What are the 5 most fuel efficient cars available for sale in the USA? Or, to put that another way, which cars that are currently available give you the most bang for the buck? (Crude and cheap, yes, but I’m American.)
Rather than focus just on vehicles powered by gasoline/diesel or just focus on vehicles that excel in overall energy efficiency, I’m creating a two-article series to explore the differences in energy/fuel use between vehicles of different types.
In other words, I’m going to create one article focused specifically on the efficient use of liquid fuels (this article)) and one focused specifically on the efficient use of stored electricity (plug-in electric vehicles). Then I’ll do a wrap-up look at the most efficient cars of any power source (gasoline/diesel fuels or stored electricity).
One more thing to note before moving on to the lists and summaries, though: If your chief aim is to cut fuel costs and get the most car you can for the best price, something to remember is that “fueling” on electricity can be much cheaper than fueling with gas. So, the upfront price of the cars isn’t necessarily the best comparison for long-term savings. An attempt at total cost of ownership (TCO) should be attempted if that’s your target focus.
Here we go….
Most Fuel Efficient (Most Gas Efficient) Cars Available In The USA
This will relate solely to performance when relying entirely upon the gasoline/petrol system, with no input from plug-in hybrid battery systems (stored electricity). With some battery charge in use, efficiency in many models would be greatly improved, of course, but that’s not what I’m comparing here. This approach will provide information possibly useful to those who don’t have regular access to charging facilities, but still would like to be able to charge occasionally while otherwise driving a very fuel efficient car. (Obviously, in hybrids, some battery charge is frequently used, but this is very limited and mostly serves in relation to regenerative braking, and it is a different matter than using large amounts of stored electricity.)
2018 Hyundai Ioniq Blue (Hybrid) — 58 MPG Combined
The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Blue is effectively the most fuel efficient car available for purchase in the US as of right now. The “Blue” trim is the cheapest trim of the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid now available, despite possessing the best fuel efficiency. It starts at around $22,000.
The model possesses a combined US EPA fuel efficiency rating of 58 miles per gallon (MPG), having achieved a US EPA highway fuel efficiency rating of 57 MPG and a US EPA city fuel efficiency rating of 59 MPG.
The model’s impressive fuel efficiency is mostly down to a low weight, a very impressive drag coefficient of just 0.24, and the jettisoning of old tech (the model utilizes a low-weight 12V auxiliary battery rather than a heavy lead one, for instance).
The model’s regenerative braking and hybrid capacities are supported by a 1.56 kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium polymer battery pack.
2018 Toyota Prius Eco Hybrid — 56 MPG Combined
Next up we have the 2018 Toyota Prius Eco Hybrid, which possesses a combined US EPA fuel efficiency rating of 55 MPG, having achieved a US EPA city fuel efficiency rating of 58 MPG and a US EPA highway fuel efficiency rating of 53 MPG.
Starting prices for the 2018 Toyota Prius Eco Hybrid begin at $26,165 — quite a bit higher than prices for the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Blue Hybrid despite possessing a lower fuel efficiency.
Fuel efficiency isn’t everything, of course, but those who value it above all else will likely want to take a closer look at the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, a model that reportedly moves more like a “normal” car than Toyota’s Prius models are generally considered to move. This might owe to the use of a very different type of transmission.
2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid — 55 MPG Combined
In third we have the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid (every trim except “Blue”), with pricing starting at $23,950. The Ioniq Hybrid was granted a US EPA fuel efficiency rating of 55 MPG combined, relating to a highway rating of 54 MPG and a city rating of 55 MPG.
Overall, unless you need the luxury and connectivity features that accompany higher trims, it probably makes a good deal more sense to go with the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Blue than with the other trims.
2017 Toyota Prius Prime — 54 MPG Combined (With PHEV System Factored In: 133 MPGe)
In fourth place we have the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime. Despite being a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) that is heavier (larger battery + charging system), it still managed to achieve a US EPA fuel efficiency rating (relating to gas/petrol-only use, on an empty battery pack) of 54 MPG combined.
While the PHEV performance doesn’t matter much in the context of this particular list, I’ll go ahead and note here that when the PHEV system is brought into play (e.g. when there’s a charge of some kind in the battery pack), the model manages to achieve a fuel efficiency equivalent of 133 miles per gallon (MPGe), according to the EPA.
Starting price on the prime (before the $4,500 tax credit it qualifies for) is $27,100.
2018 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV – 52 MPG Combined (With PHEV System Factored In: 119 MPGe)
In fifth place we have the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV, which manages to achieve a US EPA fuel efficiency rating of 52 MPG when the battery pack is fully depleted — despite being designed so as to rely on said battery pack much of the time.
Rather than rehash earlier points made in the section on the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Blue, I’ll simply note here that the PHEV version of the Ioniq can also be used in all-electric mode, where it achieves a 119 MPGe fuel efficiency rating from the US EPA and possesses an all-electric range of 29 miles (provided by a 8.9 kWh battery pack).
As one can see, if you want a car that’s highly fuel efficient, then Hyundai and Toyota pretty much own the field.
If we were to go further down the list, the names would diversify somewhat. The top 10 most fuel efficient cars are currently:
- Hyundai Ioniq Blue (Hybrid) — 58 MPG
- Toyota Prius Eco Hybrid — 56 MPG
- Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid — 55 MPG
- Toyota Prius Prime — 54 MPG
- Hyundai Ioniq PHEV – 52 MPG
- Toyota Camry Hybrid LE — 52 MPG
- Kia Niro PHEV — 46 MPG
- Toyota Prius c — 46 MPG
- Chevy Volt PHEV — 42 MPG
- Honda Clarity PHEV — 42 MPG
- Kia Optima PHEV — 40 MPG
Check out the next article in this two-part examination — “Most Energy Efficient Plug-In Vehicles Available In The USA.”
Also, compare dozens of electric cars in our electric car buying guide.