Review: 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

Wednesday October 8th, 2014 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

By David Colman

Hypes: Perfect 10 on the Greenhouse Gas Scale
Gripes: Impractical Range, Rubbery Suspension

Home, home on the range anxiety. The electric motor Spark EV, which is sold only in California and Oregon, is a great idea whose time has not yet come. Without any back-up source of power, the Spark is dead when its lithium ion battery runs out of charge. This problem limits your range to at most 80 miles of real world driving. If your destination lies more than 40 miles distant, and you plan on returning without delay, you’d better leave the Spark home, tethered to its recharge umbilical, while you take a real car instead.

We set off on a 50 mile one way drive with more than 50 miles showing on the range indicator. 25 miles into the drive, the remaining range suddenly dropped from 25 miles to 11 as we crested a long hill. The system emitted a warning “Bing” and dashboard lights flashed the disconcerting information that we needed to “Recharge Soon.” Okay, so we pulled off the highway and, luckily, found a shopping plaza with an ARCO gas station, Starbucks cafe and KFC restaurant. Little did we know we would be spending the next 3 hours stuck here as we tried unsuccessfully to recharge the Spark. Chevy provides a 120V recharging unit with a 3 prong plug which we inserted into the wall receptacle of the ARCO station, with kind permission from the manager.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

After an hour of purported recharging, we returned to find that nothing was gained because the wall socket was apparently dead. So we found another socket, plugged in the charger and were unpleasantly surprised to find that although this socket had juice, the fussy Spark charger refused to operate, illuminating a red light to indicate failure to charge. Apparently, the recharger will not operate in all live outlets. Nor can you use an extension cord to connect it.

After 2 hours of phone calls, we were able to locate a Charge Point station within our now 8 mile range, drive there, only to find ourselves stymied by lack of the Charge Point affinity credit card needed to dislodge the charging wand for use. More phone calls finally got electrons flowing into the Spark. We then had to hitch a ride home with a friend, who also drove us back to retrieve the partially recharged Spark some 5 hours later.

Once you accept this EV for what it is – basically the ideal mail delivery vehicle for a six block square housing subdivision – you’ll be happy with your cute, puppy faced Spark. After all, it scores 10 on the EPA’s “Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Scale” as well as 10 on the “Smog Scale.” It also carries a rating of 119 MPGe, which means its theoretical rating exceeds its real world range by about 40 miles. The EPA also rates its recharge time as 7 Hours. Unless you have a 240 Volt recharge station at your disposal, you can expect to spend about 20 hours recharging depleted Spark batteries. We estimated that the charge rate at our 110 volt garage outlet was good for about 4 miles of range for each hour of charge time. Grass grows faster than Spark recharges itself.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

Chevy has tried to jazz up the interior of the Spark EV with stylistic cues taken from the Volt. Inside the tiny cabin, you’ll find hard touch surfaces for radio and climate controls. The dash sports random directional slashes incised into its surface to impart a feeling of energy and brash individualism. The seats pick up the party line with their free form dot conga lines. The door panels and dash spine use blue-grey plastic inserts to lighten the interior and imbue it with further playfulness. The shiny plastic housing of the instrument cluster reflects itself distractingly in the windshield and side mirrors. Living in the Spark EV is like spending time inside an Igloo drink cooler.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

The one feature electric motors are best at providing is torque. The Spark EV produces an instant wallop of 400 lb.-ft. the second you floor the accelerator. So impressive is this launch from a standing start that the Spark’s front wheels go light as weight transfers to the tail end. Lightness is the byword of Spark handling. With teeny (185/55R15), hard shell (370 Tread Wear Rating) Bridgestone Ecopia tires, Spark’s connection to the pavement is tenuous at best. If you engage the “Sport” setting on the central console, handling improves marginally. However, you will not mistake this diminutive sedan for a sports ride under any circumstances. The Spark lives to do only one thing well: travel short distances while avoiding gas stations altogether.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

  • Engine: GM Electric Drive System with 21kWh Lithium Ion Battery Pack
  • Horsepower: 140hp
  • Torque: 400 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 119 MPGe
  • Price as Tested: $28,570
  • Star Rating: 5 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2014 Chevrolet Silverado High Country 4WD Crew

