• Jun 11, 2010
Top Ten EPA-rated Fuel Sippers (1984 to present) – Click above for image gallery

Fuel efficiency has increased dramatically in the last decade, or at least that's what we've been told. So it might come as a surprise to find out that six of the Top Ten EPA-rated Fuel Sippers from 1984 to present were built prior to 2000. Don't believe it? We didn't either, but this info comes straight from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) website, the authoritative source on this fuel efficiency stuff.

While some current vehicles, such as the 2010 Toyota Prius, 2010 Honda Insight and the 2006-2010 Honda Civic Hybrid, garnered a spot on the top ten list, it's really older lightweight models like the 1986 Chevy Sprint ER or 1990-1994 Geo Metro XFI that make it obvious efficiency hasn't come as far as we'd like to think.

Overall, Honda holds top honors for automakers with five models present on the list, while Toyota's Prius made its mark twice. All of the vehicles on the list run with either 3- or 4-cylinder engines and five out of the top ten rely on hybrid motivation. The overall winner, the 2000 Honda Insight (pictured above), scores a combined rating of 53 miles per gallon, a number that exceeds even the modern-day Prius by three mpg.

In many cases, we've been mistakenly led to believe that buying a new car equates to increased efficiency, but this list clearly shows that many of the relics from days gone by can easily hold their own with the most efficient vehicles made today. However, finding a running example of some of these old fuel sippers may prove impossible and we'd venture to guess that many of them are far from safe to drive by today's standards. Check out all ten fuel sippers in our gallery below.



[Source: Environmental Protection Agency]


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 67 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Good to see the mid-80's CRX on this list! I had a white one till it was stolen, I always knew it was good on gas but not top 10 good. Lack of modern safety features aside, that car was fantastic. Happy to rev, great on gas and amazingly light and chuckable with uprated wheels/tires.

      Light, simple, cheap, fun and efficient... like the CRZ should have been.
      Marshall
      • 3 Years Ago
      I routinely get 41.9 mpg on the highway at 65 mph with my 1986 BMW 325e. As a professional mechanic, I was confident in my purchase of this vehicle for $925 from an eBay auction. At 26 years old, since its date of manufacture, one could very well say that I have recycled this vehicle, as most vehicles of this era have been in a scrapyard for a decade. By breathing new life into my ride, I have not only saved a mountain of money over the purchase of a new vehicle, but I have reduced the environmental impact on our planet, when the raw materials, extraction, refinement, and transportation of those materials to the manufacturing facility, transportation fuel for workers commuting to the facility, energy consumed during the manufacturing process at the facility, fuel required for distribution of new vehicles following manufacture, ect., are taken into consideration. If I saved $24,000 over the cost of a new Prius, and another thousand + on sales tax at my local motor vehicle administration, I will be able to purchase just shy of 6,500 gallons of gasoline (at current prices) with my new-found savings. When I plug this number into my cheap, second-hand calculator, and multiply by 41.9 (the number of miles I average per gallon) I get 273,350 miles. Fortunately, since I drive approximately 13,000 miles per year (on average) I can expect to drive this vehicle for another 21 years before my smile begins to fade. I will spare you the additional calculation of cost savings, when automobile insurance is considered. But, I think you get the picture. When one "weeds through" all of the hype of car manufacturers, environmentalists, politicians, stupid consumers, and the like, the bottom line is: It really does not pay to buy a new car every few years. My advice is to buy a well-made used automobile, and drive it until either you, or it, dies.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Oh, look at that--FIVE models which didn't need regenerative braking/direct injection/battery packs, blah, blah, blah...

      Just good old engineering. Hybrids...what a farce.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Congratulations, you posted the dumbest comment on this thread!

        You are comparing modern day hybrids with decade old econo-boxes that were not only much smaller and lighter, but didn't have to deal with more restrictive safety regulations.

        Compare today's gasoline hybrids with today's gasoline cars, come back and apologize.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If you put a real honda motor (something with VTEC) in the original Insight, you get a car that's still great on gas (like high 30s - low 40s) due it's VERY low drag, but fantastically fun to drive due to the low weight and short wheel base.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm glad I just picked up a 1990 CRX HF, I average 40 mpg tank after tank. With H&R OE Sport springs and Koni adjustable struts it's tons of fun. Bet you didn't know the HF motor is one of the only Honda engines that makes more TQ than HP! A stump-pulling 83 ft. lbs. @ 2200 rpm vs. 72 hp @ 4500 rpm. So slow it can't get out of it's own way, but give me some downhill twisties and all is forgiven.

      Oh, and original Insight + K20 = awesome. Observe:

      http://green.autoblog.com/2008/03/11/insight-de-hybridized-for-performance-still-returns-48-miles-pe/
      • 4 Years Ago
      This caught you off guard? I thought it was common knowledge. How old are you people at autoblog?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Shouldn't there be a VW Diesel in this list somewhere?
        • 4 Years Ago
        No; their mileage isn't good enough.
      • 4 Years Ago
      yes but the original Insight was ugly so therefore it loses 5 mpg.. looks like the Prius wins.. wait its ugly too, and so is number 3 and number 4, and number 5... see a pattern here?

      You know theres a problem with fuel efficient cars when they would all also land on the top 10 ugliest cars list too. Theres also a problem when the current gen Prius is the nicest looking car there, sure the current gen Civic is there and Insight but the Prius is the one i would put in my garage, if i got drunk... and was paid too...

      You know what just give me the Hybrid Ferrari 599 and i'll call it a day :)
        • 4 Years Ago
        @john H true true the Insight was an amazing technological feat when it came out, its areodynamics were brilliant, and hybrid system was way ahead of its time, but the looks are still just to quirky for many people.

        @idrent thats a good point i never thought of it that way

        @gellis38 im actually only 15 i dont drive yet i was just voicing my opinion that all these cars look horrible. I understand that they have ot appeal to the masses and they have to be conservative to get sales, and i understand that most of these cars came out before i was even born, but they were still gastly to look at, and the Ferrari 599 hybrid was a joke, and dont take me for a fool ive been naming car names and model on the road since i was three, i come from a family of gearheads.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I think it is more because if you see the size of the original insight and considering lot less govt regulations and standards which increase the weight of the cars these days the older Insight won.

        I still believe a small two door car with no back seats with decent trunk for day to day shopping with splendid mileage would sell like hotcakes for the daily use of americans. And more importantly it should not be a revolutionary new design and should look bland for common man to own it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Aww, no diesels on the list. Sad day for all the diesel pushers.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Kotse, which makes the entire list consist of ONLY Japanese cars.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Overall, Honda holds top honors for automakers with five models present on the list, while Toyota's Prius made its mark twice."

        Autoblog Staff, actually there is another automaker that made it to this EPA's TT Most Fuel Efficient Cars List and that is...Suzuki.

        The 1986 Chevrolet Sprint ER (City 44/Hwy 53/Combined 48) and the 1990-94 Geo Metro XFI (City 43/Hwy 52/Combined 47) are actually the 1st and 2nd gen Suzuki Cultus...otherwise more popularly known now as the Suzuki Swift.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzuki_Cultus
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Luis.. hahah well i try to be witty, thankfully it worked this time. Oh and im not sure what i said that was wrong.. it seems if i dont praise the cars i get voted down, but when i do praise the cars i stil get voted down.. kinda one sided isnt it?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Suraj: for being 15 your last comment made me laugh. our future looks good :)
        • 4 Years Ago
        Tell us what kind of auto you drive, Suraj?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Nevertheless, if the 1st Gen Insight had a small turbomotor powering the lightweight aero chassis, mileage wouldn't be any worse.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Errr, what about EV1?
      • 4 Years Ago
      people seem to be missing that this is based on their combined epa mpg. which is a horrible metric when comparing fuel efficiency for cars from different era's with different regulations.

      what is really need is some kind of metric that combines their mpg with the weight and power of the car. because along with the weights that have been going up since '84 power has also increased. most people seem to also miss that an increase in power with a similar mpg score is actually an increase in efficiency as well. car A is 100 hp,2600 lb and 25 mpg. Car B is 150 hp 3000 lbs and 25 mpg. car B is actually more efficient even thought the epa tested result for mpg is the same.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What this post fails to point out is that in Europe the average mpg is already in the mid thirties.

      Not a single vw diesel on the list? How is that possible? I've been averaging 45 mpg in my tdi (in mixed driving) for years and I have a heavy foot too.

      It won't win any beauty contests or any races, but it with 200 lbs of torque (it's chipped), it moves pretty quick, comfortable and fun to drive

      btw - the vw group has produced at least two cars in the past 10 years that made 78 us mpg (3.0 Liters per 100 kilometers = 78 us mpg)
      - Audi A2
      - VW Lupo 3L
        • 4 Years Ago
        This list is definitely not worth a look if you don't mention the 3l Lupo and the Audi A2's small diesel engine. I have done some research myself and have to add a few models that are on sale in europe that even get better mileage than the Prius (based on the european test cycle):

        smart fortwo 0.8cdi 3,3 l / 100km
        VW Polo 1.2TDI 3,3 l / 100km
        Opel Corsa 1.3 CDTI 3,7 l / 100km
        Seat Ibiza 1.4 TDI 3,7 l / 100km
        Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi 3,7 l / 100km
        Citroen C3 HDi 90 3,8 l / 100km

        I don't want to translate these figures in miles per gallon therefore I just give you the european rating for the modern days Prius which is like 3,9 l / 100km. Considering the fact that all of these are diesels you can also count in the CO2 emissions (significantly larger while burning diesel). Therefore the smart and the VW Polo would still have lower emissions (86g, 87g) then the Prius (89g).

        Considering the development of the mileage a VW Golf got back in the 90s (I myself drive an old '95 Mk3 with an 1.8l and only 75hp) and today, you'll find out that I can barely get below 8 l / 100km while todays best gasoline Mk 6 with the 1.2TSI engine and 105hp will give you 5.2l / 100km.

        Therefore the baseline can't be "old cars are more fuel efficient then newer ones". It is just that there was no demand in some parts of the world for fuel efficient technology like this.

        Over and out.
        • 4 Years Ago
        1) the european test cycle is different than the EPA test cycle in the US

        2) most european diesels wouldn't pass smog tests in the US

        3) many Americans love their SUVs and feel like they need 200 HP engines to be "safe"
      • 4 Years Ago
      It may be true that many of the more efficient cars are older just think of how they would sell today - the original Insight or the Metro - heck they were hardly a success back then - the Metro was a small and underpowered box on wheels and the Insight was a strange looking 2 seater - just about all of the impracticality of a sporty convertible and none of the fun or flash.

      The big breakthrough is that now there is a high mileage car that many want to drive - the Prius, the diesel VW's and to a lesser extent the new Insight. Add in new cars like the Cruise, Volt, Leaf and Fiesta and there are actually cars that get better than 40mpg that you would not feel ashamed to be seen in.
    • Load More Comments