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Fuel-efficient cars: Consumer Reports likes new Ford Fiesta and Mazda2

December 7th, 2010

From Green Right Now Reports

The new Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 subcompacts posted “Very Good” ratings in Consumer Reports‘ ratings, are both fun to drive and deliver impressive fuel economy, the magazine said. The vehicles are part of a test in the January issue that featured four different types of fuel-efficient cars.

The new two-seat Honda CR-Z hybrid hatchback scored too low for CR to recommend it. Despite getting 35 mpg overall and having a crisp manual transmission, the magazine’s editors said its ride was stiff, visibility is lacking, and it isn’t very sporty to drive. It was the lowest ranked of the four fuel-efficient cars that CR tested this month.

The Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI posted an “Excellent” score, delivering impressive comfort, convenience and room.

Ford Fiesta

“The Fiesta and Mazda2 are both fun to drive and provide excellent fuel economy, but there are trade-offs, like sluggish acceleration in the Fiesta and choppiness in the Mazda2′s ride,” Rik Paul, Automotive Editor of Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “The CR-Z tries to be a sporty hybrid and it’s not outstanding in either category. It’s not fun to drive and the fuel economy is not what you’d expect from a hybrid.”

Prices ranged from $14,770 for the Mazda2 Sport with manual transmission to $27,204 for the Vokswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI.

CR editors said these cars were selected for this grouping because the CR-Z, Fiesta, and Mazda2 are all recent introductions. CR previously tested a Jetta TDI diesel sedan with a manual transmission and had not tested the diesel engine in a Jetta SportWagen with a manual transmission.

While the Jetta is “Recommended,” the magazine said the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 are too new for CR to have reliability data and the CR-Z scored too low in CR’s road tests to be “Recommended.” CR only recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Auto Survey of its more than seven million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

CR said the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen is a premium compact wagon whose ride has an underlying firmness, especially at low speeds, but is supple and well controlled. The Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI ($27,204 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 140-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine that delivers leisurely acceleration and gets 36 mpg overall and a superb 49 mpg on the highway in CR‘s own fuel economy tests. The six-speed manual transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is rated “very good.” The interior is well-finished. Folding the 60/40-split rear seatbacks creates a spacious cargo area.

The magazine said Ford’s subcompact Fiesta is enjoyable to drive. Its agile handling, relatively quiet cabin and composed ride are high points. The Ford Fiesta SE sedan ($16,595 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 120-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers adequate acceleration and gets 33 mpg overall. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts responsively. Braking is rated “good.” The interior is well-finished. The trunk will hold three large upright suitcases and one large duffel bag.

The report calls the Mazda2 fun to drive, with excellent fuel economy, responsive steering and a usable rear seat despite the car’s modest dimensions. The Mazda2 Touring $17,075 MSRP as tested), is powered by a 100-hp 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that accelerates modestly and gets a very good 30mpg with the automatic transmission. The four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is rated “good.” The interior is well-finished. The cargo area can hold one large upright suitcase and two duffel bags with the rear seats in place.

Honda’s CR-Z,  a sporty-looking, two-seat hybrid, was not a hit with CR editors, who said it handles nimbly but is not very sporty otherwise. The magazine called the ride choppy, and said noise levels are high, and on-limit handling can be tricky. The Honda CR-Z EX ($21,510 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 122-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with hybrid assist that is mild and gets 35 mpg overall. The six-speed manual transmission shifts effortlessly. Braking is rated “very good.” The interior materials look nice and most panels fit together nicely. A divider between the cabin and trunk folds down to reveal a large cargo area, but the 400-pound payload capacity is restrictive.

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