Over 40 mpg and loving the ride

If you're tired of high gas prices that empty your wallet every time you fill up but don't want to pay a premium for a hybrid, you'll find these cars enticing. They're all rated at 40 miles per gallon or better.

Using technologies that make them fuel-efficient, these cars fill everyday driving needs while saving on gas. The pricing on these cars with a 40-mpg-or-better rating ranges from $12,445 to $19,455, making them easy on your new-car budget.

Chevrolet Cruze Eco

Fuel economy: 28 city and 42 highway mpg

One car that offers the spaciousness and amenities of a midsized sedan, but is also fuel efficient like a compact, is the Chevrolet Cruze. It offers a nice package with starting pricing of $18,425 for the Eco model.

Powered by a 138-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged, four-cylinder engine, the Cruze Eco achieves 28 mpg city and 42 highway mpg when paired with a six-speed manual transmission and 26 city and 37 highway mpg when paired with the six-speed automatic.

Standard features include 10 air bags, six-speaker audio system with MP3 and auxiliary jack, Bluetooth technology and USB connectivity, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, power door locks and windows, and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. While considered a compact car, the Chevrolet Cruze is spacious inside and has more passenger and cargo space than a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla.

Chevrolet Sonic Eco

Fuel economy: 40 highway mpg

The only small car built in the U.S., the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic replaces the Chevrolet Aveo. Offered as a sedan and a five-door hatchback, the Sonic starts at $13,735 for the 2012 model. Specific car prices for various Eco models are not yet available.

The Sonic comes loaded with standard features such as 10 air bags, stability control, antilock brakes and a spacious interior that has more rear seat room as well as more cargo space than its competitor, the Ford Fiesta.

While Sonic's official fuel economy ratings were not available at press time, it's expected that the 138-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged, four-cylinder engine on the Eco model will achieve 40 mpg on the highway. Available features will include XM satellite radio, USB and Bluetooth functionality, remote start, heated front seats and a sunroof.

Ford Fiesta SFE

Fuel economy: 29 city and 40 highway mpg

The Ford Fiesta is an Americanized version of one of Europe's best-selling cars. It is available as a sedan and hatchback. With a starting car price of $13,995 for the highly fuel-efficient SFE version, the Fiesta comes standard with a height-adjustable driver's seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, air conditioning, seven air bags, and traction and stability control.

For 2012, the Fiesta features an integrated blind spot sideview mirror and a driver's seat armrest. Powered by a 120-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, it has an EPA-rating of 29 city and 40 highway mpg when a Fiesta SE sedan or hatchback is ordered with the SFE package. The SFE package includes the PowerShift automatic transmission, a rear spoiler, side air deflectors, underbody shields, lower grille blockers, low-rolling resistance tires (to make the car fuel efficient) and cruise control.

Ford Focus SFE

Fuel economy: 28 city and 40 highway mpg

The 2012 Ford Focus has been fully redesigned for 2012 and features a bold, expressive design and a wide array of new technologies with a starting car price of $18,200 for the highly fuel-efficient SFE model. Among the new features are a push-button start, heated seats, and a hands-free system called MyFord Touch featuring voice-controlled traffic, directions and information.

Available as a sedan or a five-door hatchback, the Focus features a new steering and suspension package that provides a sporty driving experience, while the new 160-horsepower, 2-liter four-cylinder engine provides plenty of oomph and 20 more horsepower than the previous model. Despite the increase in power, the new engine is also 10% more fuel efficient than the previous model. An EPA rating of 28 city and 40 highway mpg is achieved when the Focus is ordered with the SFE package, which includes a six-speed PowerShift automatic transmission.

Honda Civic HF

Fuel economy: 29 city and 41 highway mpg

Redesigned for the first time since 2006, the 2012 Honda Civic has subtle exterior styling changes but also a roomier interior, new technology features and improved engines. Available as a coupe or sedan, and in a gas, hybrid or compressed natural gas version, there are plenty of choices to suit a wide variety of buyers.

With starting car prices of $19,455 for fuel-efficient HF models, all Civic models now come with motion-adaptive electric power steering for more responsive handling at all speeds, the Eco Assist display that continuously monitors and displays the impact of driving style on the car's fuel efficiency, and the latest generation of stability control and traction control.

All gasoline Civics, except for the high-performance Si, are powered by a 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. The Civic HF gets 29 city and 41 highway mpg when paired with a five-speed automatic transmission, primarily due to improved aerodynamics and reduced rolling resistance.

Hyundai Accent

Fuel economy: 30 city and 40 highway mpg

The entry-level Hyundai Accent, which starts at $12,445 for the sedan or $14,595 for the five-door hatchback, has been redesigned for 2012 and now features styling elements similar to its larger siblings, Elantra and Sonata. The subcompact Accent has the roominess of a compact with best-in-class, five-door cargo volume.

Standard features include six air bags, stability and traction control, and active front head restraints. The 2012 Hyundai Accent is powered by a new 138-horsepower, 1.6-liter gasoline, direct-injection engine with an 18% fuel-economy improvement over last year for manual transmission, fuel-efficient models. Accent gets an EPA-estimated 30 city and 40 highway mpg when equipped with either a manual or automatic transmission.

Hyundai Elantra

Fuel economy: 29 city and 40 highway mpg

With a price starting at $15,195, the Hyundai Elantra compact was redesigned last year and features a few changes for 2012, including an up to 7% improvement in fuel economy. Powered by a 148-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, the Elantra gets an EPA-estimated 29 city and 40 highway mpg when equipped with either the six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, thanks to the new Active Eco System that modifies engine and transmission controls to make it more fuel efficient without compromising performance. In addition, 2012 models now have a more responsive steering system.

Standard features on Elantra include heated side mirrors, 15-inch wheels, remote keyless entry, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, six air bags and stability control.

Hyundai Veloster

Fuel economy: 40 highway mpg

The 2012 Hyundai Veloster is the replacement for the Hyundai Tiburon. This coupe has a hatchback rear and three side doors -- two front doors and one forward-opening, rear passenger, side door. With a design inspired by motorcycles, the Veloster technically seats four, though the rear seat is better suited for children than adults.

Features include a 7-inch display with Bluetooth, voice recognition and a USB port for playing videos when the car is parked. The Veloster is powered by a 138-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. Though official EPA-estimated fuel economy figures were not available at press time, Hyundai expects the Veloster will get 40 mpg on the highway when paired with the six-speed automatic transmission. Pricing also had not been announced at press time.

Mazda3

Fuel economy: 28 city and 40 highway mpg

With fuel efficiency in mind, the 2012 Mazda3 received a mild redesign with an emphasis on improving aerodynamics on the exterior as well as the underbody. Available as a sedan or a four-door hatchback, the Mazda3 features power windows and door locks, audio system with MP3 and Sirius satellite radio, six air bags, and stability and traction control. New for this year is also the Skyactiv-G engine, a 155-horsepower, 2-liter direct-injection four-cylinder that gets 28 city mpg and 40 highway mpg -- a 21% improvement over last year's model -- in the sedan body style when paired with the six-speed Skyactiv-Drive automatic transmission. While pricing had not been announced at press time, Mazda says the 2012 Mazda3 will have a starting price under $16,000.