Wednesday March 12th, 2014 at 3:33 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Subtle Redo, Off the Chart Interior, Huge HP and Torque
Gripes: Needs Better Contoured Front Seats

Although it may not look all that different from its immediate predecessor, the 2014 Silverado shares virtually nothing with the 2013 Silverado. What it does have in common, however, are styling keynotes that distinguish Chevy pickups from any other brand: horizontally split grill, massive hood bubble, and stacked dual headlights. Design departure for ’14 is limited to boxy new fender flares front and rear, sculpted tailgate with handy bumper step indentations, and opening rear cab pass-through window. There’s bigger news under that power bulged hood, because Chevy has upgraded all available engines in the 1500 line, using direct fuel injection for added power, and cylinder deactivation for improved mileage ( “Active Fuel Management”). Our Deep Ruby Metallic High Country 4WD, stood a couple of hands higher than an Arabian Stallion. Thanks to its optional 6.2 liter V8 Ecotec ($1,995), this Silverado made as much power as 420 horses. Torque is rated at 460 lb.-ft., with 14 MPG on tap around town, and a laudable 20 MPG on the highway. The 6.2 drives through a 6-speed automatic transmission coupled to a 2 speed transfer case, an auto locking rear differential, and a 3.42:1 rear axle ratio. Standard equipment includes trailer sway control, and a handy shift lever mounted button for optimizing engine/gearbox performance while towing. All these features make the new Silverado an ideal candidate for towing heavy payloads. Chevy rates our test vehicle’s trailer capacity at 9,500 lbs. If you opt for the available 3.73:1 rear axle ratio, your tow rating increases to 11,800lbs. but your gas mileage will suffer.

If towing isn’t your game, there are still plenty of virtues to appreciate here. Topping the list is the spectacular new High Country Premium Package ($1,345) which finally moves the Silverado’s interior into deluxe fantasyland territory previously occupied by Ford (King Ranch), Ram (Laramie Longhorn), and now Toyota (1794). In fact, Chevy’s treatment of this wildly popular Western Frontier look is by far the most muted and palatable of those on offer today. Both front and rear seats are trimmed in a baseball glove amber leather with stunning oyster piping. The front seats look so deeply bucketed and inviting that sitting in them is something of a letdown. They would benefit from more side and thigh padding. Standard heating and ventilation partly compensates for lack of support. The High Country trimmings also include mountain logo threshold kick plates and nifty matching embroidery in the seat headrests.

Your $1,345 also buys you a heated steering wheel, and a welcome built-in trailer brake controller. High Country includes a bevy of safety nannies like front and rear park assist, forward collision alert and lane departure warning. With a truck this big and ungainly, it’s nice to know where your bow and stern lie since direct sightlines are impeded. If you get too close to an object, Chevy has invented a new method to warn you of impending collision. It’s called seat alert because your seat cushion automatically begins to vibrate in the event of proximate danger. This attention getter also warns of an impending forward collision, as well alerting you to traffic on either side. In an impending frontal crash, a series of red warning lights simultaneously flash across the base of the windshield.

Only the Silverado 1500 series receives the makeover for 2014. If you are planning to buy a 2500 or 3500 series Chevy truck, you’ll have to wait for 2015 when GM will complete their transition to the new pickup platform. In addition to the lusty 6.2 liter motor in our test vehicle, Chevy also offers a new 4.3 liter V6 (285hp) and a mid-size 5.3 liter V8 (355hp). Despite its somewhat limiting EPA rating of 17MPG overall, the 6.2 liter V8 will make a believer of you the instant you hit the gas pedal to pass slower traffic or tow a major load over the Sierras. This combo is good for 14.6 second quarter mile runs at 96MPH.

