By Brian Moody
There are two primary reasons behind getting a small car. First, they’re affordable. Second, they often get the best miles per gallon. Arguably, those two are related since great mpg is going to save some money. Sure, there are other reasons — small cars are easy to park, small/high mpg cars burn less fuel and therefore pollute less and some small cars are more fun to drive than big sedans or SUVs. Whatever your reason for wanting a small car, here are nine small cars with the best fuel economy.
We’re not including cars that have a plug but we are using the “combined” Environmental Protection Agency estimate, which takes into account both city and highway driving. As it turns out, the top mpg cars are hybrids — cars that don’t need to be plugged in but use a small onboard battery combined with an electric motor and a traditional gasoline-powered engine. Since hybrids are typically more expensive than gasoline-only powered cars, we included four high-mileage gasoline-only powered cars, too.
1. Hyundai Ioniq – 58 mpg
The Ioniq is a hybrid that doesn’t look like a typical hybrid. The Ioniq also gets a remarkable 58 mpg in combined city and highway driving, topping even the very UN-thirsty Toyota Prius Eco. In addition, the Ioniq has a 100,000 mile powertrain warranty, low starting price — about $24,000 — and has decent standard features. Included with the base Ioniq Blue are features like proximity key entry and push-button start as well as an 8-in color touchscreen with Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.53% CarPlay and Android Auto. It also includes safety features like a rearview camera, forward-collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist and a driver-attention monitor. The Hyundai /zigman2/quotes/204364212/composite HYMTF +3.98% Ioniq is available as an all-electric car as well as a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid. At this point, the Ioniq is the small car with the best mpg.
2. Toyota Prius L Eco – 56 mpg
Toyota /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM +0.45% has made a name for itself when it comes to fuel-efficient hybrids. In fact, you could argue that none of the other hybrids on our list would even exist if not for the popularity of the Toyota Prius. If you’ve seen fancy Prius models with a large touchscreen, all-wheel drive, leather seats and a 10-speaker JBL sound system, the L Eco version isn’t one of those. Instead, it’s more basic transportation with a generous amount of safety features and cloth seats. You do get 15-in wheels, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking as well as lane-keeping assist. Like the Ioniq, the base price is roughly $24,000.
3. Toyota Corolla Hybrid – 52 mpg
Two Toyotas on a list of fuel-efficient cars? Shocking. Well, not really — a bunch of mpgs is kind of a Toyota small car thing. Of all the cars on the list, the Corolla and Ioniq are probably the most “normal” in terms of how they look and drive. The hybrid version of the Corolla is the most fun to drive compared to any Corolla in recent years. Starting price for a Corolla LE Hybrid? You guessed it: about $24,000. Coincidentally, the larger, more spacious and more expensive Camry Hybrid in LE trim also gets a combined EPA estimate of 52 mpg.
4. Honda Insight – 52 mpg
Honda’s /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC +0.88% Insight is, essentially, a baby Accord Hybrid. We don’t mean it’s mechanically similar but the look, feel and overall attitude of the Insight is exactly like a junior-sized Honda Accord. The Accord is available as a hybrid but that car is more expensive. It’s also larger and has a more comfortable interior. Also, the Insight gets an EPA estimate of 4 mpg better than the Accord Hybrid in combined city and highway driving. The Insight is a little less expensive than some of the other hybrids on our list with a starting price of $22,930.
5. Kia Niro – 50 mpg
The Kia Niro LX model is the base version and it’s the one that gets the best fuel economy. However, we really like the LXS, which adds a few comfort and safety features like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob and push-button start. On the safety front, you get forward-collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic assist. The mpg penalty for picking the LXS over the LX is one mpg in combined city and highway driving. The LXS also cost about $1,400 more.
Also see: The 10 best new car models of 2020
Because of the cost and personal preference, not everyone will be happy with a hybrid. Some have an unusual feel when driving compared to a normal gasoline-powered car and they are typically more expensive. For example, a new 2020 Toyota Corolla LE costs about $20,000 while the hybrid is roughly $3,000 more. This price won’t transfer directly when looking for a used hybrid but cars like the Prius and Corolla hybrid can certainly command a premium whether new or used. To make it make sense for you and your commute, you might have to do a little math and figure the fuel cost-saving in relation to the additional price of the hybrid car.
6. Honda Civic – 36 mpg
The Civic is a car many people buy just because it kind of does everything well. It’s fun to drive, good-looking, has expected features and is both affordable and reliable. The 36 mpg is nice to have but we suspect Civic buyers are more or equally concerned with other things.
7. Nissan Versa – 35 mpg
If you’re opposed to driving a hybrid, here’s where that thinking starts to break down. Yes, the /zigman2/quotes/207656007/composite NSANY -0.10% ersa has an EPA combined rating of 35 mpg, which is pretty good. However, the Versa just isn’t much fun to drive. Hybrids feel quicker from a stop because the electric motor that’s used to get amazing mpg also gets the car moving and up to speed quicker than most other small cars. However, the Versa makes up for that with an interior that feels a notch or two above other economy cars and has a fairly low price — about $15,000. It’s $18,000 if you want some decent comfort and convenience features like Apple CarPlay, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and a touchscreen.
8. Nissan Sentra — 33 mpg
The Nissan Sentra is a compact sedan and it (along with the Civic) are probably the best you can do when it comes to non-hybrid fuel-sippers. There’s very little compromise in terms of everyday comfort and usability but you still get better-than-average fuel economy. The Sentra S starts at about $20,000 but for less than $300 more, you can upgrade to the Sentra SV, which includes comfort and convenience features like more color choices, Apple CarPlay, two USB ports (one is USB-C), steering wheel-mounted audio controls and satellite radio.
9. Mazda MX-5 Miata — 30 mpg
There are other non-hybrid cars with better fuel economy than the Mazda MX-5 Miata but we added the Mazda /zigman2/quotes/206326885/composite MZDAY +1.80% just to prove you can enjoy what you drive and still use relatively little fuel. The Miata is a small two-door, convertible sports car and gets an EPA estimate of 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. That’s really good for a car that’s as much fun to drive as the MX-5 Miata. The mechanically similar FIAT 124 Spider gets the same 30 mpg overall estimate. One negative: The Miata and FIAT both use premium fuel.
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com .