This article was last updated by Digital Trends contributor Kristen Hall-Geisler on 5/7/2020.
When you buy a new car, the sticker price can be a shock. But, when you consider the cost of filling a car with gas and paying for regular maintenance, the price of a car goes up significantly. However, if you buy a car that gets good gas mileage, you can save some of your hard-earned money.
The best gas mileage cars come in all sizes and shapes. Some are compact and zippy, while others are trucks and SUVs with robust engines.
The best car with great gas mileage: Honda Fit
Why should you buy this: The Fit delivers impressive fuel economy without sacrificing practicality.
Miles per gallon: 36 mpg
How much will it cost: $16,190+
Why we picked the Honda Fit:
Good fuel economy doesn’t mean anything if a car can’t work as a practical daily driver. Thankfully, the Honda Fit manages to pack impressive fuel efficiency, a surprising amount of cargo space, and decently fun driving experience into a small package. The EPA rates it at 36 mpg in a combined cycle when it’s ordered with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), though note selecting the six-speed stick lowers that figure slightly to 31.
But while other vehicles sacrifice creature comforts and driving pleasure to save a little fuel, the Fit really is a complete car. Its folding Magic Seat layout frees up plenty of cargo space, and interior volume is generous at 95.7 cubic feet. The Fit is also reliable and nice to drive, exhibiting the peppiness small Hondas are known for.
Base models are relatively basic, they settle for a 5.0-inch infotainment screen and a four-speaker sound system, but upmarket variants benefit from electronic driving aids, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, a 7.0-inch touchscreen for the infotainment, and a six-speaker stereo while staying under the $20,000 mark.
The best sedan with great gas mileage: Toyota Camry
Why should you buy this: You want efficiency without sacrificing comfort and value
Miles per gallon: 52 mpg
How much will it cost: $24,425+
Why we picked the Toyota Camry:
The Toyota Camry enjoys a decades-long reputation for comfort and dependability. The current-generation model is no exception, but it also offers a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain that earned it the distinction of being the first mid-size sedan to score above 50 mpg. It’s rated at 51 mpg in the city, 53 mpg on the highway, and 52 in a combined cycle, which puts it within a stone’s throw of the Prius, fuel efficiency’s own poster child.
Even the non-hybrid model is spectacularly efficient. The entry-level model offers a 203-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 29, 41, and 34 mpg, respectively, while the top-spec TRD puts 301 hp under the driver’s right foot thanks to a 3.5-liter V6. The 100-horse increase reduces the aforementioned figures to 22, 31, and 25, respectively, but those numbers are admirable in a 3,572-pound four-door with hot hatch-like power.
Regardless of which engine you choose, the Camry offers a lot for not much. It comes standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, ten airbags to keep you and yours safe, a full suite of safety-enhancing electronic driving aids (like pedestrian detection), and hill-start assist.
The best hybrid with great gas mileage: Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
Why should you buy this: You want to spend less time filling up.
Miles per gallon: 58 mpg
How much will it cost: $23,200+
Why we picked the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid:
I know what you’re thinking: isn’t a hybrid supposed to get great fuel mileage? You’re right, but the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid does it better than the rest, and the cheapest configuration is also the most efficient. It returns 57 mpg in the city, 59 mpg on the highway, and 58 mpg in a combined cycle in its Blue trim. Hyundai achieved this by making it relatively basic; it’s not available with a sunroof, heated front seats, leather, or a rear cargo cover.
If basic isn’t for you, rest assured the Ioniq Hybrid is efficient no matter how it’s configured. The range-topping Limited that’s loaded to the gills with rear-seat HVAC vents, leather, a 10.25-inch screen for the infotainment system, and an eight-speaker sound system returns 55, 54, and 55, respectively.
Every Ioniq regardless of trim level gets a 139-horsepower hybrid system made up of a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor linked to a small battery pack. Look no further if your goal is to spend less time filling up without having to worry about driving range or finding a charging station.
The best truck with great gas mileage: Chevrolet Colorado Duramax
Why should you buy this: You need a truck that won’t break the bank.
Miles per gallon: 23 mpg
How much will it cost: $37,710+
Why we picked the Chevrolet Colorado Duramax:
The current-generation Chevy Colorado (and its GMC Canyon twin) is a game-changer when it comes to pickup trucks. It not only revitalized the mid-size pickup truck segment, which grew significantly in 2019, it also introduced diesel power in the form of General Motors’ 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder engine.
Why is a diesel truck a good thing? Because a diesel engine can return great fuel economy while still delivering the low-end grunt that trucks need. The Colorado’s engine boasts 369 pound-feet of torque (along with 181 horsepower), allowing it to tow up to 7,700 pounds. But the Colorado also achieves an EPA-rated 23 mpg combined (20 mpg city, 30 mpg highway) with rear-wheel drive, or 22 mpg combined (19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway) with four-wheel drive.
Aside from its overachieving diesel powertrain (Chevy offers two gasoline options as well), the Colorado is simply a nice truck. It rides well on the road and offers a decent array of tech features, including a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. Chevy also introduced the Colorado ZR2 performance model, which adds impressive off-road capabilities, albeit at the expense of fuel efficiency.
