I hate to be Captain Bringdown, but conventional wisdom says that gas prices are only going to go up as summer approaches. In past years, they’ve gone up at Easter, but dropped prior to the inevitable Memorial Day price spike. Given what’s going on in the MIddle East, combined with rising demand for autos in India and China, we may not see any price decreases this year. If you’re shopping for a new car, chances are good that fuel economy is a major concern, and may even be the reason why you’re looking for a new car in the first place.
Below is a list of the top ten most fuel efficient vehicles, excluding hybrids, according to the U.S. government. Why am I eliminating hybrids from consideration? They’re (usually) more expensive to purchase and with a few exceptions (like Toyota’s Prius) depreciate at a higher rate than gasoline fueled cars. They’re also inherently more complicated, with more potential points of failure than a conventional, gas or diesel fueled car. Read on to see which cars make the cut.
Tie: VW Golf TDI, Jetta TDI, Jetta Sportwagen TDI, Audi A3 TDI
Volkswagen and Audi are two of the few automakers who understand that America is the land of opportunity for clean, fuel efficient diesels. All of these cars get 42 MPG on the highway and 30 MPG around town, and demand for them remains high. In other words, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a good deal on one, and paying sticker price is the norm. The best part? These cars are actually entertaining to drive, something I really can’t say about their hybrid counterparts.
Tie: Hyundai Elantra, Ford Fiesta SFE
Both the Hyundai and the Ford get 40 MPG on the highway and 29 MPG around town, but I’d give the nod to the Hyundai for interior room and comfort.
Chevy Cruze Eco
If you need justification to learn how to drive a manual transmission, here it is: the Chevy Cruze Eco gets 42 MPG highway and 28 MPG city when equipped with a stick; the automatic gets 37 MPG highway and 26 MPG city. If fuel savings is your primary concern, wouldn’t you opt for the variant that gets the best fuel economy?
Equipped with a manual transmission, the Mini Cooper gets 37 MPG highway and 29 MPG city; with the automatic, those numbers drop to 36 MPG highway and 28 MPG city.
The Yaris is rated at 36 MPG highway and 29 MPG city. Funky styling aside, the car is a cult classic in the Japanese market, where tuned variants are as common as sushi bars. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan has temporarily halted Yaris production, so U.S. inventory may be limited for a while. Expect to pay sticker or above until the supply increases.
The Elantra’s bigger brother gets 35 MPG highway and 24 MPG city when equipped with the 2.4 liter inline four and a manual transmission. Automatic-equipped cars still get a respectable 35 MPG highway and 22 MPG city.