The Most Fuel Efficient Gas Cars of All Time – Wired

Posted: Monday, May 19, 2014

The 1990 Geo Metro XFi isn’t much to look at, but it got 47 mpg combined (43 city, 52 highway). Photo: General Motors

The 1986 Honda Civic CRX HF offered the sporty look of the Si model and 46 mpg combined (42 city, 51 highway). Photo: Honda

The 1986 Chevrolet Sprint ER was as homely as it was efficient, returning 42 mpg combined (39 city, 47 highway). Photo: General Motors

The 1985 Suzuki SA310 (also known as the Cultus and the Swift) got 42 mpg combined (39 city, 47 highway). Photo: Suzuki

American and Japanese automakers were an incestuous lot in the 1980s and 90s, sharing cars and swapping badges on a large number of vehicles. The Suzuki SA310, aka the Cultus, was rebranded at least a dozen times, with names like Chevrolet Sprint, Geo Metro, and, down under, the Holden Barina. Whatever the name, they used a tiny 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine. The SA310 got 42 mpg combined (39 city, 47 highway).

Photo: Suzuki

Hey! It’s another Suzuki. The 1989 Suzuki Swift gave you 41 mpg combined (38 city, 45 highway) and shoebox styling. Photo: Wikipedia

The 1995 Geo Metro is among the few four-doors on the list. It got 40 mpg combined (37 city, 44 highway). Click fullscreen for the grand experience. Photo: General Motors

The 2012 Scion iQ attempts to bring a measure of style to the party. It gets 37 mpg combined (36 city, 37 highway). Photo: Toyota

Hey! It’s another four-door!. The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage returns 37 mpg combined (34 city, 42 highway). Photo: Mitsubishi

The acronym-heavy 2014 Ford Fiesta SFE FWD get 37 mpg combined (32 city, 45 highway). Photo: Ford

Wanna go topless while sipping fuel? The 2012 Smart ForTwo Cabriolet is the car for you. You’ll get a tan and 36 mpg combined, (34 city, 38 highway). Photo: Daimler

Automakers are well on their way toward meeting federal regulations requiring that cars get 54.5 mpg by 2025. In fact, more than half of this year’s models get more than 23 mpg (that’s a first!) and almost 12 percent top 30 mph. And guess what? None gets less than 13 mpg. Things like turbocharging and direct injection, coupled with the rising popularity of hybrid and electric vehicles, plays a big role tin this.

That said, most of today’s cars fall well short of the all-time greats when it comes to sipping fuel.

We’ve dug up the 10 most fuel-efficient automobiles in history, not counting cheating hybrids or electrics. We also omitted diesel-powered cars, because the fuel has more energy content. “It’s not apples to apples, and not the same if you’re thinking about it on an energy basis,” said Dr. David Cooke, a vehicle analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

It’s worth noting that these are the most fuel efficient cars. Which means they also are among the slowest. And the smallest. And the cheapest, in every definition of that word. They’re as light on amenities as they are long on efficiency. Many of them are from the 1980s and before, and not one of them is going to win any beauty contests. On the other hand, driving a used Geo Metro earns you more eco-cred than buying a new Toyota Prius, and you’ll probably be a whole let less smug about it, too.

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