Best Cars for Summer Driving
The summer driving season is upon us, and that means more driving. While the average price at the pump nationwide is expected to average $3.60 per gallon through September, according to the Energy Information Administration's June projections, the cost of filling up on a long trip still can take its toll on your pocketbook.
Bankrate looked at the full range of body styles of cars and chose a spate of models that are reasonably priced and have great miles-per-gallon ratings for their segment to create this top picks list of cars.
From small, inexpensive cars and sporty models to sedans, there's a car to suit everyone, no matter what your needs.
Sporty cars: 2012 Hyundai Veloster
- Starting price: $17,300
- Gas mileage: 28 city/40 highway mpg
With a design inspired by a motorcycle, the 2012 Hyundai Veloster is a compact coupe with an athletic-looking design.
It features two front doors, a single rear door on the passenger side to allow easy access to the rear seat and a distinctive glass hatchback.
Powered by a 138-horsepower, in-line, four-cylinder engine, the Veloster gets 28 city and 40 highway mpg when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, and 29 city and 38 highway mpg when paired with the six-speed EcoShift automatic transmission.
Standard features include a six-way adjustable driver's seat, power windows, Bluetooth hands-free phone system with voice recognition, six air bags, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio and hands-free calling functions, and traction and stability control.
Optional features include leather seats, sunroof, a navigation system with 7-inch multimedia touchscreen and a rearview camera with backup warning sensors.
Sporty cars: 2012 Honda CR-Z
- Starting price: $19,695
- Gas mileage: 31 city/37 highway mpg
Performance and fuel efficiency is the mantra of the sporty two-seat 2012 Honda CR-Z. The CR-Z is a hybrid that mates a four-cylinder engine to an electric motor to generate 122 horsepower while delivering 31 city and 37 highway mpg when equipped with the six-speed, manual transmission, and 35 city and 39 highway mpg on models equipped with the continuously variable transmission.
Standard features include automatic climate control, six air bags, power windows and door locks, cruise control, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with illuminated steering-wheel-mounted control and AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers as well as stability and traction control. Optional features include auto high-intensity headlights, navigation system with voice recognition and a premium audio system.
Small car: 2012 Fiat 500
- Starting price: $15,500
- Gas mileage: 30 city/38 highway mpg
For a small car with unique flair, the 2012 Fiat 500 will be sure to get other drivers' attention. The Fiat 500 is powered by a 101-horsepower, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that gets 30 city and 38 highway mpg when equipped with the five-speed, manual transmission, or 27 city and 34 highway mpg when paired with the six-speed, automatic transmission.
Standard features include air conditioning, power windows and locks, heated mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and hands-free communication system as well as seven air bags and stability control.
Optional features include a fixed glass roof, upgraded wheels, premium audio system and navigation.
Small cars: 2012 Ford Focus
- Starting price: $17,295
- Gas mileage: 26 city/36 highway mpg
Redesigned for 2012, the Ford Focus is available in sedan or hatchback styles, both seating five.
The Ford Focus is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine and gets 26 city and 36 highway when paired with the five-speed, manual transmission, and 27 city and 37 highway mpg when mated to the six-speed, automatic transmission.
The Focus Electric, with an electric motor that is charged by plugging it in, has limited availability in 2012 as the automaker adds Ford electric-vehicle-certified dealers.
Standard features on the Focus include new electric power steering, power door locks and mirrors, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, four-speaker audio system with MP3 capability, folding rear seat, and stability control. There is a long list of options including dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, leather seating, push-button start and voice-activated navigation.
Sedans: 2012 Toyota Camry
- Starting price: $22,055
- Gas mileage: 25 city/35 highway mpg
The Toyota Camry is consistently one of the top-selling passenger cars in America. It comes in six different models.
There are three different engines available: a 178-horsepower, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that gets 25 city and 35 highway mpg. A 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter, V-6 engine gets 21 city and 30 highway mpg while a hybrid power plant gets 43 city and 39 highway mpg.
Both gasoline engines are paired with a six-speed, automatic transmission, while the hybrid power plant is mated to a continuously variable transmission. Standard features include climate control, cruise control, power windows with driver side auto up/down, 10 air bags, and stability and traction control.
Options include leather seating; automatic, dual-zone climate control; several upgraded audio systems; blind-spot monitor; push-button start; rearview camera and a voice-activated navigation system with hands-free phone capability.
Sedans: 2012 Hyundai Azera
- Starting price: $32,000
- Gas mileage: 20 city/29 highway mpg
For those looking for a larger sedan or a more luxurious package, the 2012 Hyundai Azera fits the bill. The Azera seats five in spacious comfort in both the front and rear along with plenty of space for luggage in the trunk.
Redesigned for 2012, the Azera is powered by a 293-horsepower, 3.3-liter, V-6 engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
The Hyundai Azera comes with a long list of standard features. They include automatic headlights, power windows, locks and folding, push-button start, heated mirrors, heated front and rear leather seats, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio and phone controls, nine air bags, Bluetooth hands-free phone system with voice recognition, and a rearview camera as well as stability and traction control. Options include ventilated front seats, rear sunshade, rear park-assist sensors and a navigation system.