Top 10 Most Economical Small Cars You Can Buy In 2012

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Let's say you're in the market for a small car, and you want the most economical one around in your budget.

What are the options? Quite varied ones, actually - everything from electric cars, through hybrids, range-extended vehicles, gasoline and diesel.

You might notice a few glaring omissions from the list - notably, the 2012 Toyota Prius and 2012 Toyota Prius V, both of which would otherwise feature.

That's because, according to the EPA, they're actually too big. The EPA classifies the Prius as midsize due to its passenger volume, while the similarly-sized Chevy Volt is actually a compact car - a fate that also befalls the 2012 Fisker Karma.

2012 Mitsubishi i - 112 MPGe combined - From $29,125

The Mitsubishi "i" electric car does the company proud, by being the most economical car on sale in the U.S. Using the MPG equivalent figures, it manages 126 MPGe city, 99 highway and 112 combined. It doesn't have the greatest range - some testers have struggled to get much over 60 miles from it - but driven gently, you'll be spending very little on electricity. You can find our other stories on the "i" in our ultimate reference guide.

2012 Nissan Leaf - 99 MPGe combined - From $35,200

Not unpredictably, the Leaf is the second most efficient car you can buy. At 106 MPGe city, 92 highway and 99 combined, you can expect range of between 80-110 miles depending on how you drive, and the prevailing weather conditions. It's also less toy-like than the Mitsubishi. Our own Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield runs a Leaf, so keep your eyes open for her updates on living with the car. For more information on the Leaf, why not head over to our ultimate guide?

2012 Toyota Prius C - 50 MPG combined - From $18,950

Recently launched, the Prius C takes the familiar Prius technology and condenses it into a car the size of a Yaris. It manages 50 mpg combined, 53 city and 46 highway. It's also more nimble than the regular Prius. Check out our first drive review of the 2012 Toyota Prius C here. Its natural habitat is the city, and its economy certainly won't disappoint.

2012 Honda Civic Hybrid - 44 MPG combined - From $24,050

While the previous generation of Civic Hybrid is making headlines for all the wrong reasons, the 2012 model gets a more conservative - but still impressive - 44 mpg for city, highway and combined. It's not the most interesting vehicle to own or drive, but should prove reliable and economical.

2012 Scion iQ - 37 MPG combined - From $15,265

A fun, funky alternative to the Smart Fortwo, the 2012 Scion iQ is also more economical. With a 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission, it has economy figures of 36 mpg city, 37 highway and 37 combined. If the Smart's gearbox annoys you but you like the size, the iQ could be the minicar for you.

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