2011 Ford Fiesta (on sale 2010)
Base price: $15,000 (est.)
Fuel economy: 31/39 mpg (est.)
DIFFERENT BECAUSE: It's small, distinctly European, and decidedly old-school.
In the world of car design, there are two basic approaches to sky-high fuel mileage. If you've got the budget and the engineering know-how, you can bundle a host of advanced technology -- maybe a few batteries and an electric motor, perhaps some regenerative brakes -- into a weight-optimized package, bludgeoning the fuel-economy problem with sheer computerized might. If that tack isn't appealing (or, more likely, it doesn't fit your targeted MSRP), you can fall back on tradition: a small car, a small but efficient engine, and a low curb weight.
The 2011 Ford Fiesta is a perfect example of just how satisfying the latter strategy can be. The Fiesta weighs just 2200 pounds, it's 156 inches long, and its 1.6-liter four churns out a whopping 118 hp. Like the original Mini Cooper, it does more with less. The Fiesta was originally designed for use (and is currently on sale) in Europe, and like most European Fords, it specializes in over-the-road giggles. Taut, long-travel suspension and feelsome steering help make the most of any stretch of asphalt, and the Fiesta's giant-killing Mighty Mouse groove makes every other microcar look dull as day-old dishwater. This is our favorite kind of green -- small, simple, and more than meets the eye.