Chevy has improved the steering feedback and overall handling of the Silverado by equipping it with low profile Goodyear Eagle LS2 tires (265/55R20) mounted on somewhat garish 10 spoke, 20 inch chrome rims that match the chrome running boards (which are a $700 option). The High Country Silverado handles any assortment of twists and turns with studied aplomb. The only jarring note is the occasional speed bump or mismatched pavement seam that will suddenly rattle you to the core. This one chink in the armor is just about the only sign that you’re actually driving a heavy duty truck and not some benign and cultured luxury sedan. That Chevy trucks have come this far is a testament to good engineering and a conviction by GM that you can have your cake and eat it too.

2014 Chevrolet Silverado High Country 4WD Crew

  • Engine: 6.2 liter V8 with Active Fuel Management
  • Horsepower: 420hp
  • Torque: 460lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 14 MPG City/20 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $52,475
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2014 Chevrolet Volt

Monday January 6th, 2014 at 2:11 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Bonanza for Cutting Edge Arrivistes
Gripes: Lose the CVT Tranny

Parking the Volt in the reserved spot of a recharging station at Sausalito’s Molly Stone grocery was a treat I had never before had the opportunity to enjoy. While food shopping for 35 minutes, the Volt supplied itself with 3.2kH of energy at no cost to me. This two slot charging station, which has been active for nearly a year, provides your first hour of charge free of cost, with subsequent time available at minimal expense. Going into overtime gives new meaning to the word “charge” card. It takes 4 hours at 240V to give this Chevy a full blast of electrical energy.

Free refills constitute the highpoint of Volt ownership. And there’s a lot to be said for letting someone else pick up your energy bill. In fact, those beneficent unseen others start picking up the slack for you the instant you buy a Volt because doing so qualifies you for a $7,500 federal tax credit. The dividends continue in the form of access to road surfaces others can’t use, like driving solo in HOV lanes at times of the day that would normally get you ticketed.

The downside of Volt ownership is the simple fact that this heavy, somewhat lethargic vehicle isn’t exactly a blast to drive when you’ve selected the “Normal” rather than the “Sport” setting on the Driving Mode selector switch. In Normal Mode, overall performance is adequate for most drivers. Acceleration is modest. The CVT transmission is the culprit in this equation. It gives you a choice of just two ranges: Drive and Low. Unless you are moving very slowly, Low is useless for increasing momentum, so you’re stuck with the Drive range only. But if you select Sport Mode, acceleration is notably spunkier, and the Volt becomes a pleasure to drive instead of a chore. Of course, you’ll pay the price in increased fuel usage, but the Volt is so much more fun in Sport that you’ll want to select this setting every time you climb behind the wheel.

The Volt’s Owner’s Manual is poorly segmented and indexed. It’s especially difficult to find any information about transmission usage, since there are no listings in the index for ”transmission.” or “shifting.” The only reference appears in a chapter mysteriously headed “Electric Drive Unit.” Call outs for dashboard and instrument panel controls are inexplicably identified by number on one page, with functions keyed to those numbers on a following page. This causes you to flip back and forth constantly from page to page in order to decipher the diagrams.

Unlike the Owner’s Manual, Volt itself is a triumph of engineering. Unlike Nissan’s Leaf, which goes dead when its battery expires, the Volt will keep chugging long after the battery has died. The Xanax tablet for that range anxiety is the presence of Volt’s tiny displacement gasoline engine which Chevy calls a “Range Extender.” When the 1.4 liter gas engine propels the Volt without benefit of electrical power, you’re still good for 37 MPG, or just 2.7 gallons per 100 miles. In pure electric mode, the Volt posts a stunning figure of 98MPGe, or 35kH per 100 miles.

Thanks in part to its 5.5 foot long, 435 pound, lithium-ion battery pack, the Volt weighs 3,781 pounds. That near two ton curb burden becomes noticeable when you attack a series of corners on a back road. The low rolling resistance 16 inch tires don’t provide a lot of grip, so the front end tends to wash out early on corner entry. This behavior makes you lift throttle as the tires lose grip. In case you are slow to respond to the message from your contact patches, Chevy has th (oughtfully supplied the Volt with traction control and Stabilitrak stability management. Worst case scenario backs you up in the event of a collision with no fewer than 8 airbags and 3 years of free On Star auto crash response.

