Relax: just because experts predict the price of gasoline to eclipse $5 a gallon in the next few years doesn't mean you can't have some enjoyment behind the wheel. In fact, there are a number of vehicles already on the market that offer some fuel-efficient fun. We've selected a few of our favorites for your consideration.
2012 Mitsubishi i
Can you find automotive fun while abstaining from combustion engines and fuel altogether? Absolutely. Some may point to the Tesla Roadster as the ultimate form of an electric vehicle designed for motor enthusiasts, but it's entirely possible to have just as much fun behind the wheel of a smaller, more affordable, and more practical machine -- one like the new 2012 Mitsubishi I.
Yes, we did say practical -- despite measuring in at 12 feet long, 63.6 inches tall, and 62.4 inches wide, the I still has plenty of space within for four chunky American adults and a small amount of cargo. The arced ceiling crafted by the jellybean-like shape provides ample headroom, while
You wouldn't expect a miniscule, egg-shaped appliance with a 63-horsepower motor on tap to be all that enjoyable to drive -- but the I certainly is. The car's center of gravity is remarkably low thanks to a low-mounted battery pack. That fact, coupled with quick steering and rear-wheel-drive, makes the electric jellybean surprisingly fun in mild switchbacks. Better yet, the nature of electric motors -- plenty of low-end torque -- means there's plenty of get-up and go, even if you're trying to execute an eco-unfriendly jackrabbit start. Is it for everyone? With roughly 80 miles of range on a single charge, obviously not. But for those living in crowded urban centers, or drivers looking for a second car for commuting short jaunts to work and back, the I may just have what it takes to win hearts and influence friends here in America.
(Can't wait for one? Nissan's all-electric Leaf will be on sale in several markets nationwide later in 2011).
Base price: $30,000 (est) Motive source: 63-horsepower electric motor; lithium-ion battery pack EPA rating: n/a
More of our five fun fuel-efficient picks: