I’ve learned from renting cars and going on road trips with friends that the fuel economy of different vehicles varies widely. Although some of this relates to the condition of a car, such as having deflated tires or a clogged air filter, fuel economy largely depends on the model of car. Driving a more fuel-efficient car over a gas guzzler is a great way to reduce your environmental impact and save money at the pump. This is especially true if you put a lot of miles on your car each month and you keep your cars for a long time.
When purchasing a new car, try to get a fuel-efficient model. Even within a given vehicle class, there is a range of fuel efficiency. When researching specific vehicle classes, look for lists of the most efficient vehicles. The following may help in your quest to find the right fuel-efficient car.
- Consumer Reports puts out lists for the top 10 most fuel-efficient luxury vehicles, SUVs and cars under $25,000.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s FuelEconomy.gov website has a lot of helpful information on the topic and allows you to make side-by-side comparisons between vehicle models.
- Fuelly lets people track, share and compare data for vehicle fuel efficiency between different vehicles, providing a lot of helpful member data.
Here are some of the cars with the greatest fuel economy that aren’t hybrid or electric vehicles. Many of these models have been around for a while and haven’t changed dramatically in recent years, so buying a used one is also worthy of consideration.
A fuel-efficient car that isn’t a hybrid? Here are 7
Chevy Cruze Eco
As the name implies, a number of modifications have been made to allow this car to achieve exceptional fuel economy. With 28 MPG in the city and 42 MPG on the highway, the 2016 model beats the previous generations of the car. The Cruze Eco has a 153 hp 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and is available only with a 6-speed automatic transmission. This compact car is considered to be reasonably spacious and has a decent amount of cargo and rear passenger space. This zippy car combines performance with fuel economy, all in a small package. There are also plans to release a diesel version soon.
Ford Fiesta SFE
Popular for years in Europe and elsewhere in the world, the Fiesta is the Americanized version of this fuel-efficient car. With 31 MPG in the city and 43 MPG on the highway, the Fiesta SFE is a winner. There are different submodels of the car with slightly lower fuel economy, as the SFE stands for “Super Fuel Economy.” It has low-resistance wheels and a 123 hp turbocharged three-cylinder 1.0-liter engine rather than Fiesta’s standard 1.6-liter four-cylinder. If you are looking for a used model, previous years have a similar fuel economy and would likely be an efficient choice if well maintained. The SFE is available only with a manual transmission and is known to handle well.
Honda Civic HF
This car was redesigned for the first time in six years in 2012 with a roomier interior, improved engines and new technology features. The Civic HF submodel is more aerodynamic, has less rolling resistance, and has greater fuel economy with 31 MPG in the city and 41 MPG on the highway. Hybrid or compressed natural gas versions of the Civic are also available. The Eco Assist System shows the impact of different driving styles on overall fuel economy, giving drivers valuable feedback. The display is green when the driver treads lightly on the brake and gas pedal, signaling efficient driving. The ECON button, which is available on most models, can be engaged to prioritize fuel economy over performance. This means the car shifts into higher gears more quickly, limits how long the air conditioner runs and enables a more gentle throttle.
With 33 MPG in the city and 41 MPG on the highway, this car is praised for being both fuel efficient and versatile. This car has a roomy interior and a unique rear seat design enhances passenger comfort. The cargo configuration enables endless possibilities for this car, making it both economical and practical. The Honda Fit is only available as a five-door hatchback (i.e., not as a sedan). Initially introduced in 2006, the car has improved its fuel economy over the years a bit, as the interior got slightly larger. Drivers wanting exceptional fuel efficiency and generous cargo space will enjoy the Fit.
Hyundai Elantra Eco
The Elantra Eco is being praised for performance and torque, while getting 32 MPG in the city and 40 MPG on the highway. Hyundai had an embarrassing debacle with the 2011, where the company was advertising inaccurate fuel economy due to a calculation error. The Elantra Eco, however, is living up to its promises. The 7-speed dual clutch automatic shifts smoothly and with great efficiency. The Eco has a 1.4-liter turbo engine and gets an extra 3 MPG over the standard 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine in the product line. With a base price of $21,485 ($1,000 to $1,500 more than the base version), the Elantra Eco has a decent list of standard features and is one of the pricier cars on this relatively thrifty list.
The Mazda3 is known as a car that is especially fun to drive because it is both agile and peppy. It is available in both a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic, and the manual is considered to be one of the best in its class. It gets up to 30 MPG in the city and 41 MPG on the highway with the base engine; an optional larger engine is slightly less fuel efficient. The sedan has a relatively small trunk, but the Mazda3 is also available as a hatchback.
New for 2016, the Scion iA is Toyota’s version of the Mazda2, which isn’t being sold in the U.S. market. The car is available both as a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual transmission. It gets 33 MPG in the city and 41 MPG on the highway for the automatic and is just a pinch less efficient for the manual. It has a 106 hp, 1.5-liter engine, a functional interior and is fully loaded with gadgets. The car gives drivers a big bang for their buck, combining both fuel economy and performance in one car. As the Scion name is being dismantled, the car will soon live under the Toyota banner.
Feature image credit: Kārlis Dambrāns