Affordable Fuel Efficient Cars

Check out these 30 affordable, fuel efficient cars that get 30 mpg or better.
By John Rockhold
December 2006/January 2007
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Front: “Absolutely Red” Toyota Yaris hatchback; 34/39 mpg for $12,570. Back: “Pacific Blue Metallic” Yaris sedan; 34/39 mpg for $13,270.
Photo by Matthew T. Stallbaumer

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Fuel economy is back and better than ever. Among the new cars, there are improved perennial standouts, a growing number of hybrids and a crop of small but affordable, fuel-efficient cars. Of course, much more progress needs to be made with energy-efficient vehicles and sustainable fuels, but fuel economy is finally in focus for automakers, and the 2006 and 2007 lineups show that we’re moving in the right direction.

Perhaps most exciting are three new cars that are small but practical, fun but not funky, and fuel-efficient without high price tags: the Honda Fit, the Nissan Versa and the Toyota Yaris. Their prices range from about $12,000 to $16,000; their miles per gallon stats reach into the high 30s. Then there are the longtime favorites for reliability and fuel economy — the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla — which are as good as ever, if not better. Ditto for the best-selling hybrid Toyota Prius; in its wake automakers are improving hybrids and developing new models. Honda put new spark into its Civic Hybrid, and Toyota hybridized the best-selling family car in America, the Camry. Both have earned rave reviews.

The road ahead also looks bright: The 60-mpg Smart car that’s popular overseas will finally be available in the United States in 2008, perhaps even in an all-electric version; Honda is at work on an all-new hybrid that it says will be affordable and family-friendly; Mitsubishi says it will bring an all-electric car to the United States in the near future; many of the major automakers are working on plug-in hybrids; and Tesla Motors and other small start-up companies are proving that all-electric cars are not only possible, but feasible — if they can build them, you know the major automakers can.

We’ve also had more good news in the sharp decline of gas prices over the late summer and early fall of 2006, when average costs at the pump fell nearly 40 cents per gallon. But unfortunately we remain in an unsustainable equation over the long term, with rapidly rising demand pitted against rapidly declining supply. Tight supply and demand also creates a fragile foundation for gas prices over the short term — the slightest disruption could send prices back toward $3.00 a gallon and beyond. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 2007 world oil prices will be at best only slightly less than in 2006. The DOE also projects 2007 U.S. gasoline prices will average $2.51.

Fuel-efficient Car Buyer’s Guide

To help you prepare for whatever the future brings, you’ll find information about the best of the best 2006 and 2007 vehicles on our Fuel Efficient Cars chart. There are 30 models, and each has a combined fuel economy rating of at least 30 mpg. Other data listed in the chart includes price, annual fuel cost and scores that reflect the cars’ impacts on air pollution and global warming. And to give you a sense of how these cars handle and feel on the road, there are drive scores and comments from Todd Kaho, senior editor of Green Car Journal, who has the enviable job of driving green cars for a living.

Choosing the “greenest” vehicle for your needs is an important — and empowering — decision. Whether it’s eschewing a car for a bike and/or public transportation; picking a small, gas-sipping car for your daily commute; or trading in the gas-gulping SUV for an efficient sedan or minivan that still has room for the whole family, going green can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars a year at the pump. You’ll also make a significant difference for the environment, and be a powerful force for positive change.

Quick Reviews

We've taken a look at the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, and Nissan Versa, and would like to offer our impressions.

Toyota Yaris Review
Honda Fit Review
Nissan Versa Review 

Key Data

Price: the manufacturer’s suggested retail price; pricing may vary based on your region.
Source: respective automakers and Kelley Blue Book

EPA mpg City: average estimate for city driving; actual mileage will vary with driving conditions and habits

EPA mpg Highway: average estimate for highway driving; actual mileage will vary with driving conditions and habits

Annual Fuel Cost: assumes 15,000 miles driven, ratio of 55% city, 45% highway; gasoline cost of $2.50/gallon, premium fuel $2.60/gallon, $1.45 compressed natural gas per equivalent gas gallon.

Air Pollution Score: reflects the amount of pollutants from the vehicle that cause smog and health problems; scores range from zero to 10, with 10 the best.
Source: EPA Green Vehicle Guide

Greenhouse Gas Score: reflects the amount of carbon dioxide emissions (a greenhouse gas that causes global warming) from the vehicle; scores range from zero to 10, with 10 the best.
Source: EPA Green Vehicle Guide

Drive Score: reflects how it feels to drive and ride in the vehicle; scores range from zero to five steering wheels, with five the best.
Source: Todd Kaho, Green Car Journal senior editor

For More Information

Green car news and ratings:


Reliability and safety ratings:
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
JD Power

Reviews, prices and buying tips:
Kelly Blue Book

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