Most every automaker has made great strides in improving fuel economy over the years. But even though fleetwide figures are on the rise, there are some stars in the sky that shine brighter than others.
Whether you're in the market for something small or a much larger model, this list runs down the most fuel-efficient vehicles you can find across a wide variety of vehicle classes. Bear in mind, this list does not include crossovers or SUVs, but don't worry, we have a list coming for them, too. For now, though, let's take a look at the most fuel-efficient sedans, hatchbacks and coupes on sale today.
Fuel economy: 35 mpg city, 41 mpg highway, 37 mpg combined
Unsurprisingly, the most efficient subcompact car is also the most efficient nonhybrid in the group! The Mitsubishi Mirage might not win any awards for design or ride quality, but if you want a new car with a fresh warranty and a whole lot of fuel efficiency, the Mirage is where it's at.
All Mirage variants get their motive force from a diminutive 1.2-liter I3 gas engine producing 76 horsepower and 74 pound-feet of torque, which is routed to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. A five-speed manual is standard on the base trim, but it's not nearly as efficient.
Fuel economy: 33 mpg city, 43 mpg highway, 37 mpg combined
It might come as a surprise that many of these cars are not hybrids, but they aren't. In the case of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra, sometimes all you need for fuel thrift is a compact sedan with a slippery shape and an efficient powertrain.
The most efficient nonhybrid Elantra wields a 2.0-liter I4 gas engine producing 147 hp and 132 lb.-ft. Like many of the small cars on this list, the sole transmission on offer is a CVT. It's a lot peppier than the Mirage, that's for sure.
Fuel economy: 28 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, 31 mpg combined
BMW Group's funky, youth-oriented brand offers some surprising efficiency -- and, as an added benefit, this fuel economy figure not only applies to the Mini Cooper Hardtop, but the Mini Cooper Convertible, as well! Variety is the spice of life, folks.
In order to hit these impressive figures, Mini utilizes a 1.5-liter turbocharged I3 gas engine making 136 hp and 162 lb.-ft. That heads to the front wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission, although a manual is also available, albeit with a slight dent in the economy department.
Fuel economy: 36 mpg city, 43 mpg highway, 39 mpg combined
And we're back to Mitsubishi! The Mirage G4 sedan mentioned earlier is essentially a carbon copy of the Mirage hatchback, just with a different rear end, so it's no surprise that this car also takes the spot for being the most fuel-efficient hatchback on offer.
The bodies may differ slightly, but it's basically the same car underneath all that metal. The Mirage G4's 1.2-liter I3 reappears in the hatchback, producing the same 76 hp and 74 lb.-ft. The CVT is still more efficient than the five-speed manual, to boot. It's a little more efficient than the G4, but only by a hair.
Fuel economy: 30 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, 33 mpg combined
For many years, the midsize sedan was the de facto family car in the US. Crossovers have taken up that mantle, more or less, but good old-fashioned sedans still have plenty to offer, as evidenced by the fuel economy of the 2021 Honda Accord.
Even without the optional hybrid powertrain, the 2021 Honda Accord is mighty efficient. Its 1.5-liter turbocharged I4 gas engine makes a satisfying 192 hp and 192 lb.-ft., and like many other cars on this list, that power heads to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission.
Fuel economy: 25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, 28 mpg combined
The Toyota Avalon is large and in charge, and in fact, it's one of the few remaining full-size sedans on sale today. Yet, even without a hybrid powertrain, this big 'Yota is surprisingly efficient.
Of course, you'll have to skip the 301-hp V6 in order to achieve these figures. Instead, you'll be making do with a 2.5-liter I4 gas engine making 205 hp and 185 lb.-ft., mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Unlike most of the cars mentioned on this list so far, though, all-wheel drive is standard, which is a nice touch.
Fuel economy: 31 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, 34 mpg combined
Whether or not you want to argue about the Corolla Apex's title of "sports sedan," it's a stiffly sprung car meant to be thrown around corners, which is enough of a qualification for this list.
The trick to making a sporty sedan efficient is, in this case, using the same engine as its more-pedestrian siblings. The Apex relies on a 2.0-liter I4 gas engine putting out 169 hp and 151 lb.-ft. of torque. A six-speed manual is available, but Toyota's CVTs are so efficient that rowing your own will incur a fuel-economy penalty. It's pretty darn affordable, too, coming in at a hair over $26,000 including destination.
Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, 25 mpg combined
We've finally reached a point on the list where the cars are getting a little less efficient. Take the midsize Kia Stinger, for example, which is the first car on this list with a highway figure under 30 mpg. But it's still pretty darn thrifty!
Kia updated the Stinger's powertrain offerings for the 2022 model year, so the 2021 version is your last chance to get a Stinger with a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 making 255 hp and 260 lb.-ft. An eight-speed automatic transmission is the only way to send that power to the rear wheels, but it's a good one.
Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, 23 mpg combined
Is the Dodge Charger a sports sedan? I believe it is. It might not be built for agility, but you can shove it full of horsepower and leave pieces of tire across several counties, so, I think that qualifies.