Inside the survival cell, the Volt is easy to love. It affords great sightlines in all direction. Even the somewhat veiled lower rear view benefits from a strategically placed glass panel. Our test Volt enjoyed augmented vision thanks to 2 optional Safety Packages. The first ($575) provided a useful beeper and camera to discern rear proximity issues, while the second ($595) included Front Park Assist and Camera, Lane Departure Warning, and Front Collision Alert. Chevy does a nice job of integrating these aids into your daily driving routine. Unlike so many similar offerings from other manufacturers, these Safety Packages never become intrusive.

The instrument binnacle of the Volt is intimidating. If you’re the kind of person who can read every piece of information on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street at the same time, you’ll love the Volt’s information center, because Chevy has crammed 35 separate pieces of news into your viewfinder. I learned to ignore 90 percent of them and was quite happy to do so.

The Volt is a marvel of technology. Its drive train is an engineering dream, a real home run. It’s still early enough in the model cycle to be the first on your block to claim admission to the 21st century. That you can do so for just $39,545, guarantees you a spot in the Acumen Hall of Fame.

2014 Chevrolet Volt

  • Engine: 1.4 liter inline 4 + Electric Motor
  • Horsepower: 149hp
  • Torque: 273 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 98MPGe/37 MPG Gasoline Only
  • Price as Tested: $39,545
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2014 Chevrolet Malibu 2LT

Monday December 9th, 2013 at 1:1212 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Stellar Rear Seat, Huge Trunk, Build Quality Abounds
Gripes: Driver’s Seatbelt Requires Gorilla Pull, Tapshift Button Too Petite

After introducing a completely new Malibu for 2013, Chevrolet has made understandably few changes for model year 2014. Visually, the most noticeable alteration eliminates the large upper grill opening in favor of a small slot across the nose of the hood. Thus, the already streamlined shape of the Malibu looks just a little cleaner than before. Rear seat legroom has been enhanced for 2014 thanks to indentations in the front seat backs to better accommodate gangly knees. In fact, the rear seat of this sedan is a particularly happy place to sit because there’s lots of side glass for spectating, a drop down armrest with indentations for two beverages as well as a shallow lidded compartment, and intelligent door pockets designed to store slightly inclined water bottles.

With indentations scooped for passengers’ backs and buns, the rear seats offer better side support than the fronts, which are too flat and hard to stabilize you during hard cornering. For an extra $1,000, Chevy will heat the front seats and finish them in leather, with seams stitched in contrasting thread color. The effect looks expensive. In fact the entire interior belies the bargain price of the Malibu (base: $25,215). The stalks sprouting from the steering column feel so solid you’d swear you were driving a Mercedes. Chevy uses a striated plastic insert on the center console and door panels that mimics the look of drift wood. Slightly off putting are the five ridge horizontal ridges that sweep across the entire dash face. These extrusions incorporate air vents, but present lots of surface area to accumulate dirt. Think of the ribs as brave new worlds to conquer when you prepare your 2LT for concourse events.

The Malibu is the only car in this price range that offers standard Auto Stop technology. When you’ve selected the “D” range on the 6-speed automatic gearbox, the car shuts itself off automatically when stopped for more than a few seconds, then re-fires as soon as you remove your foot from the brake. The transition from run to stop to run is seamless, and much more successfully handled than current BMW products. If you slot the gearbox into its “M” or manual mode, the Auto Stop feature is eliminated. In M mode, you can manually up shift and down shift through the entire gear range, but you must use a tiny button atop the shift knob to accomplish the task. Chevy calls this feature “Tapshift.” With the exception of one clunker of a down shift this arrangement worked well. But it’s hard to locate the button atop the knob, and even more difficult to figure out which half to depress when you need to snag the right gear. Paddles would be much appreciated next to the steering wheel spokes.

