Escalating gas prices have Americans fuming. Whose fault is it?

We’ve grown quite accustomed to our roomy, gas-guzzling cars. Our automobiles average 20.4 miles per gallon. That’s the lowest average since 1980, according to Consumer Reports.

“More Americans used to buy family sedans, which average 20 to 25 mpg, ” says David Champion, director of Automobile Testing for
Consumer Reports. “But now, more people buy the trendy SUVs, which only average 14 to 18 mpg.”

While SUVs have become more fuel-efficient, explains Champion, the greater number on the road has lowered the average fuel mileage.

You can’t do much to reduce the cost of each fill-up, but you can learn to drive smarter and be a fuel miser. By changing some driving habits and keeping your vehicle in top condition, you can increase your fuel mileage.

If you are in the market for a new vehicle, or are sick of emptying your wallet to fill your gas tank, consider buying a fuel-efficient car.

Consumer Reports has been testing and reviewing cars since 1936, publishing the results in its Annual Auto issue. As vehicles advance, so do their tests.

In 2003, its staff of auto engineers and technicians tested vehicles at its 327-acre, specially equipped track in East Haddam, Conn. They conducted more than 46 different tests, ranging from emergency handling and acceleration, to braking and fuel-economy.

“In 2003, we anonymously purchased 55 newly-released vehicles from dealerships,” explains Champion.

These test vehicles are driven through a myriad of systematic courses, and then repeated six times by two different drivers for accuracy.

“We run each vehicle through three different circuits that simulate city miles, highway miles and a 150-mile mixed run,” says Champion. “We combine the three test results to get an overall fuel-economy measurement.”

The 10 most fuel-efficient cars are listed in the table below. You can also check out the
top 3 fuel-efficient cars in each category.

Top 10 fuel-efficient cars
Rank Model Car type Overall mpg City mpg Highway mpg
1 Honda Insight (manual) Small car 51 36 66
2 Toyota Prius Small car 44 35 50
3 Volkswagen Golf GLS TDI (manual) Small car 41 29 54
4 Toyota Echo (manual) Small car 38 29 46
5 Honda Civic Hybrid Small car 36 26 45
6 Volkswagen Jetta GLS TDI (manual) Small car 32 22 46
7 Toyota MR2 Sporty car 31 25 36
8 Mini Cooper Sporty car 30 23 38
9 Honda Civic EX Small car 29 20 41
10 Toyota Corolla LE Small car 29 20 39