Variety is the name of the game with the 2021 Dodge Charger. In its most efficient form, this V6-powered sedan makes 292 hp and 260 lb.-ft. Spend a bit more, and you can replace that with a 5.7-liter V8 with 370 horsepower that still produces some darned solid fuel economy. Once you start moving up to the Scat Packs and Hellcats out there, though, your wallet may start to feel the hurt.
Fuel economy: 25 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, 29 mpg combined
Consider the Mercedes-Benz A-Class to be the slightly less curvaceous sibling to the CLA-Class. You might think the CLA-Class would win the fuel-economy fight given its slippery silhouette, but nope, the regular ol' sedan comes out on top.
The A220 relies on a turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 producing 188 hp and 221 lb.-ft. Whether opting for front- or all-wheel drive, the A220 sends that power around by way of a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. If you want something a little peppier, there's a more expensive (and potent) AMG variant on offer, too.
Fuel economy: 25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, 28 mpg combined
Despite being a full class larger, the 2021 Lexus ES 250 is nearly as efficient as the car that directly precedes it on this list. Solid.
The Lexus ES 250 packs a 2.5-liter I4 gas engine making 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, as is all-wheel drive, the latter of which is impressive considering how efficient this midsizer is on the highway.
Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, 25 mpg combined
The luxury segment is full of surprisingly efficient vehicles, as it turns out. The midsize Lexus ES proved impressively thrifty, but BMW's venerable 7 Series isn't about to let the Lexus hog the spotlight.
Despite its honkin' footprint, the 2021 BMW 740i returns nearly 30 mpg on the highway thanks to a thrifty 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 that makes 335 hp and 331 lb.-ft. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but for a slight hit to economy, all-wheel drive is there for the taking, too. No matter how many driven wheels it has, though, it's one seriously cushy car.
Fuel economy: 58 mpg city, 60 mpg highway, 59 mpg combined
No, this isn't a typo. This is a hybrid hatchback that earns 60 miles per gallon. If you really want to stretch your hydrocarbons, the Hyundai Ioniq Blue is a heck of a way to do it.
So what's the trick? It starts with the hybrid-electric powertrain, which includes a 104-hp, 1.6-liter I4 gas engine along with an electric motor for a net 139 hp. The Blue variant also does away with most of the unnecessary creature comforts found in higher trims in order to squeak out every iota of efficiency, and the result is pretty impressive.
Fuel economy: 51 mpg city, 53 mpg highway, 52 mpg combined
It's amazing what 200 horsepower will get you in 2021. In the case of the 2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid, it'll get you more than 50 mpg in most situations.
The Camry Hybrid has been one of the most efficient midsize sedans since its inception, and Toyota only continues to refine the formula. With 208 net hp on tap, 176 of which comes from its 2.5-liter I4 gas engine, it doesn't exactly feel pokey. Since it's a Camry, there's a fair amount of space inside, and there are more standard safety systems that most competitors can muster.
Fuel economy: 43 mpg city, 44 mpg highway, 44 mpg combined
It might not be as thrifty as the Camry Hybrid, but for its size, the Toyota Avalon Hybrid is pretty darned impressive.
The Avalon Hybrid uses the same 2.5-liter I4 gas engine as the Camry Hybrid, although net output is a smidgeon higher here at 215 hp. Either way, it's still frugal enough to return 43 mpg city and 44 mpg highway. In a full-size sedan!
Fuel economy: 119 mpge, 52 mpg on gas alone
The Hyundai Ioniq is available as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and a battery-electric vehicle, and they're all pretty efficient, as evidenced by the fact that they keep showing up on this list.
The Ioniq PHEV combines a 104-hp, 1.6-liter I4 gas engine with an electric motor and a 8.9-kWh battery for a net 139 horsepower. Hyundai estimates a 29-mile range on the battery alone, and with everything working together, drivers can expect to get about 620 miles out of a tank of gas. On a Level 2 charger, the battery takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to charge.
Fuel economy: 133 mpge, 54 mpg on gas alone
A Prius? On a list of efficient cars? No way.
The midsize Prius Prime plug-in hybrid is the most efficient PHEV in its class. Its 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle I4 works in conjunction with an electric motor to provide a net 121 horsepower. Its 8.8-kWh battery permits electric-only operation up to 25 miles at a time at speeds up to 84 mph. Hook it up to a Level 2 charger and it'll top itself off in just over 2 hours.
The best full-size plug-in hybrid for gas mileage
2021 Audi A7 PHEV
Fuel economy: 68 mpge, 29 mpg on gas alone
The Audi A7 55 TFSI e plug-in hybrid may be one of the most expensive cars on this list, but it's also the most efficient full-size PHEV you can buy.
Since it's a sports sedan at its heart, it's no surprise that output is way higher than the other PHEVs on this list, with a net 362 hp and 369 lb.-ft. coming from a combination of its electric motor and its 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 gas engine. It'll cruise around in electric-only silence for 24 miles at a stretch, too. It's not the thriftiest car on the block when the gas engine has to do most of the work, so make sure to keep 'er topped off.