The best luxury car with great gas mileage: Audi A4
Why should you buy this: You want a car that’s frugal, classy, and comfortable.
Miles per gallon: 30 mpg
How much will it cost: $37,400+
Why we picked the Audi A4:
In its most basic configuration, the Audi A4 returns 30 mpg in a combined cycle, 27 mpg in the city, and 34 mpg on the highway. Achieving those figures requires front-wheel drive, Audi’s time-tested Quattro all-wheel-drive system inevitably lowers efficiency. But even with power going to two wheels, the A4 is one of the most tech-savvy small luxury sedans around.
It comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a digital instrument cluster called Virtual Cockpit in Audi-speak. It replaces the analog gauges with a configurable screen that puts more information right in the driver’s line of sight.
Power comes from a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 188 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. While it’s efficient, it’s certainly no slouch. And, a well-tuned chassis helps the driver make the most of the turbo four’s power. All of this hardware is wrapped in a sharp, elegant design. Like every Audi, the A4 is gifted with an interior that’s both nice to look at and nice to sit in. Digital Trends drove it and walked away impressed by the quality of the materials used inside.
The best sports car with great gas mileage: Fiat 124 Spider
Why should you buy this: It’s a fun car that also sips fuel.
Miles per gallon: 30 mpg
How much will it cost: $25,440+
Why we picked the Fiat 124 Spider:
The Mazda MX-5 Miata was already a great sports car, but Fiat took its basic platform and added some Italian flair. Inspired by a classic, Pininfarina-designed Fiat model from the 1960s, the 124 Spider also offers comparable fuel economy to its Mazda sibling.
The 124 Spider gets an EPA-rated 30 mpg combined (26 mpg city, 35 mpg highway) with Fiat’s own 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission. With the optional six-speed auto, the car returns 29 mpg combined (25 mpg city, 36 mpg highway).
Fiat wanted to make the connection to the original 124 Spider as unique as possible, so it adorned the modern-day version with retro bodywork that gives it a dash of extra charm, and it developed a sportier Abarth version. As with the Miata, the 124 Spider’s low weight and nimble handling give it a pure driving feel that’s missing from most other modern cars. This little Fiat is perfect for a weekend drive on your favorite stretch of twisty road.
The best SUV/crossover with great gas mileage: Mazda CX-3
Why should you buy this: It’s SUV-like without any of the SUV drawbacks.
Miles per gallon: 31 mpg
How much will it cost: $20,640+
Why we picked the Mazda CX-3:
The CX-3 is part of a relatively new crop of subcompact crossovers that combine the tall, relatively boxy body and available all-wheel drive of a traditional SUV with the footprint of a small hatchback. Attractive styling, an eager engine, and a well-tuned chassis make the CX-3 one of the very best.
The advantages of a vehicle like this are demonstrated by the CX-3’s EPA-rated fuel economy of 31 mpg combined (29 mpg city, 34 mpg highway) with front-wheel drive, and 29 mpg combined (27 mpg city, 32 mpg highway) with all-wheel drive. It may be marketed as a crossover, but the CX-3 is still a small car, and its fuel economy figures reflect that well.
While Mazda isn’t the only manufacturer selling a subcompact crossover, the CX-3’s sharp handling and its peppy 2.0-liter four-cylinder put most of the competition to shame. Like other current Mazdas, the CX-3 also features a well-crafted interior that has the look and feel of something from a more upscale brand.
Read our full Mazda CX-3 review
How we test
The Digital Trends automotive team tests vehicles through a comprehensive scrutinizing process. We examine the qualities of the exterior and interior and judge them based on our expertise and experience in the context of the vehicle’s category and price range. Entertainment technology is thoroughly tested as well as most safety features that can be tested in controlled environments.
Test drivers spend extensive time behind the wheel of the vehicles, conducting real-world testing, driving them on highways, back roads, as well as off-road and race tracks when applicable.
Tips for fuel-efficient driving
Buying a fuel-efficient car is a good place to start, but a car is only as good as its driver. Numerous factors can affect real-world fuel economy. Some of them — like traffic congestion and topography — are out of your control, but there is still a lot you can do to maximize mpg. Here are some examples.
Driving behavior: The way you drive has a big impact on fuel economy. Try to be as smooth as possible, and avoiding hard acceleration or aggressive braking. The idea is to do as much as possible with the momentum you have, so the engine doesn’t have to work as hard. Coasting, when possible, helps too.
Vehicle controls: Turning down the air conditioning can help boost fuel economy, not to mention free up power used to run the A/C compressor in most cars. Using cruise control when appropriate is also a good idea, as it keeps the car going at a consistent rate that avoids excess throttle use.
Eco mode: Many modern cars have some form of “eco” mode meant to improve efficiency. This is usually accomplished by dulling throttle response, although some systems also affect things like transmission shift strategy and climate control. These modes usually make the car appreciably worse to drive, but might be an option worth considering for the cost-conscious.