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Cheapest Fuel Efficient Cars: Fit Is Go!

Posted By Jim On 08/14/2008 @ 12:01 pm In Cars | 23 Comments

I’m surprised it took this long for someone to produce a list of the top ten cars in price per miles per gallon but Consumer Reports finally came through. We all know that hybrid vehicles are great fuel efficient cars but we also know that there is a waiting list for the Prius, hybrid vehicles are expensive (with many of the hybrid vehicle tax breaks expiring [3]), and take nearly a decade to break-even on gas prices. It turns out that the most fuel efficient car, dollar for dollar in price, is the manual transmission Honda Fit Sport at $464 per MPG, edging out its base-model non-sport sibling and the base Toyota Prius.

Here are some thoughts I had about the list:

  • If you’re trying to do any break-even comparisons between cars, you can use this list to help you. Look for a pricier car with a higher MPG and you can calculate the break-even versus a cheaper car. For example, the $23,780 Toyota Prius with 44 MPG will catch up to the Mazda3i ($17,290, 30 MPG) in terms of base cost + fuel when the odometer hits ~152,978 miles at $4/gallon gasoline. That’s a lot of miles huh?
  • Four Hondas are on the list, including the Fit and Fit Sport taking the top spot. Three Toyotas (Scion is a subsidiary of Toyota) are on the list along with a Hyundai, Nissan, and the lone “American” car the Mazda3 (Mazda has Japanese origins but is now a Ford brand, hence the quotes).
  • I’m surprised to see only three manual vehicles on the list because manuals often get great fuel mileage and because manual transmissions vehicles are usually cheaper than the automatic ones, usually resulting in lower vehicle costs. A great frugal tip on cars is that you can save a few hundred dollars to a grand on a car if you buy a manual.
  • I’m not surprised to see that these are all small vehicles (you could argue that the Fit is smaller than small).
  • The difference between #1 (Honda Fit Sport) and #10 (Scion tC) in price per MPG is pretty significant – $194 per MPG.

Full table after the jump.

Model As tested Price Overall mpg Price per mpg
Honda Fit Sport (manual) $15,765 34 $464
Honda Fit (base) 15,245 32 476
Toyota Prius (base) 23,780 44 540
Mazda3 i (manual) 17,290 30 576
Toyota Prius Touring 24,803 42 591
Nissan Versa 1.8 SL 16,675 28 596
Honda Civic Hybrid 22,400 37 605
Honda Civic EX (manual) 18,810 31 607
Hyundai Elantra GLS 17,555 27 650
Scion tC (base) 17,115 26 658

In addition to being fuel efficient vehicles, every car on the list is “recommended” by Consumer Reports, meaning it meets their quality requirements, and is have strong owner-cost ratings so you can be assured you’re not going to face huge maintenance issues down the road. I think those are two very important considerations when buying a car but I’m not at all surprised CR took that into account.

Best fuel economy for the buck [4] [Consumer Reports]

(photo: chicanerii [5])

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[3] hybrid vehicle tax breaks expiring: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/2008-hybrid-tax-credit-update.html

[4] Best fuel economy for the buck: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/new-cars/cr-recommended/best-fuel-economy-for-the-buck/overview/best-fuel-economy-for-the-buck-ov.htm

[5] chicanerii: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chicanerii/873276937/sizes/m/

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