Consumer Reports Finds Special Fuel Economy Versions of Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze & Honda Civic May Not Be Worth the Higher Price Tag

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It may take drivers several years to offset the vehicles higher cost with savings at the pump. In some cases, it could take as long as 38 years.

While Consumer Reports found the Ford Focus SFE and Chevrolet Cruze Eco ranked near the top of class among small sedans, it may take drivers several years to offset the vehicles higher cost with savings at the pump. In some cases, it could take as long as 38 years.

While these special versions do have improved fuel economy, each comes with a higher price tag (between $500 and $800 more). When CR’s testers compared their gas mileage with that of previously tested standard versions of each vehicle, it found that the Cruze Eco saves drivers only $20 per year; the Focus SFE and Civic HF save consumers $145 and $135 per year, respectively. What’s worse, the Honda Civic HF ranks near the bottom of its class.

The full report and road test results on Consumer Reports’ latest test of fuel economy sedan versions are available on and in the June issue of Consumer Reports on newsstands June 5. Updated daily, is the go-to Website for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information. Check out CR’s ongoing Twitter feed at @CRCars.

Like other Focus models, the Focus SFE offers a solid feel, relatively low cabin-noise levels, and a combination of agile handling and a supple ride that makes it feel more like a sports sedan than basic transportation. The $495 SFE (Super Fuel Economy) package adds flush hubcaps, a rear spoiler, and low rolling resistance tires. These tweaks provide a 3-mpg bump in overall and city fuel economy, to 31 and 21, respectively. Based on driving 12,000 miles annually and a gas price of $4 per gallon, the package would save drivers about $145 in annual fuel costs. So, it could take owners more than three years to make up the difference in price.

Chevrolet made aerodynamic tweaks and added low rolling resistance tires to the Cruze Eco to improve fuel economy, increasing the price about $800 over a similarly equipped Cruze LT. Like the Focus SFE and Civic HF, CR tested the Cruze Eco with an automatic transmission; unlike the others, it is also available with a manual. But the results of the Eco’s modifications don’t increase overall fuel economy by much.

CR’s tests show the Eco beat the previously tested Cruze LT by just 1 mpg overall, for an unremarkable 27, and by 4 mpg on the highway, for 40. Based on CR’s calculations, that would save drivers merely $20 per year. Drivers who mostly drive on the highway will save more. Some midsized family sedans, like the Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry, get the same overall fuel economy in CR’s tests.

The Civic HF uses low-rolling-resistance tires and a rear spoiler for increased fuel economy. It also adds smoother underbody panels and flush alloy wheels to further improve airflow around the car. All told, the extra equipment tacks $800 onto the price of a similarly equipped Civic LX sedan.

The result is a 3-mpg gain in overall fuel economy over CR’s previously tested Civic LX, to 33 mpg. Highway mileage improved to 49 mpg, easily the best in this group. Consumer Reports calculates that the Civic HF would save drivers about $135 annually on fuel, so it would take about six years to make up for the higher price. But braking distances are long, steering feel is vague, the ride is choppy, and cabin finish looks cheap. The HF’s mediocre 61 overall test score places it near the bottom of CR’s small-sedan Ratings, scoring similarly to the other 2012 Civics Consumer Reports recently tested.

Consumer Reports also recently tested Toyota’s least-expensive hybrid, the $20,850 Prius C. It delivers excellent fuel economy of 43 mpg overall, 1 mpg less than the larger Prius Liftback,. The Prius C’s stellar 37 mpg in the city is the best of any car Consumer Reports has tested.

The C’s tiny dimensions and easy parking make it a natural for urban driving. But overall, drivers will get what they pay for. This subcompact hatchback, which is related to the lackluster Toyota Yaris, suffers from a stiff ride, very noisy cabin, slow acceleration, and cheap-looking interior trim. In Consumer Reports Ratings, the Prius C’s overall test score puts it slightly under its chief competitor, the mediocre Honda Insight, and is too low for us to recommend the model. As with other Toyota hybrids, Consumer Reports expects very good reliability.

For more information regarding the Prius C, Ford Focus SFE, Chevrolet Cruze Eco, and Honda Civic HF, visit

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

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JUNE 2012
© 2012 Consumer Reports. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for advertising or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports® is an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. We accept no advertising and pay for all the products we test. We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports®,® and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants. Our Ratings and reports are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose without our permission. Consumer Reports will take all steps open to it to prevent commercial use of its materials, its name, or the name of Consumer Reports®.

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