- Jun 13, 2010
EPA's Top Fuel Efficient Cars, 1984-2010
Fuel Economy: 49 mpg City | 61 mpg HwyBeating the Toyota Prius by almost a year, the Honda Insight is recognized as the first widely-available hybrid car in America. It went on sale in late 1999 and looked like absolutely nothing else on the road. Rear wheel spats and two seats did not make for the easiest sell on dealer lots, but those who bought 'em loved 'em. Insight fans from this first generation still believe that the 2000-2006 cars are better than the modern-day version that Honda sells today.
Fuel Economy: 51 mpg City | 48 mpg HwyThe Toyota Prius is completely redesigned for 2010, with fresh exterior and interior styling, more cabin room, and upgraded standard and optional equipment. A larger 1.8-liter engine with three selectable drive modes debuts, providing more power without compromising fuel efficiency, while safety is enhanced with a new driver's knee airbag and standard vehicle stability control for all trim levels. Additionally, the available moonroof now boasts solar panels that power a new ventilation system, allowing remote air conditioning so that the driver can cool the interior before getting into the vehicle.
Fuel Economy: 44 mpg City | 53 mpg HwyIt's hard to believe today but there were still cars with carbureted engines sold into the late 1980s. Even so, the Chevrolet Sprint, which shared its platform with a lot of vehicles on this list, was incredibly efficient in its "ER" trim, although creature comforts were not among its selling points. A 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine (with an upshift light to tell drivers when to shift), manual transmission and 12 inch tires didn't play into the vehicle's curb appeal, but the combined 48 MPG certainly turned heads.
Fuel Economy: 43 mpg City | 52 mpg HwyGM's most fuel efficient car might end up being the Chevy Volt, but until that time the Sprint and the above Geo Metro really take the honors. Like the Sprint, the Metro had a three-cylinder engine on a very, very small frame. The XFi was even stingier on fuel than the standard Metros, featuring a low curb weight (close to 1600 lbs, lighter than any car sold in America today), no passenger side mirror, no air conditioning, a taller gear ratio and a three-cylinder engine with an even lower horsepower rating (49!).
Fuel Economy: 42 mpg City | 51 mpg HwyThe CRX was one of the most celebrated hatchback's in Honda's stellar product history, but the special high-efficiency "HF" version (for "High Fuel") takes the cake as the leanest of all. Its 1.5-liter four-cylinder pumped out only 58 HP, but with a curb weight of 1713 lbs, it didn't need much. Among all the cars on our list, the CRX HF is likely the best compromised between efficiency and driving.
Fuel Economy: 39 mpg City | 50 mpg HwyThe mid 1990s established the Honda Civic as the preeminent city car. Commuters bought them in droves and tuners found them equally as attractive, but for much different reasons. The 1994-1995 VX hatchback was the most efficient of the lot, with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder mated to a 5-speed manual. Power was rated at 92 horsepower, which was pretty impressive given the 43 MPG combined fuel economy number.
Fuel Economy: 40 mpg City | 45 mpg Hwy
The Civic Hybrid is the flagship example of Honda's hybrid technology in an efficient practical package. It is based off the regular gas-powered Civic that has been a best seller in the compact car market for years.The Civic Hybrid is only available in a sedan model. It is powered by a 1.3-liter four-cylinder gas engine and a light-weight, brushless electric motor that is sandwiched between the engine and the CVT transmission. Combined, the gas engine and electric motor produce 110 horsepower and close to 45 mpg on the highway. Standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, six airbags, tire pressure monitoring system and active front head restraints.
Fuel Economy: 40 mpg City | 43 mpg Hwy
The 2010 Honda Insight has returned to the showroom for the first time since the 2006 model year. The Insight is now a more practical four-door, five-passenger hatchback compared to the first generation two-seater.The Insight is powered by Honda's Integrated Motor Assist system, which is a combination of a 1.3-liter gas engine and a 13-hp electric motor, all attached to a continuously variable transmission. The engine and motor combined generate 98-hp and 123-lb.ft of torque, and provide 40-plus mpg fuel economy. The LX trim offers six airbags, anti-lock brakes, automatic climate control, power windows, locks and mirrors, keyless entry and a four-speaker CD audio system with an auxiliary input. The EX trim adds electronic stability control, alloy wheels, cruise control, six-speaker audio system with USB interface, heated exterior mirrors and steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. A voice activated navigation system is available on the EX trim, and includes Bluetooth for hands-free cell phone use.
Fuel Economy: 42 mpg City | 41 mpg HwyThe original Toyota Prius, unlike the Insight that debuted around the same time, became more popular because of its traditional seating arrangement. It could seat five (snugly) because it was more or less a standard sedan. Cargo space was limited due to the battery pack, but buyers didn't seem to mind. Mileage was not dramatically more than other vehicles of the time, but the driving experience was unlike any other on the road.
Fuel Economy: 38 mpg City | 45 mpg Hwy
1989 Chevrolet Sprint ER: The 1989 Sprint is different from the other model on our list because it represents the second generation vehicle, which became slightly larger and heavier, although still incredibly efficient due to its tiny engine. Being small and light, the Sprint and other vehicles in the platform didn't receive high crash scores. In fact, front impact testing showed a high likelihood for a driver and passenger thigh injury.
1989 Suzuki Swift: The Swift and Sprint tie not only because they had the same score, but they are virtually the same car. The Swift was offered with slightly different options, but looked virtually identical both inside and out.