Review by Justin Pritchard

Face it: for those of us with a lengthy daily commute and just about everyone else, visiting the gas station sucks. You freeze your tootsies off outside before lining up behind a 307-year old lady who’s having the attendant scan every lottery ticket ever made by mankind, ever. Before long, you start to contemplate ramming a nearby pepperoni stick through your right eye.

Then, you get to hear all about the two-for-one special on gum, realize you forgot your points card, and get coaxed mercilessly into purchasing everything in the store – including lottery tickets – which you can scan when you’re 307 while inconveniencing as many people as possible. Finally, an amount of money leaves your wallet, you die a little inside, and go about your day wishing you could teleport.

What you need, my fellow motorist, is a fuel-saving car. Less fuel? Less trips to the gas station. Less elderly lottery ladies. Less upselling. Less frustration.

More money in your wallet, too. That is, of course, provided you find a used fuel-saver that’s decently reliable and in good shape. And that, my friends, is where I come in.

Let’s have a look at some gas-saving commuter cars to stretch the distance between unpleasant trips to the gas station, shall we? Criteria: be good on fuel, be ready for highway commuting use, and be affordable.

2013 Toyota Corolla
2013 Toyota Corolla. Click image to enlarge

2009 to 2013 Toyota Corolla

The Draw: The last-generation Corolla maintained Toyota’s compact-car superhero status for all things sensible and reliable. Feature content, depending on the model, included alloy wheels, fog lamps, power accessories, remote access, air conditioning, cruise control and a sunroof. Bluetooth, and USB audio connectivity were available too. Owners almost universally praise its seat comfort, upscale interior trimmings, ride comfort and spaciousness. Others appreciate the abundant range of storage spaces, big trunk and excellent fuel mileage. The gist? A healthy last-generation Corolla should be great on fuel, reliable and long-lasting – and largely free of expensive repair bills. Look for manual or automatic transmissions, depending on your tastes.

Common Issues: Look for premature tire wear, non-functional remote key fobs, and illumination of the ‘ABS’ light, which is probably the result of an easy to fix electrical connection problem, if present. Moisture or mildew in the footwell area could be the result of a leaky window seal or sunroof drain tube, and many owners have complained of fragile, easily scratched paint. If the model you’re checking out is beige in color, look carefully for bumper damage, as it’s likely to have been regularly parked by ‘touch’.  Overall, most issues reported are minor in nature and easily fixed.

2010 Ford Escape
2010 Ford Escape. Click image to enlarge

2008 to 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid

The Draw: Lots of space, good driving dynamics and a small gas bill were big draws to the second-generation Escape Hybrid, which launched just a few years after the original. This model packed the same great mileage as that first Escape Hybrid, but with a far more upscale and accommodating cabin and creature comforts.

Shoppers also note a commanding driving position, comfy seats and handsome exterior styling. Fans of the model also delight at the frequent, fuel-free moments of totally silent driving that add up over the course of each tank of fuel to reduce consumption. A four-wheel-drive model offers extra off-road capability if you need it, while a front-wheel-drive model will turn in the best mileage. head honcho Jonathan Yarkony reminds us that the Escape will be the only hybrid on this list, mainly because of low purchase prices and the fact that early on, this pioneering model smoked the fuel consumption figures of any other SUV on the scene. Want more used hybrids? Give this a click.

Common Issues: Have a hybrid-certified Ford mechanic check the Escape Hybrid’s standard 12-volt battery (the one that starts the engine, not the one that hybrid-drives the SUV), ensuring it’s fresh and healthy. Factory-installed batteries tend to get tired easily and cause issues with proper starting and running, according to some owners. Be double sure to have the braking system inspected too, as some rare instances of reduced braking power, or all-out brake failure have been reported. Any brake-system warning lights in the instrument cluster need to be investigated. Further, check Escape’s paint for signs of peeling or rust, ensure the air conditioner works properly, and have the tires checked for signs of excessive wear or alignment issues.

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