2013 Lincoln MKZ HybridEnlarge Photo
If hybrids are city specialists and diesels rule on the highway, what should you use for a mix of both?
Essentially, most vehicles will tackle mixed drivng fairly well, and moderate speeds--between 30-50 mph--are actually better for economy than either city or highway driving--provided you're not speeding up and slowing down too often.
Some cars on sale today actually promise equal mileage in city, highway and combined driving--Honda's Civic Hybrid, Ford's Fusion and C-Max Hybrids and the Lincoln MkZ Hybrid, for example.
All should be well-suited for mixed driving--but other hybrids will also do well, and if you're not enjoying the performance, diesels and even fuel-efficient naturally-aspirated or turbocharged gasoline engines should return good figures too.
Buy based on your most likely driving routes, and you'll maximize your economy.
Now here's a wildcard. Few, if any cars will return good economy numbers when driven harder, but if you like to drive a little quicker than the norm--and some do--then it's nice to know your car won't guzzle gas as it does so.
Many of our readers appreciate the Chevrolet Volt's performance. WIth its range-extended electric drivetrain, you can make best use of that low-down electric torque without using any gas at all.
When you do start using gas efficiency drops rapidly, but not as quickly as many hybrids will from the outset, where quicker driving often causes the gasoline engine to kick in for assistance.
2013 Chevrolet Volt, Catskill Mountains, Oct 2012Enlarge Photo
Don't fancy a Volt? Well diesels are still worth recommending. Lots of torque goes a long way when you're driving quickly.
The new breed of turbocharged gasoline cars will also reward you. Many achieve 40 mpg in gentle highway driving, but offer pleasing punch when you reach a twisty road. And let's face it, gasoline engines are still more tuneful than their diesel counterparts.
Hybrids perhaps lag behind on this factor, though that depends on the car you buy--there's a lot of fun to be had driving cars like the Lexus GS 450h. And the sporty little Honda CR-Z hybrid even has a manual gearshift option, for driving purists.
So what should you buy?
It all depends on your driving. Hybrids are at their best in the city, as a rule--though some are efficient in all types of driving.
Diesels excel on the highway, while providing enough performance to drive hard without using too much fuel. And if you don't mind using a bit more gas in city driving, newer turbocharged gasoline vehicles can be good fun to drive and still do pretty decent highway mileage.
The best news is, there's now an efficient car for virtually every budget.