10 Most Fuel-Efficient Cars, SUVs, and Trucks
Thriftiest models in Consumer Reports’ tests
Even when gas prices are low, fuel economy matters. After all, it has direct pocket-book impact every week. Choosing an efficient model for your next ride is a smart investment against inevitable price increases, and as Earth Day reminds, it is responsible stewardship of our planet’s natural resources.
Whatever your motivation, Consumer Reports has sifted through its extensive fuel economy test results to present the most efficient cars, SUVs, and trucks across 10 popular categories.
Rather than depend on EPA figures or manufacturer claims, Consumer Reports tests each vehicle it purchases with a precise fuel-flow measuring device spliced into the fuel line. We then run two separate circuits. One is on a public highway at a steady 65 mph. That course is run in both directions to counteract any terrain and wind effects.
A second is a simulated urban/suburban-driving test done at our track. It consists of predetermined acceleration and deceleration rates, as well as idle time. For electric cars, as noted below, we provide a comparable figure in MPGe, reflecting the energy consumption based on the equivalent energy those cars would have used if they ran on gasoline.
Loyal readers know that our results sometimes differ dramatically with the EPA simulation-based numbers. We think ours have more real-world correlation.
Hatchbacks: BMW i3
BMW’s electric car is a rear-wheel-drive, four-seat hatchback with rear-hinged back doors. The electric motor produces the equivalent of 170 hp, which makes this tall, narrow car feel quick. An optional two-cylinder engine, which acts as an onboard generator rather than a primary power source, extends the range beyond the electric-only 75 miles to about 130 miles total. Charge times are about 4 hours with a 240-volt connection. In our tests we measured the electric equivalent of 139 mpg. Despite its tall stance the i3 is very agile and easy to maneuver, though the ride is quite firm. It takes time to get used to the pronounced deceleration when lifting off the accelerator pedal.
Overall: 139 MPGe
City: 135 MPGe, Highway: 141 MPGe
Read our complete BMW i3 road test.
Subcompact: Mitsubishi Mirage
Its rock-bottom sticker price and thrifty fuel economy of 37 mpg overall conjures an inviting image of an economical runabout. But that mirage quickly dissipates when you drive this tiny, tinny car. Minor updates for 2017 bring a sedan body style, a hint more power, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, upgraded brakes, and improved handling. Yet those enhancements won’t mask the weak, vibrating three-cylinder engine that delivers sluggish acceleration and a raspy chorus of lament. While relatively roomy, the depressing cabin feels drab, cheap, and insubstantial. A further demerit is its Poor score in the IIHS small-overlap crash test. The Mirage is a weak contender among new small cars, and for the money, we would recommend sacrificing one or two mpg for a better-quality small car.
Overall: 37 mpg
City: 28 mpg, Highway: 47 mpg
Read our complete Mitsubishi Mirage road test.
Compact: Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
A little bigger than most compact sedans, the Jetta is a roomy, comfortable, and practical choice. The Jetta Hybrid’s engine is mated to a seven-speed, twin-clutch automated manual transmission, as well as an electric motor and lithium-ion battery. All of the drivetrain technology works together well. Starting on electric power, the hybrid motor eliminates the jerky low-speed behavior of other twin-clutch automatic transmissions. The hybrid system can propel the Jetta from a stop up to about 35 mph on battery power alone. A start/stop system shuts down the engine when stopped to save fuel. It restarts with just a slight shudder. The engine can also shut off in cruising situations, even on the highway, using only the battery power to maintain speeds. An E-Mode button on the console works to keep the car more frequently in battery-only mode for low-speed situations. The Jetta Hybrid requires premium fuel, which eats into some of the financial savings of owning a hybrid. (The diesel version is under investigation by the EPA for not complying with emissions regulations.)
Overall: 37 mpg
City: 29 mpg, Highway: 45 mpg
Read our complete Volkswagen Jetta road test.
Sporty: Mazda MX-5 Miata
Mazda modernized the classic roadster concept with the original Miata. Lighter and shorter than the diminutive original, the fourth-generation MX-5 remains true to the formula. Although 155 hp from the 2.0-liter four doesn’t sound impressive, the Miata quickly scoots along while returning a miserly 34 mpg overall. Shifting the delightfully accurate six-speed manual shifter is a joy; we’d skip the optional automatic, though it works fine. Quick and precise steering delivers sublime backroad handling, but high levels of noise, unsupportive seats, and a stiff ride all grow fatiguing during highway travel. Cabin space is snug, and the optional dial-controlled infotainment system takes time to master. Flipping open the convertible top is a breeze.
Overall: 34 mpg
City: 25 mpg, Highway: 42 mpg
Read our complete Mazda MX-5 Miata road test.
Midsized: Ford Fusion Hybrid
This sedan is a delight to drive, with a supple ride and handling rivaling that of a European sports sedan. All trim levels and powertrains feel solid and upscale, with a well-finished and quiet cabin, and comfortable seats. But the rear seat is somewhat snug, and the MyFord Touch interface is an annoyance (we encourage you to wait for the upgraded Sync3 system for 2017). Most Fusions get either a 1.5- or 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder matched with a six-speed automatic. The Hybrid’s powertrain is very impressive, with a 2.0-liter four teamed with an electric motor. The result is slick and refined, with the Hybrid squeezing out an eye-popping 39 mpg overall and 41 mpg on the highway using regular fuel. Its excellent performance ranks as one of the most-efficient midsized sedans we’ve ever tested. A plug-in version is also available. For the 2017 model year the Fusion gets an updated interior and even-more-efficient electric motors for the Hybrid and Energi plug-in versions. The Energi uses a 7.6-kWh battery and boasts a 19-mile electric-only range.
