Along with insurance premiums and the cost of regular maintenance, gas costs are one of the largest expenses for car and truck owners around America. Thus, investing in a fuel-efficient vehicle is one of the simplest ways to cut down on your overall cost of ownership.
How Is Fuel Efficiency Tested?
In order to validate a manufacturer’s claims, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) performs laboratory testing to estimate just how fuel-efficient a vehicle is under various driving conditions. Rather than taking the car out for a spin in the real world, the EPA uses a testing device known as a “dynamometer” to simulate both city and highway driving.
The dynamometer spins the wheels at a specified rate during each simulation cycle, and the engineers performing the test take note of how much fuel the vehicle uses under different testing conditions. The testing results are then transformed into an estimate of the vehicle’s real-world miles per gallon (mpg) in city traffic and on the open highway.
Although hybrids have gained some popularity in recent years, the EPA’s testing results have consistently shown that certain gas and diesel models are more than capable of holding their own against hybrid vehicles. Cars that are more fuel-efficient are almost always on the smaller side, too, and that means they’re often very affordable.
With starting prices under $25,000, the eight models listed below each combine affordability with an EPA highway estimate of more than 30 mpg.
#1 2019 Mitsubishi Mirage
The EPA not only rated the 2019 Mirage’s efficiency at 36 mpg in city driving conditions and 43 mpg on the highway, but the agency also estimated that owning a fuel-efficient Mirage costs less than $1,000 per year in gas. Newer Mirages also come with a full-featured touch-screen display, Bluetooth capabilities, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.
The Mirage is one of the smallest vehicle models in Mitsubishi’s lineup, and it stands out on price against both its gasoline and hybrid competitors.
#2 2018 Hyundai Accent
When the 2018 Hyundai Accent achieved 38 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in city driving tests, its results marked a significant improvement over previous Accent models. The 2018 Accent is known for its reliability, and it successfully achieved the highest possible safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in every category that it was tested for when it first debuted.
Overall, this subcompact car is quiet with an adequately comfortable interior and a respectable amount of power.
#3 2017 Ford Fiesta Hatchback
With its sleek frame, attractive price tag, and 1.6-liter engine, the Ford Fiesta hatchback offers as much bang for your buck as any vehicle on this list. It has consistently outperformed all other Fiesta models in terms of fuel efficiency, and the 2017 Fiesta hatchback is one of the only models with an automatic transmission to exceed 40 miles per gallon in Car and Driver’s own highway testing.
If you’re looking for a vehicle that can fit into tight parking spaces while saving you extra trips to the gas station, then the Fiesta is definitely worth checking out.
#4 Toyota Yaris
Toyota has redesigned the Yaris several times since it was first released in 1999, but every edition has always offered one of the best fuel economies in the subcompact class. According to Consumer Reports, the fuel-efficient hatchback and manual transmission editions of the Yaris have both tested over 30 mpg in each of the last 12 years. Yaris models made after 2010 all come with Toyota’s renowned stability control for an extra layer of safety, and the 2017 Yaris also has an automated alert system to let you know if your vehicle is drifting out of its lane.
The 2019 Yaris builds upon previous years to offer added safety features like automatic emergency braking and forward collision monitoring, extra conveniences like keyless entry, and more than 13 cubic feet of trunk space.
This vehicle is a good choice if you are looking for modern safety features as well as fuel efficiency.
#5 2017 Kia Forte
Although the EPA estimated the 2017 Kia Forte’s highway combined fuel efficiency at 37 mpg, Car and Driver actually tested the S trim at 42 mpg on the track. For enhanced selection and even better handling, the 2017 Forte EX comes with 17-inch alloy wheels.
As one of the more affordable fuel-efficient options, this car is a great choice for those on a budget looking to save money.
#6 2017 Honda Civic
The 2017 Civic Touring edition beat its EPA estimate of 39 mpg when Car and Driver took it out to the track, and the 2017 Civic Sport’s fuel economy clocked in at 43 mpg under the same conditions.
Honda also redesigned the Civic’s cabin acoustics in 2017 to be quieter and less distracting on the road, boosted the engine’s power, and added a significant amount of room to the rear cargo area. Coming in at 15.1 cubic feet, the 2017 Civic sedan’s trunk is significantly larger than subcompact vehicles with the same fuel efficiency.
The Civic routinely tops all of Honda’s other models when it comes to both city and highway mpg. It also beats out the majority of budget-friendly hatchbacks and sedans from other vehicle makers, making it a great all-around reliable choice.
#7 2019 Chevrolet Cruze
With 240 pound-feet of torque and up to 153 horsepower, the 2019 Chevy Cruze diesel sedan is one of the more powerful vehicles to achieve a fuel-efficiency estimate of 37 mpg from the EPA. The 2019 Cruze, also available with a traditional gas engine, comes in a hatchback style, too. With that said, the sedan body option is available with the widest variety of options.
Along with a four-speaker stereo sound system, Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system comes standard with L, LS, LT, Diesel, and Premier trims. The LS trim level, also available for the hatchback option, offers an upgraded steering wheel, cruise control, and the ability to start the Cruze remotely.
This sedan is a great choice for someone looking for both power and fuel efficiency.
#8 2018 Toyota Camry
Toyota made some big upgrades to the Camry in 2018, and these changes definitely boosted the Camry’s fuel economy. With an eight-speed automatic transmission, the 2018 Camry SE achieved an EPA highway estimate of 39 mpg. More impressive, however, is that all of the 2018 Toyota Camry’s other editions achieved even higher efficiency ratings. Outside of the laboratory, the Camry literally set the standard for Car and Driver’s real-world efficiency testing in 2018 and managed to beat several bestselling hybrids.
With 15.1 cubic feet of trunk space, the XLE trim is arguably the most comfortable 2018 Camry available. The interior of the XLE features heated leather seats in the front, comfortable bench seating in the rear, dual-zone air conditioning, and wireless sync options for your cellphone.
This vehicle has long been known as a reliable and fuel-efficient choice. If you’re looking for one of the top-rated cars for fuel efficiency, look no further than the Camry.
While EPA estimates and performance testing on the track can provide some useful benchmarks, your lifestyle and personal situation will ultimately be what determines which vehicle is right for you. Before you make a final decision, you will need to balance your typical driving environment against your cargo needs, budget, and style preferences. With that said, the models above provide a wide variety of features and specifications to choose from.