As the cost of gasoline continues to rise every year and global environmental awareness continues to grow substantially, buying a fuel-efficient car has become more important than ever before.  Nowadays, for many people looking to buy a car, fuel economy is the single most important aspect of their decision.  However, other than good gas mileage, there are many other things to consider before you purchase a car, such as performance, reliability, appearance, and cost.  The following seven cars are among the most affordable, fuel-efficient vehicles on the market.

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1. Toyota Prius: Base Price: $23,520, 51 City/48 Hwy

With a combined EPA fuel economy estimate of 50 mpg, the Toyota Prius is the most fuel-efficient conventional hybrid vehicle on the road.  Although the Prius has been widely considered to be a good car in the past and has been around for many years, the model has been improved and is now better than ever before.  Toyota engineers have now reduced the car’s aerodynamic drag and given it a sportier and more eye-pleasing appearance.  In addition, the new Toyota Prius has been designed with a larger gas engine and stronger electronic motor to give it more power and better fuel economy.  At a base price of $23,520, the Prius is available is many trims and can be purchased with the same software and technology as traditional gas-powered vehicles.  Areas of concern for the Prius include its cheap-looking interior, awkward driving position, and lack of an iPod adapter on most models.  However, despite these drawbacks, the Prius still remains as one of the best all-around hybrid on the market.

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2. Honda Insight: Base Price: $18,200, 40 City/43 Hwy

Honda’s most fuel-efficient vehicle, the Insight, was designed for buyers looking for an inexpensive hybrid that performs well on the road.  Although the Insight does not get as good fuel economy as the Toyota Prius, it does have some advantages that make it worth checking out.  The most noticeable advantage of the Insight at first glance is its cost.  At only $18,200, it is priced extremely cheaply for a hybrid vehicle and is significantly more affordable than the Prius.  In addition, experts claim that the Insight offers consumers better performance.  The car accelerates and brakes better than the Prius and provides passengers with a more pleasant driving experience.  Furthermore, although the Insight was designed to improve its aerodynamics for better fuel economy, many people like its exterior look and find it to be stylish.  However, it is also important to note that the Insight offers little cargo space and is not very comfortable for passengers.

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3. Volkswagen Jetta: Base Price: $16,495, 24 City/34 Hwy

The new Volkswagen Jetta has been redesigned from its previous model to reduce its cost.  The Jetta is a good-looking, affordable European car with good fuel economy, but it does have a couple drawbacks.  Although the Jetta looks good on the outside, its interior is no longer comparable to typical luxury European cars and instead looks more like the inner appearance of standard American cars.  This change was clearly a decision made by Volkswagen to make the Jetta more affordable to its consumers in North America.  In addition, experts claim that the Jetta’s antiquated engine offers poor performance on the road and its handling is disappointing.  However, despite these drawbacks, the Jetta is still a very good car and has plenty of positive features.  The car is generally well-equipped and provides plenty of cargo room for its size.  Furthermore, the car is surprisingly comfortable for passengers in comparison to its competitors.

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4. Ford Focus: Base Price: $16,500, 28 City/40 Hwy

The new Ford Focus offers consumers good fuel economy and a comfortable ride at a good cost.  The car is quiet on the road, rides smoothly, and comfortable for passengers.  However, the car has a cheap-looking interior and outdated technology.  Experts believe that Ford will come out with a new generation of the Ford Focus with better technology and design sometime in the near future.  This new car is expected to have world-class engines, good interior quality, and a better exterior style.  So if you are interested in purchasing a new Ford Focus, it is certainly not a bad choice by any means but you may be well-advised to wait a couple years for its next generation model to develop.

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5. Hyundai Elantra: Base Price: $16,445, 29 City/40 Hwy

The Hyundai Elantra is perhaps the best value of any small sedan in its class.  The car not only gets amazing fuel economy, but is also extremely comfortable and offers passengers plenty of room.  In addition, the car drives well and is very quiet on the road.  Furthermore, it has an impressive stylish exterior and is incredibly fun to drive.  The Elantra also offers advanced safety features and there are plenty of upscale options.  The only major drawbacks to purchasing an Elantra are that there is limited rear headroom and that the car is not the most sporty.  However, considering its low cost, the Elantra is still a very good option and offers plenty of good features for its value.

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6. Mini Cooper: Base Price: $19,400, 29 City/37 Hwy

The Mini Cooper is fun European-designed car with a unique, stylish look.  The car is impressively inexpensive and offers great fuel economy.  Although the Mini Cooper’s performance was not the greatest in the past, during the past couple years, improvements have been made to make the ride more comfortable, the steering effort easier, and the engines more powerful.  As a result, the Mini Cooper has become extremely popular throughout North America despite its limited existence in the past.  The Mini Cooper’s interior is somewhat luxurious, but offers passengers limited comfort in the rear seats.  In addition, some of the car’s functions are not practical for everyday use and can be a challenge to figure out.  However, after taking everything into consideration, the Mini Cooper is definitely a car worth looking into since it excels greatly in many categories.

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7. Honda Civic: Base Price: $15,805, 28 City/39 Hwy

The newest Honda Civic is incredibly inexpensive, reliable, and fun to drive.  The car is extremely popular and among the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the road.  In addition, the Civic is very comfortable and drives relatively quietly and efficiently.  With the exception of a couple safety features, the car has very few drawbacks and owners are frequently overly satisfied with their Honda Civic.  If you are looking for reliable, affordable car that gets great gas mileage, the Honda Civic should be at the top of your list since it excels in just about all categories.