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John LeBlanc's top 10 future fuel sippers

These days, buying an inexpensive and fuel-efficient small car is starting to look like a smart idea. Here are 10 cars to look out for.

With world turmoil causing gas prices to hit the $1.25 per litre range, it’s deja’ vu all over again for new car buyers. Just like in 2008, when gasoline peaked at nearly $1.50 per litre, buying an inexpensive and fuel-efficient small car is starting to look like a smart idea.

Related: Should you ignore gas prices when buying a car?

So while we’re witnessing a bunch of new, small cars being introduced to the Canadian market for 2011 (i.e. Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Fiesta and Focus, Fiat 500, Hyundai Elantra, etc.) there are still plenty of fuel-sipping small cars waiting in the wings, ready to go on sale in the next 12 to 24 months:

2012 Chevrolet Sonic

Just as we’re getting used to the idea that Chevrolet can pull off a decent compact car with its new 2011 Cruze, next up is the even smaller Sonic four-door sedan, pictured above, and hatchback set to go on sale this fall.

The Sonic replaces the aging Aveo. And Chevy says the Sonic will be everything the Aveo wasn’t, i.e. roomy, well-made, and fun to drive. More importantly, the Sonic should be measurably more fuel-efficient than the outgoing Aveo, which posted a hum-hum 7.6L/100 km in the city, and 5.7L on the highway.

2013 Chevrolet Spark John LeBlanc's top 10 future fuel sippers

Like a set of Russian dolls, each new car from Chevy gets smaller. Witness the forthcoming Spark, a car even smaller than the Sonic, designed strictly for urban driving.

Scheduled to go on sale in Canada about one year from now, the Spark is the production version of the Beat concept, one of three city cars that GM unveiled in 2007 that also included the Trax and Groove. Designed by GM’s Asian arm, the Spark is already on sale in Europe, with miserly 67 hp 1.0-litre and 81 hp 1.2-litre four-cylinder engines.

2013 GMC GraniteJohn LeBlanc's top 10 future fuel sippers

Better known for its bestselling full-size Sierra pickups, GM’s truck-only GMC brand will be getting its smallest, most fuel-efficient vehicle at the end of 2012 with the Granite compact utility vehicle.

Based on the same small car platform that supports the Chevy Cruze, with only four-cylinder engines available, the Granite should score the best fuel economy ratings of any GMC ever. Speculative reports say the production Granite will come with the slick, suicide-style rear passenger doors that were first seen on the 2010 Detroit auto show concept.

2012 Kia RioJohn LeBlanc's top 10 future fuel sippers

The all-new Rio subcompact made its debut at this month’s Geneva auto show, and it should shed its current ranking as the runt of Kia’s lineup when it goes on sale later this year in Canada.

Like the Chevy Sonic, Kia will sport more room, nicer interior accommodations, and much improved fuel economy over its predecessor. Thankfully, the new Rio has also been blessed with the magic pen of Kia’s new design boss, Peter Schreyer. So not only will you save gas in the new subcompact Kia, you’ll look good doing so.

2012 Honda CivicJohn LeBlanc's top 10 future fuel sippers

South of the border, “40 MPG” (5.8 L/100 km) is the new standard in compact cars. And with the debut of its ninth-generation Civic this spring, Honda is offering two models that meet or beat that benchmark.

While the “regular” Civic Sedan will come close (an estimated 39 miles per U.S. gallon on the highway), the Civic HF is expected to score 41 mpg. And the new Civic Hybrid — which will be outfitted for the first time with a lithium-ion battery and a larger 1.5-litre engine — is expected to score a combined estimated city/highway fuel economy of a lofty 45 MPG (5.2 L/100 km).

2012 Hyundai AccentJohn LeBlanc's top 10 future fuel sippers

How does a hybrid-like estimated 4.7 L/100 km highway fuel consumption sound in a gas car that will start at about half the price of a Prius? That’s Hyundai’s pitch with its new 2012 Accent subcompact.

Hot on the heels of the launch of this year’s new Elantra compact sedan and Veloster coupe comes the all-new Accent, which made its debut at this year’s Montreal auto show. Ready to take on rivals like the Ford Fiesta, the Accent will be the first Hyundai to get the automaker’s new 1.6-litre direct-injected four-cylinder engine and six-speed gearbox.

2012 Nissan VersaJohn LeBlanc's top 10 future fuel sippers

Last December, we got a sneak peek of the next Versa in the form of Nissan’s all-new global small sedan that debuted at the Guangzhou auto show in China. Nissan said its new small car will go on sale first in China, and then eventually across 170 countries worldwide.

No word yet on what spec or engines Canadians will be offered when the next Versa goes on sale either later this year or early in 2012. Or if the current four-door hatchback model will be replaced. But in China, the new Sunny/Versa gets a fuel-efficient 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine.

2012 Scion iQJohn LeBlanc's top 10 future fuel sippers

First seen at the 2008 Geneva auto show as the Toyota iQ, the microcar will be sold in Canada as a Scion, starting later this year.

At first blush, the iQ looks like Toyota’s version of a Smart ForTwo. But instead of sporting a rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive and only seats for two, the more space-efficient Toyota/Scion is front-wheel-drive and has occasional seating for two additional passengers.

As you can imagine, the iQ’s calling card is fuel efficiency. Toyota says expect a fuel consumption of just over 5L/100km.

2012 Toyota YarisJohn LeBlanc's top 10 future fuel sippers

Like the Nissan Versa, we already have a good idea of what to expect when our next Yaris arrives this fall. The European version debuted as the Yaris HSD hybrid compact this month at the Geneva show.

In Europe, at least, the new Yaris gets a new 1.3 L engine, which is more economical than the 1.0 L engine, according to Toyota. Whether or not Canadians will get the hybrid version for even better fuel economy, has yet to be confirmed.

2012 Toyota Prius VJohn LeBlanc's top 10 future fuel sippers

If you like the excellent fuel economy of Toyota’s iconic Prius (3.7L/100 km city; 4.0L highway), but need a bit more room than the current four-door hatchback can offer, you’ll only have to wait until this fall. That’s when the new Prius V (as in “versatility”) will go on sale in Canada.

If you think of the V as a Prius wagon, you’re spot on. Using the existing Prius’ gas-electric hybrid powertrain, Toyota says the Prius V will deliver the “best fuel efficiency of any SUV, crossover or wagon in the market today,” plus 50 per cent more interior room than the Prius, with up to 971 litres of cargo space when its reclining rear seats are down.

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