Chevy has selected a very tall differential ratio of 2.89:1 to enable the Malibu to record 29 MPG in overall driving. But this tall rear gear lets the 2.5 liter Ecotec engine fall flat on its face if you just trundle along in “D” range without manually selecting the appropriate gear for each situation. The Ecotec motor is plenty powerful, but it makes its horsepower so high in the rev range (196hp@6,300rpm) that you really need to supervise its behavior closely using the Tapshift routine. Once out on the open highway, the Malibu is a silent, comfortable runner, with excellent cruise control apparatus, clear speed readouts on the central information screen, and a plush ride quality that will keep your passengers enthralled. On twisty sections, the fat, top line Goodyear LS2 Eagles (235/50R18) show their mettle with excellent, squeal-free adhesion.

The optional 9 speaker Pioneer audio system costs an extra $1,175, and justifies its expense by providing 250 scintillating Watts of output. New for 2014 is an Advanced Safety Package ($795 extra) which includes Forward Collision Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Unless you’re planning to text while driving (!), I wouldn’t recommend springing for this pricey and annoying option group.

All in all, the Malibu 2LT is a sweet, engaging design that caters more to comfort than performance. Its exceptional level of fit and finish proves conclusively that home-grown products like this Malibu (built in Kansas City, KS) are every bit the equal of cars coming from Japan, Korea and even Germany.

2014 Chevrolet Malibu 2LT

  • Engine: 2.5 liter DOHC Inline 4
  • Horsepower: 196hp@6300rpm
  • Torque: 186lb.-ft.@4400rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 25 MPG City/36 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $30,125
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

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2013 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible Review

Saturday December 8th, 2012 at 8:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Faster Than a Speeding Train, Able to Leap Tall Investment Hurdles
Gripes: Automatic Tranny Tends to Hunt For Upper Gears at Steady Speed

To give you some idea of how rare this car will someday be, my test Camaro, finished in Silver Ice Metallic, and built in June of 2012, carried a VIN number whose last 5 digits read 00081. A VIN Number that low borders on prototype/pre-production status. It’s hard to top that for rarity! And better yet, at $65,800, this Camaro is also a stunning bargain. If you’re young enough to park it in a garage and wait 30 years to sell it at the Barrett-Jackson Auction in 2043, you can plan on harvesting more than a quarter million bucks for this super Chevy. Why? Because history dictates that ZL1 Camaros from the late 60s are worth at least that much today, and there’s no reason to expect future financial performance will differ from the accepted norm.

The 580hp supercharged ZL1 is a stellar performance car, one that will gradually disappear from the scene as government-imposed 54MPG dictates sound the death knell of 14MPG ground pounders like the ZL1. But it’s not too late to enjoy the ultimate in musclecar status if you act now. The ZL1 is available as a coupe or a convertible. The coupe is lighter and stiffer than the convertible, but the convertible will be the more valuable investment in the long run because GM will build fewer of them since its base price is $5,450 more expensive than the coupe. Personally, I would elect to buy the coupe for its better handling, but I have to admit that the convertible I drove made a stout case for a drop top.

 

For one thing, it’s so much easier to see out the back when the top is down. The stylistic limitations to visibility of the latest 5th generation Camaro mean it’s difficult to see anything in back of you in the coupe, or in the convertible when the top is up. Luckily, the week I spent with the ZL1 was clear and warm enough to leave the top down most of the time. Once you’ve swiveled a header latch handle open, the rest of the job is automatic. Although you don’t need to use it, Chevy fits a nicely fabricated folding tonneau cover which gives the car a finished look and takes only 3 minutes to fit.

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2012 Chevrolet Cruze Review

Thursday December 1st, 2011 at 8:1212 AM
Posted by: AKramer

2011 Chevrolet Cruze

By Alex Kramer

Introduction by Francis Cebedo:

For the longest time, it seemed like GM and other US makes looked at small cars as poor man’s cars.  They saw them as cars for the entry-level buyer, the fresh college grad, the lower income bracket, the people who had no appreciation for automobiles.  The great minds and the engineers always went into the Cadillacs, Corvettes and the Silverados.

That thinking was wrong then and it is even more wrong now. Small cars have always been appreciated by the drivers with an eye for fashion, performance, ergonomics and agility.  And it was simply the choice of some folks who could afford most any car but they just wanted a smaller car like a Mazda Miata or a Mini Cooper.