Fuel economy: 26 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, 30 mpg combined
It's never a bad day when conversation turns to the Mazda MX-5, aka the Miata.
Mazda's diminutive sports coupe is the most efficient sports car running on a gas engine alone, reaching 35 mpg on the highway with a six-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is standard, but you lose 1 mpg on the highway, which isn't a bad trade-off. Either way, its 2.0-liter I4 puts out a decent 181 horsepower, all of which is sent to the rear wheels. It's a real good time.
Fuel economy: 82 mpge, 30 mpg on gas alone
The 2021 Pacifica Hybrid is the only PHEV minivan, which automatically makes it the most efficient, as it's capable of driving 32 miles without even needing its gas engine. However, it's only good for 30 mpg on gas alone, which makes it less efficient than the 2021 Toyota Sienna, which is a hybrid-electric vehicle that averages 36 mpg city, highway and combined.
Thus, it's a bit of a toss-up. If you plug in regularly and drive only a few miles between the usual destinations, the Pacifica Hybrid will likely return better overall mileage. However, if daily use involves a bit more variety, the Sienna might be the more efficient minivan for you. This one comes down to your personal preference and use case, but you can't go wrong with either one.
Comparison of cars with the best gas mileage for 2021
|Category||Name||Base Engine||Output||Fuel Economy (mpg, city/hwy/combined)||Base Price|
|Best subcompact||2021 Mitsubishi Mirage G4||1.2-liter I3||76 hp / 74 lb.-ft.||35 / 41 / 37||$16,290|
|Best small car||2021 Hyundai Elantra||2.0-liter I4||147 hp / 132 lb.-ft.||33 / 43 / 37||$20,655|
|Best coupe||2021 Mini Cooper Hardtop||1.5-liter I3||136 hp / 162 lb.-ft.||28 / 37 / 31||$23,750|
|Best hatchback||2021 Mitsubishi Mirage||1.2-liter I3||76 hp / 74 lb.-ft.||36 / 43 / 39||$15,290|
|Best midsize sedan||2021 Honda Accord||1.5-liter I4||192 hp / 192 lb.-ft.||30 / 38 / 33||$25,965|
|Best full-size sedan||2021 Toyota Avalon||2.5-liter I4||205 hp / 185 lb.-ft.||25 / 34 / 28||$37,120|
|Best small sports sedan||2021 Toyota Corolla Apex||2.0-liter I4||169 hp / 151 lb.-ft.||31 / 38 / 34||$26,165|
|Best midsize sports sedan||2021 Kia Stinger||2.0-liter I4||255 hp / 260 lb.-ft.||22 / 29 / 25||$34,135|
|Best full-size sports sedan||2021 Dodge Charger||3.5-liter V6||292 hp / 260 lb.-ft.||19 / 30 / 23||$32,065|
|Best small luxury car||2021 Mercedes-Benz A220||2.0-liter I4||188 hp / 221 lb.-ft.||25 / 36 / 29||$34,700|
|Best midsize luxury car||2021 Lexus ES 250||2.5-liter I4||203 hp / 184 lb.-ft.||25 / 34 / 28||$41,025|
|Best full-size luxury car||2021 BMW 740i||3.0-liter I6||335 hp / 331 lb.-ft.||22 / 29 / 25||$87,795|
|Best small hybrid||2021 Hyundai Ioniq Blue||1.6-liter I4 hybrid||139 hp (net)||58 / 60 / 59||$24,405|
|Best midsize hybrid||2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid||2.5-liter I4 hybrid||208 hp (net)||51 / 53 / 52||$28,265|
|Best full-size hybrid||2021 Toyota Avalon Hybrid||2.5-liter I4 hybrid||215 hp (net)||43 / 44 / 44||$38,095|
|Best small PHEV||2021 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV||1.6-liter I4 PHEV||139 hp (net)||119 mpge (52 mpg gas)||$27,495|
|Best midsize PHEV||2021 Toyota Prius Prime||1.8-liter I4 PHEV||121 hp (net)||133 mpge (54 mpg gas)||$29,215|
|Best full-size PHEV||2021 Audi A7 PHEV||2.0-liter I4 PHEV||362 hp (net)||68 mpge (29 mpg gas)||$75,945|
|Best sports car||2021 Mazda MX-5||2.0-liter I4||181 hp / 151 lb.-ft.||26 / 35 / 30||$27,825|
|Best minivan||2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid||3.5-liter V6 PHEV||260 hp (net)||82 mpge (30 mpg gas)||$42,115|
How we made our list
While our many collective years of driving experience may help guide you toward the best car in a given class, fuel economy is a bit more straightforward. To compile this list, we went straight to the source: the federal government's fuel-economy website, which tracks the efficiency of every car found on dealer lots across the US.
Of course -- and no pun intended -- your mileage may vary. Reaching fuel economy figures can be easy with some cars and trickier with others. It's also worth pointing out that your favorite car in a segment might not always be the most efficient, so it's worth taking several models out for test drives before you decide on the car that's best for your wants and needs. Prices are also subject to change from dealer to dealer.
Read more: Best back-to-school cars for 2021