Your definitions of “quiet” and “good gas mileage” may differ from ours, but we have some suggestions, including the Chevrolet Cruze, Buick Regal eAssist, Dodge Avenger and similar Chrysler 200, and the Toyota Camry Hybrid.
The Cruze is surprisingly quiet for a compact car, and the Eco model gets an EPA-estimated 42 mpg on the highway. In real-world driving, we would expect less than that. A non-Eco Cruze averaged 33 mpg in our recent five-car Shootout among compact sedans that rate more than 35 mpg highway and cost less than $20,000.
The Regal eAssist (a “mild hybrid” system) rates 36 mpg on the highway, and Buick has done a commendable job of insulating occupants from road, wind and engine noise. Chrysler made substantial improvements in sound insulation on the 200 and Avenger for 2011(and dressed-up the interiors as well), though those cars have an EPA highway estimate of only 31 mpg with a four-cylinder engine.
The Camry Hybrid is significantly quieter than the Prius, but since it exceeds your price threshold with a base MSRP of $25,900 (plus $760 for destination), we suggest that as a wild card. The EPA ratings of 39 mpg city and 43 mpg highway for the LE and 38/40 mpg for the XLE, however, may lead you to conclude that the potential return on investment justifies the extra cost.
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