But now, the world has turned. Small cars have become essential, eco-friendly and significant social statements. Some folks have given up their cars altogether and many now want smaller cars to reduce their footprint and use of resources in this world.

GM, was caught with their pants down in this paradigm shift so they have rallied to build smaller cars. One of the first cars they’re delivering is the Chevy Cruze. It is an attractive looking automobile starting at $16,720, urged on by 138 hp. It is a strong statement that announces that Chevy is here to play and compete in the very important and timely small car market.

Video Review by Autotoob:
YouTube Preview Image

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Pros:

  • Little turbo engine is surprisingly gutsy with some nice torque
  • Smooth, balanced, and quiet ride
  • Roomy, upscale interior
  • Stylish, eye-catching exterior
  • Potentially excellent fuel efficiency
  • many, many available configurations
  • the home team has come to play

Cons:

  • Acceleration isn’t terribly quick
  • Real world mileage might not be so great
  • Houndstooth cloth pattern in base model LT is hard on the eyes

The small car bandwagon must be really picking up steam. Even General Motors, who has long neglected small cars, seems to have noticed that this is one of the hottest segments of the market. Rather than simply issue an updated version of its decent but uncompetitive Cobalt small sedan, we will soon be getting the Chevrolet Cruze, a car that GM claims will actually compete with the likes of Civic, Corolla, and Focus.

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Table of Contents – Editorial Car Reviews, Feature Articles

Tuesday October 11th, 2011 at 2:1010 PM
Posted by: Derek

CarReview_Contents_header

Below is a comprehensive list of all the Expert Car Reviews and feature articles published on CarReview.com [updated 10/11/2011]:

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Alaska Road Trip With the Chevrolet Volt and Olympus E-P3 Camera

Monday July 11th, 2011 at 12:77 PM
Posted by: ponycargirl

Chevy Volt Olympus E-P3 Alaska Trip
By Megan Green

This past April, I was given the opportunity to go on a June road trip in a 2011 Chevy Volt and photograph it with the newly launched Olympus E-P3 camera.

When I told friends that I was going to Alaska to drive a Chevrolet Volt around, their first reactions were, “Ice Road Truckers!” Then came a barrage of questions; “Good luck with that, can you even drive that far in it? What’s the range, like 50 miles? How are you going to charge it in the middle of the wilderness? Are small towns even equipped to recharge electric vehicles? How long does it take to charge it?”

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2011 Chevrolet Camaro 2LT Review – Getting by with only 312hp

Thursday May 19th, 2011 at 1:55 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2011 Chevrolet Camaro
By contributing editor David Colman

Hits:

  • Fold down back seat and trunk pass through
  • Stellar combo of wheels, tires spring rates and sway bars
  • Highly informative 4 gauge pack on center console

Misses:

  • Poor rear and lateral vision
  • Impeded rear seat access
  • Long reach for front seat belts

Read the rest of this entry »

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Three New Cars That Achieve 40 MPG

Tuesday April 26th, 2011 at 11:44 AM
Posted by: AKramer

Lexus CT 200h - Chevy Cruze Eco - Ford Focus SFE

By Alex Kramer

Here we go again. Gas prices are climbing ever higher, but unlike a few years ago, they will probably stay sky high this time around. Luckily, the American car buyer now has an impressive array of choices when it comes to maximizing every gallon. From pint-sized sub-compacts to high-tech hybrids, there are plenty of ways to achieve 40 mpg, and some of them are even quite fun to drive.

We recently had the opportunity to test three of the newest entries into the gas saving game at the WAJ Media Days event held last month: the new Ford Focus SFE, Chevy Cruze Eco, and Lexus CT 200h. After an afternoon of test driving, we can honestly report that these three are the real deal, providing both excellent fuel efficiency and a surprising amount of driving excitement.

Click the image or navigation link below to read more details about each car.

2011-lexus-ct-200h-driving-modes-thumb

2011 Chevrolet Cruze ECO

Ford Focus EcoMode

LEXUS CT 200h CHEVROLET CRUZE ECO FORD FOCUS SFE

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