Overall: 39 mpg
City: 35 mpg, Highway: 41 mpg
Read our complete Ford Fusion road test.
Upscale/Luxury: Tesla Model S P85D
Receiving a midyear freshening, this sporty four-door luxury car seats five (or seven with the optional rear-facing jump seats) and just happens to be electric. With its optional 90-kWh battery—the largest available—it has a claimed range of 294 miles. The 85-kWh P85D that we tested had about a 200-mile range. It can be fully charged in as little as 5 hours on a dedicated Tesla connector, and Tesla’s roadside Superchargers can get you 80 percent of the car’s range in about a half-hour. Performance is exceptional, with thrilling acceleration, pinpoint handling, and a firm yet comfortable ride. A huge iPad-like center screen controls many functions. Drawbacks include tight access, restricted visibility, below-average reliability, and range limitations, especially in cold weather. All-wheel drive and Autopilot active safety features are also available.
Overall: 87 MPGe
City: 64 MPGe, Highway: 110 MPGe
Read our complete Tesla Model S road test.
Wagons: Toyota Prius V
This wagon version of the previous-generation Prius offers a very roomy rear seat and a generous cargo area. It’s about the size of the Ford C-Max, its main competitor. Despite its extra weight and a less aerodynamic shape than the standard Prius hatchback, the Prius V still got an excellent 41 mpg overall in our tests. The electric motor and engine have to work fairly hard, especially when the car is loaded with cargo. The ride is comfortable and composed, but uneven pavement can cause an annoying side-to-side rocking. Handling is sound, with responsive, but uninspiring, steering. Rear visibility is better than in the standard Prius. The Prius V now scores a Good in the latest IIHS small-overlap crash test. A larger 4.1-inch dash-top screen for trip computer functions is also new.
Overall: 41 mpg
City: 33 mpg, Highway: 47 mpg
Read our complete Toyota Prius V road test.
Luxury Small SUVs: Lexus NX 300h
Based on the Toyota RAV4, the compact NX delivers a less opulent driving experience than the typical Lexus. Handling is responsive, but the ride is more firm than cosseting and cabin noise isn’t particularly hushed. The NX 200t’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder works well and delivers 24 mpg overall. The NX 300h hybrid returns 29 mpg overall, making it one of the most fuel-efficient SUVs we’ve ever tested, but it feels a bit underpowered. Snazzy details lend the interior some appeal, but some cheap touches remain. Front cabin room is tight, and the styling compromises rear visibility and crimps cargo space. The infotainment system’s fussy touchpad requires distracting focus to use when driving.
Overall: 29 mpg
City: 23 mpg, Highway: 34 mpg
Read our complete Lexus NX road test.
Midsized/Large SUVs: Lexus RX 450h
The RX got a 2016 makeover, with avant-garde exterior styling and advanced safety features. Its 3.5-liter V6 is now linked to a new eight-speed automatic, delivering ample power and a commendable 22 mpg overall. The fuel-thrifty 450h hybrid gets an excellent 29 mpg overall—the same as the smaller Lexus NX, which is quite an achievement for a midsized SUV. Inside, the RX is very quiet and well-finished. Ride comfort is plush whether you get the base car on 18-inch tires or more uplevel versions with 20-inch tires. Handling, however, is ponderous and devoid of any sporty feel, but ultimately secure. The mouselike controller and interface require a steep learning curve. Rear passengers get lots of leg and knee room. Options include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-departure warning.
Overall: 29 mpg
City: 24 mpg, Highway: 33 mpg
Read our complete Lexus RX road test.
Minivans: Honda Odyssey
This versatile and capable hauler combines clever and generous packaging with responsive handling and a supple ride—surprising for a minivan. Its vigorous 3.5-liter V6 and smooth six-speed automatic returned 21 mpg overall in our tests. The Odyssey can seat eight in relative comfort, with varying configurations for cargo and passenger needs. Easy access, excellent child-seat accommodations, and abundant cabin storage add to the family-friendly quotient. Among our few gripes is the tediously complicated dual touch-screen infotainment system. In addition, fit and finish and some material selection are not what one would expect at this price, and AWD isn’t available.
Overall: 21 mpg
City: 13 mpg, Highway: 31 mpg
Read our complete Honda Odyssey road test.
Pickup Trucks: Ram 1500 diesel
The Ram 1500 is the most comfortable-riding full-sized pickup on the market, yet it is also plenty capable of grunt work. Its coil-spring rear suspension helps cushion the ride, and the spacious cab is luxury-car quiet. Rear-seat room is generous, and the Uconnect 8.4-inch touch-screen infotainment system is easy to use. The torquey 3.0-liter diesel V6 version is expensive but delivers effortless thrust and returns a class-leading 20 mpg overall. If diesel is not your thing, our Big Horn Crew Cab, with its smooth 5.7-liter V8, averaged 15 mpg.
Overall: 20 mpg
City: 14 mpg, Highway: 27 mpg
Read our complete Ram 1500 road test.