine will give you the best gas mileage, and a model that is turbocharged or direct-injected will give you some extra power without affecting fuel economy too much. You might also look at a six- or eight-cylinder engine with cylinder deactivation. That means it shuts down some of the cylinders when cruising steadily to save fuel yet quickly opens the moment you need to accelerate rapidly. Many automakers offer some or all of these technologies in their lineups.

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If you have a car question, e-mail it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories.
 

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