Fuel economy. Is there a bigger buzz phrase in the auto industry right now? Whether the motivation is leaving a lighter carbon footprint or seeking relief from $4-a-gallon, everyone wants more fuel-efficient cars these days. If saving money is your goal, you're probably also interested in finding a gas-sipping ride that also comes with a relatively low monthly payment. To that end, we've rounded up eight cars that boast high gas mileage and a manageable monthly payment: We're calling this one "30 mpg for under $300 a month."
We arrived at the 30 mpg figure by combining the city mileage and highway mileage. One caveat, however: while four of the models included here do in fact boast a combined gas-mileage figure of 30 mpg, the other four came so close -- with combined figures of 29.5 -- that we decided to include them.
To calculate our monthly-payment figures, we made some assumptions -- the buyer would be putting 10 percent down, and taking out a five-year loan at the national average APR of 6.77 (based on Bankrate.com figures). Since we assumed the buyer was looking for the lowest payment possible, we calculated our figures based on the vehicle's base MSRP, plus destination charge, and did not take into account the cost of any options. Taxes, tags and title fee were not calculated as part of the monthly payment.

Toyota Yaris

MSRP: $11,550 - $13,925
MPG Range: 36 mpg Hwy, 29 mpg City
Combined MPG: 32.5 mpg

Approx. Monthly Payment: $216.40

The Yaris has Toyota quality, but with a lower sticker price than the Corolla. However, it's not a homely econo-box, it boasts modern design flourishes and is surprisingly roomy inside. It comes as a three-door hatchback or a four-door sedan, and both are powered by a 106 horsepower 1.5 liter four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission.

smart fortwo

MSRP: $11,590 - $16,590
MPG Range: 41 mpg Hwy, 33 mpg City
Combined MPG: 37

Approx. Monthly Payment: $216.85

New to the U.S. market, the Smart Car will at first strike some as a novelty, given its diminuitive dimensions. However, that also makes it incredibly maneuverable in urban settings. It comes in two trims. The "pure" trim is available as a coupe; the "passion" trim comes as a coupe or cabriolet. All are powered by a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine.

Honda Fit

MSRP: $13,950 - $15,270
MPG: 34 mpg Hwy, 28 mpg City
Combined MPG: 31

Approx. Monthly Payment: $252.11

The Fit boasts nimble handling and brisk performance. It's a four-door hatchback, and the second-row "Magic Seat" can either fold flat with the cargo floor, or flip up to allow you to haul taller items. It comes in either the base or the Sport, and is powered by a 109-hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic.

Scion xD

MSRP: $14,550 - $14,550
MPG: 33 mpg Hwy, 27 mpg City
Combined MPG: 30

Approx. Monthly Payment: $268.87

The xD replaces the xA and was modeled after the Euro-designed Yaris. Its five-door hatchback design has prompted Scion to market it as an "an urban subcompact," complete with a vertical rear tailgate similar to many current European models. The xD is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) that delivers 128 hp.

Hyundai Accent

MSRP: $10,775 - $14,795
MPG Range: 32 mpg Hwy, 27 mpg City
Combined MPG: 29.5

Approx. Monthly Payment: $202.50

The Accent maybe an entry-level vehicle, but its not a spartan box. Available as both a family sedan or hatchback, the Accent lends some style to the segment, offering up such cutting-edge features as a strut-tower brace and faux carbon-fiber trim. It's powered by a 1.6-liter double overhead-cam engine that delivers 110 hp. A five-speed manual transmission is standard.

Kia Rio

MSRP: $10,890 - $13,615
MPG Range: 32 mpg Hwy, 27 mpg City
Combined MPG: 29.5

Approx. Monthly Payment: $204.53

The Rio proves that a subcompact, addition to being affordable and practical, can also offer stylish design, roominess and zippy performance. The Rio is front-wheel drive with independent front suspension and a semi-independent rear suspension. ItÔøΩs available in the Base, LX trims and SX trim levels, and is powered by a 110-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine.

Kia Rio5

MSRP: $12,915 - $13,870
MPG Range: 32 mpg Hwy, 27 mpg City
Combined MPG: 29.5 mpg

Approx. Monthly Payment: $240.43

The Rio5 is the hatchback version of the Rio sedan, and offers the same styling flair and nimble virtues, but can seats five passengers. Like the sedan, it gets its power from a 110-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with continuously variable valve timing. The top-line SX trim level comes with equipped with fog lamps, a rear spoiler and 15-inch alloy wheels

Ford Focus

MSRP: $14,395 - $16,925
MPG Range: 35 mpg Hwy, 24 mpg City
Combined MPG: 29.5

Approx. Monthly Payment: $267.02

Redesigned for 2008, the Focus is another small car that's fun to drive. The redesign gives it more flair, and it still comes equipped with a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder with a choice between a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. It boasts the celebrated Sync system that allows the driver to integrate mobile electronic devices like mp3 players and cell phones.
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