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July 4th Special: Six U.S. Cars That Get More Than 30 MPG

 
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2012 Chevrolet Sonic hatchback, road test, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2011

2012 Chevrolet Sonic hatchback, road test, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2011

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If your workplace is anything like ours, it seems that while you're at work, most of the rest of the United States has taken the entire week off to celebrate Independence Day.

For our own celebration, and with a friendly nod to our defeated British colleagues, we thought it would be appropriate to highlight six different vehicles from U.S. carmakers that get more than 30 mpg in EPA combined fuel-economy tests.

The list includes two subcompacts, a compact crossover, a compact sedan, a mid-size sedan, and a luxury mid-size sedan. And only three are hybrids.

All of them are built in North America, if not necessarily the U.S.--we've noted the ones that are assembled in Mexico.

2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid: 39 mpg combined

2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid

2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid

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The hybrid Ford Fusion mid-size sedan, launched in 2009 as a 2010 model, has always been a favorite of ours.

It's roomier than the Toyota Camry Hybrid was at the time, it got much better gas mileage, and the Fusion Hybrid has a much more elegant dashboard and information display.

This is the last year for the Fusion Hybrid you see here, as it's being replaced by an all-new global design for 2013.

That new 2013 Fusion will come with a variety of fuel-efficient powertrains, including a pair of EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engines, a hybrid version, and even a plug-in hybrid model to be called the Fusion Energi.

Meanwhile, there are still 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid models at local dealerships, and it's well worth test-driving one. Even if you've never before considered an American car.

If it makes a difference, the current Ford Fusion is actually assembled in Hermosillo, Mexico.

2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid: 39 mpg combined

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid on test in upstate New York, July 2011

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid on test in upstate New York, July 2011

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The hybrid Lincoln MKZ is a dolled-up, more luxurious version of the Fusion Hybrid, but it gets the same high 39-mpg combined rating--and rides even more quietly.

The MKZ too will be replaced next year with a new and swoopier design, but we're sure it will carry on with the hybrid version.

We liked the MKZ Hybrid more than we expected when we tested a 2011 model last summer, and there are no substantial changes for 2012.

The old-fashioned flat dashboard was straightforward, the styling was handsome enough, and it was a remarkably comfortable car in which to rack up the miles--and we still got 40.5 mpg over a 250-mile weekend test.

The 2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is assembled in Mexico too, on the same line as the Fusion Hybrid.

2012 Chevrolet Cruze Eco: 33 mpg combined

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco, New York City, March 2011

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco, New York City, March 2011

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After years and years of substandard Cavaliers and Cobalts, Chevy hit a home run with its Cruze compact sedan, launched in 2010 as a 2011 model.

The compact Chevrolet mixed handsome, traditional styling with a wide variety of trim levels and options, a stylish twin-cockpit interior, and some of the quietest highway travel we've experienced in any compact car.

The Cruze, in short, put the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, and Ford Focus on notice that Chevy wanted to be a serious player again.

Best of all, the Chevrolet Cruze Eco model was rated by the EPA at 33 mpg combined, though the advertising tended to focus more on the 42-mpg highway rating.

The high fuel efficiency comes courtesy of a small but peppy turbocharged 1.4-liter engine, some Eco-specific aerodynamic tweaks and weight reduction, and--to get the highest ratings--a six-speed manual gearbox.

We're not sure how many Cruze Eco buyers actually shift their own gears (the automatic doesn't do quite as well on MPG), but we tested the Cruze Eco six-speed manual and got 34 mpg over our test cycle.




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