With fuel prices edging up after sinking to their lowest level in years, it may be time for Americans to again start thinking about their vehicles' gas mileage. And for the stingiest of drivers, according to Consumer Reports, one 2016 car goes farther on a gallon of gas than any ever tested by the influential product reviewer.
The redesigned Toyota Prius gets combined city/highway mileage of 52 miles per gallon, topping the previous-generation Prius's 44 mpg, the magazine reports. It also beats out the previous all-time Consumer Reports champ --the original Honda Insight hybrid back in 2000.
At highway cruising speed of 65 mph, the new Prius hit 59 mpg. That exceeds mileage ratings for any diesel-powered vehicle, known for excellent mileage in highway driving, ever tested by CR.
It's worth noting that the Prius is a gas-electric hybrid powered by a four-cylinder gas engine and two electric motors. All-electric vehicles have higher fuel-efficiency ratings from the Environmental Protection Agency (expressed in mpg-equivalent numbers). For instance, the current Nissan Leaf has a combined rating of 114 mpg equivalent. But the Leaf has a range of just 84 miles, at which point you would need to find a charging station.
In a revamp of the 2016 Prius that helped boost its fuel economy, Toyota styled a much sleeker, more aerodynamic body, added a more efficient transmission and put in improved batteries for the electric motors.
But those improvements also benefited the Prius in other ways. The test drivers at CR (as well as other reviewers surveyed by U.S. News) praised the car's sharper handling, more comfortable ride and nicer interior. CR did have some quibbles, criticizing the tiny joystick installed as a gear shifter and a small rear window limiting visibility.
The EPA, using a different methodology, estimates that the 2016 Prius will get 54 MPG in city driving and 50 on the highway, compared with Consumer Reports' 43 city, 59 highway. But both wound up with a combined 52 MPG combined.
Meanwhile, compared with the previous combined mileage champ, the 2000 Honda Insight, Consumer Reports said that the "Prius is a proper family car for five occupants with strong crash test results, whereas the previous mileage champ Insight felt more like a two-seat science project."
I can attest to that from test driving that Insight. It had features like very narrow tires to cut rolling resistance, and the result was a ride full of bumps.
List price for the 2016 Prius ranges from $24,200 to $30,000. The Consumer Reports test car, a Prius Three version, sold for $27,323.