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Ford Focus SFE, Chevrolet Cruze Eco, and Honda Civic HF review

Are special, fuel-efficient versions of these small cars worth the extra cost?

Consumer Reports magazine: July 2012

The latest buzzword in auto advertising is “40 mpg.” In recent months, a number of automakers have been touting new models that meet or exceed that milestone with their highway gas mileage. But some cars require you to pay extra money up front for that fuel efficiency.

We bought three for this issue: the Chevrolet Cruze Eco, Ford Focus SE SFE, and Honda Civic HF. Compared with their standard versions, the cars are modified to increase fuel economy. But they cost between $500 and $800 more.

When we compared their gas mileage with that of the standard versions, we found that the Cruze Eco saves you only $20 per year; the Focus SFE and Civic HF save you $145 and $135, respectively. So you’d need to own them between three and 38 years, depending on the model, for the fuel savings to offset the higher price.

There are other ways to get impressive efficiency. The roomier and higher-rated Hyundai Sonata family sedan costs the same as the Cruze Eco and gets the same 27 mpg overall. And the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 i Skyactiv cost less and get 32 mpg.

In our Ratings, the Focus SFE and Cruze Eco rank near the top of their class, and the Civic HF ranks near the bottom.

Our real-world fuel-economy tests of each model show only modest savings when you opt for the more fuel-efficient versions. The annual savings in fuel costs for the modified models ranged from $20 to $145, based on driving 12,000 miles per year and a gasoline cost of $4 per gallon.

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