When you’re in the market for a new car, there’s lots to consider beyond just how the thing looks and whether it has the most comfortable seats and best entertainment system. There’s safety, size, price tag, and ongoing fuel economy. You might even argue that the latter is one of the most important points of all: there’s no point netting a bargain on the initial outlay if, for years to come, you’ll be coughing up wads of cash on fuel.
Regardless of whether you’re after a sporty two-door, a four-door family wagon, or a zippy little city vehicle, there’s a fuel-friendly option out there for you. Excluding pure electric vehicles (since we’re talking specifically about fuel, here) we went on the hunt for the most fuel efficient cars on the American market right now. Here are 7 of the best.
7. Honda CR-Z 1.5L Hybrid
Whoever said hybrids had to be cute and bubbly or build like futuristic family wagons? The Honda CR-Z ambitiously aims to marry the eco-friendliness and fuel efficiency of an electric-gas hybrid with the snazzy, slick design of a two seater sports car. Reviews on performance are a little mixed, but that’s to be expected when there’s so much different going on under the hood. Fuel economy is hardly off the charts, but what this car is going for is more a tidy balance between everything. Zip it around the city and the CR-Z will get you 36 miles to the gallon, while highway driving will net you 39, making for a combined city/highway average of 37 miles per gallon. Fueleconomy.gov ranks the Honda CR-Z as the number one most fuel efficient car out of all two-seaters, and claims that you’d save $2,750 in fuel costs over 5 years by investing in one (compared to the average new vehicle). It’s also considered to be one of the least polluting cars available in the US, earning the title of an “Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV)” meaning that, among other things, it has zero evaporative emissions from its fuel system.
6. VW Golf 2.0L TDI Diesel 6AT/6MT
The elegance of German engineering channelled into a zippy, easy-to-handle hatch, the Volkswagen Golf is the kind of car that’s a dream for city life. Much of that comes down to the fact that the Golf – a model that’s been on the market and constantly evolving since all the way back in 1974 – manages to balance aesthetics with simplicity and efficiency. It’s compact, light (weighing in at less than 3000 pounds), and yet never feels less than sturdy and well-made, with a full set of safety features that includes stability control, anti-whiplash and airbags from every angle. The most recent 2.0 litre diesel edition is efficient and thrifty regardless of whether you opt for the manual or the automatic drive. The Golf runs at around 36 miles per gallon, averaged out across city (31 miles per gallon) and highway (43 miles per gallon) driving, and has a tank size of 13.2 gallons. According to FuelEconomy.gov, investing in a VW Golf will save you around $500 in fuel costs over 5 years compared to the average new vehicle.
5. 2015 Ford C-MAX Hybrid FWD
Not everyone wants a nimble little city car, and for those after something a little bigger – say, that would neatly serve as a family car – the Ford C-MAX wagon is a good option. The FuelEconomy.gov website ranks it as one of the best hybrids after the Toyota Prius family of cars, and gives it first place on their list of Most Fuel Efficient Cars under the “Large” EPA Size Class. According to them, a Ford C-MAX will cost you $3,250 a year less to run than the average new car, with city driving affording you 42 miles per gallon, highway driving stretching you 37 miles per gallon, making a combined average total of 40 miles per gallon. Aesthetically the C-MAX is beefy and yet fairly classic, avoiding any overly futuristic designs that scream “eco-friendly” and instead appealing to a modern American family audience. According to most critics it performs well enough, with reasonably powerful acceleration for a hybrid, responsive steering and comfortable interior, with one major downside commonly listed as the limited cargo space.
4. Chevrolet Cruze 2.0L Diesel 6AT
Fitting to its name, this sturdy sedan is wonderfully fuel-efficient for cruising down the open highways: stick to that kind of driving and it’ll stretch the tank to an impressive 46 miles per gallon. The stops and starts of city traffic aren’t quite as well handled by the Cruze, at 27 miles per gallon, but all else considered that can be forgiven – especially if you’re more of a distance driver. With Chevrolet being a division of General Motors, the Cruze paves the way for an American manufactured car to make the best-of list. Relatively new to the scene, it’s a Chevrolet model that’s only been in circulation since 2008, though with each iteration it continues to improve in both style and efficiency. The diesel-run Cruze isn’t the most sporty or fun car on the market, but it’s definitely one to consider if you’re after something comfortable, practical, and cheap to run. It’s also technologically well connected, fitted with GM’s OnStar system, smartphone integration, and onboard Wifi. The Chevrolet Cruze isn’t the cheapest car on the list if you consider its purchase price of over $18,000, but it offers up a fuel-efficient option that’s a little bigger and brawnier than the usual lightweight hatchbacks.
3. Mitsubishi Mirage 1.2L CVT
The Mitsubishi Mirage is one of the most fuel-efficient options to come out of Japan right now, if you exclude all-electrics like the high-rating Honda Fit EV. The fuel economy on the 2015 Mirage is excellent: city driving is pegged at around 37 miles per gallon, while highway driving offers 44 miles per gallon – making a combined EPA Fuel Economy rating of 40 miles per gallon. Fueleconomy.gov estimates a saving of $3,250 in fuel costs over 5 years if you buy a Mirage, compared to the average new vehicle. As a manoeuvrable city car the Mirage gets the job done: it’s easy to park and good for getting around in traffic. In other areas reviews are mixed, and by some accounts the Mirage is slow off the mark and has a noisy (and less than powerful) engine. The interior is pleasant enough with spacious front seats and a fairly minimal design – though all in all it’s nothing to write home about. Still, if you’re looking for a small car that’s affordable to buy and – potentially even more importantly – affordable to run, then the Mitsubishi Mirage is certainly an option.
2. Ford Fiesta SFE 1.0L 5MT
Now in its seventh generation, the Ford Fiesta has been around since 1976, and it’s one of the company’s best selling cars after the Escort and the F-Series. No doubt its reasonable price tag and good fuel economy are partly to thank for its selling power: you can pick one up for less than half the price of a BMW 328d or a Mercedes-Benz E250, which are roughly on equal footing when it comes to fuel economy. The 2015 Fiesta takes regular gasoline, and runs at an average of 36 miles per gallon (31 miles per gallon in city driving, 43 miles per gallon for highways) meaning it costs an estimated $2,750 less per annum to run than an average new car. Sprightly and easy to get around in, it’s no wonder the Fiesta is such a strong choice for new young drivers and practical city-dwellers alike.
1. Toyota Prius C 1.5L Hybrid
Whatever your thoughts are about the Toyota Prius, one thing is certain: you’ll get more miles for your buck with this electric-gasoline hybrid. And in fact, there are several models of America’s most popular hybrid that could easily make this list, including the slightly larger, 1.8 litre non-compact 4-door (which, along with the 1.5 litre compact, has a combined road/highway rating of 50 miles per gallon) and the 2015 model Toyota Prius V, which will take you 42 miles for every gallon – not at all bad for a midsize station wagon. The 1.5 litre Prius C is less about being fun and sporty to drive and more about being compact, economical, and environmentally friendly. Though the initial outlay may be little higher than for some of the small sized fuel-only cars, the Prius scores big points in being a money-saver long term. According to Fueleconomy.gov, investing in a Prius will save you approximately $4,250 in fuel costs over 5 years compared to the average new vehicle.