2012 Ford FocusEnlarge Photo
Gas prices got you all nervous? Figuring the days of cheap gas are over? Thinking about a new car with much better gas mileage?
Well, just because the EPA rates a specific car at the magic 40-mpg mark doesn't mean you'll actually get 40 mpg.
But the ratings are a good indicator of where cars stand relative to one another.
New: 2012 Ford Focus SFE
The latest entry to cross the 40-mpg threshold is the 2012 Ford Focus SFE, one specific model of the all-new Focus compact that's now shipping to Ford dealers.
The 2012 Focus fitted with that "Super Fuel Economy" package and a six-speed automatic transmissionis rated at 28 mpg city, 40 mpg highway.
“Our customers tell us that fuel economy is the top reason for purchasing a Focus,” said Ford's VP of global product development, Derrick Kuzak. “The all-new Focus meets that demand with great fuel economy, class-leading technologies ... and driving dynamics typically reserved for larger, more expensive vehicles.”
Many 40-mpg choices
The 2012 Focus SFE joins an expanding list of cars--encompassing hybrids, clean diesels, and conventional gasoline vehicles--with EPA-rated gas mileage of at least 40 mpg on either the city or highway cycle.
That's the crucial criterion that lets them blare "40 MPG !!!" in big letters on their ads.
We haven't included battery electric or plug-in hybrids, e.g. the 2011 Nissan Leaf or 2011 Chevy Volt, in this list. Also, we've listed a specific transmission only if ratings differ among the transmission options.
2011 Toyota PriusEnlarge Photo
2011 TOYOTA PRIUS: 51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway - 50 mpg combined
The world's best-known hybrid vehicle, the Toyota Prius, is the undisputed fuel-efficiency champ in the U.S. market.
Toyota has sold more than 2 million hybrids, and this is their crowning achievement. You really will get mileage somewhere in the 40s, no matter how you drive it.
2011 LEXUS CT 200h: 43 mpg city, 41 mpg highway - 42 mpg combined
2011 Lexus CT 200hEnlarge Photo
The newest, smallest Lexus, a compact five-door hatchback, is actually the second best rated car on the EPA's list of gasoline vehicles.
It's a car class down from the Prius, but it's also more luxurious inside, and reviewers say it's far more fun to drive.
But we're still puzzled by the strange "Darker Side of Green" marketing campaign.
2011 HONDA CIVIC HYBRID: 40 mpg city, 43 mpg highway - 41 mpg combined
2010 Honda Civic HybridEnlarge Photo
The all-new 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid will arrive this spring.
It's expected to achieve a combined mileage rating of 45 mpg--which would boost it above the CT 200h into second place after the Prius.
There will also be a gasoline Civic HF model that is projected to hit the magic 40-mpg highway rating.
2011 HONDA INSIGHT: 40 mpg city, 43 mpg highway - 41 mpg combined
2011 Honda InsightEnlarge Photo
Honda's subcompact hybrid hatchback has been a sales disappointment.
That may be, in part, because it competes with the superb 2011 Honda Fit five-door subcompact that gets decent mileage in the id-30s for almost $5,000 less.
This was one of Honda's pair of new dedicated hybrids, but the other one, the 2011 CR-Z hybrid sports coupe, didn't break the 40-mpg barrier.
2011 FORD FUSION HYBRID and LINCOLN MKZ HYBRID: 41 mpg city, 26 mpg highway - 39 mpg combined
2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
2011 Lincoln MKZ HybridEnlarge Photo
Ford's large midsize hybrid sedan was widely lauded on its introduction two years ago.
The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid model, new this year but largely the same under the skin, is the first car to price the V-6 gasoline and four-cylinder hybrid versions identically.
2011 HYUNDAI SONATA HYBRID: 35 mpg city, 40 mpg highway - 37 mpg combined
2011 Hundai Sonata Hybrid, La Jolla, California, October 2010Enlarge Photo
Despite some last-minute delays in getting Hyundai's first hybrid to dealers, the 2011 Sonata Hybrid delivers superb fuel economy and a visually distinct appearance from the standard Sonata.
And its mileage is biased toward highway speeds, where Hyundai notes most U.S. drivers spend more than half their time.
2011 SMART FORTWO: 33 mpg city, 41 mpg highway - 36 mpg combined
2011 Smart ForTwo with 'Heartthrob' Valentine's Day car wrapEnlarge Photo
They're small, they're not all that pleasant to drive, and their sales have plummeted.
Yes, they get decent gas mileage. But you can get much bigger and better cars that give you the same gas mileage.
Honestly, the automatic manual transmission shifts so abruptly, pitching the car back and forth on its short wheelbase, that you really won't enjoy the journey that much. 'Nuff said.
2011 AUDI A3 TDI: 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway - 34 mpg combined
2010 Audi A3 TDIEnlarge Photo
Audi's A3 TDI clean-diesel won the 2009 Green Car of the Year Award.
It's a thrifty five-door compact hatchback that's fun to drive, even if it's getting a little long in the tooth now.