Fuel economy is an important factor to consider when buying a new car, even when gas prices are down. History has shown that they won't stay that way forever. Many conventional cars today offer impressive fuel economy, especially in contrast to what you may be trading in. Further, alternative powertrains offer an increasing array of choices, with diesels, electrics, and hybrids each carrying appeal for different drivers.  

Measuring fuel economy is among our more than 50 tests we conduct on each car we purchase. Our fuel economy numbers are derived from a precision flow meter and are rounded to the nearest mile per gallon (mpg).

CR's overall mileage is calculated from equal portions of city and highway driving.

Below, we spotlight the top most fuel-efficient cars based on the overall fuel economy test results, omitting electric cars. Complete test results can be found by clicking through to the model pages.

See our list of the 10 most efficient SUVs.


Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius

In our tests the Prius returned 52 mpg overall, a significant improvement over the previous generation's 44 mpg. On top of that, the new car also handles more responsively and rides more comfortably. Colorful digital gauges dominate the dashboard with abundant fuel-economy information. The touch-screen infotainment system is fairly straightforward. The sensible Prius has always been about efficiency and low running costs. The car can drive solely on electric, up to about 25 mph typically, and the engine is now quieter when it kicks in. However, the seats are rather chintzy, tire noise is noticeable, and cabin access is not as easy because of the car's lower stance. A plug-in version, the Prius Prime, can go about 23 miles on electric power, and takes five hours to charge on 120V. For 2017 forward-collision warning with automatic braking is standard.

Read the complete Toyota Prius road test.

Make & Model

Overall MPG

City MPG

Highway MPG

Toyota Prius Three

52

43

59


Hyundai Ioniq

Hyundai Ioniq

The Ioniq is the first direct challenger to the Toyota Prius. Evoking the Prius silhouette and hatchback configuration, the Ioniq hybrid matches it as a fuel sipper with 52 mpg overall. Power comes from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine which, combined with the electric drive, puts out a combined 139 hp. The six-speed dual-clutch transmission isn't the smoothest and there's some delay off the line. Like other hybrids it can drive on electric power at low speeds. Handling lacks agility and the ride is a bit unsettled but unobjectionable. The SEL comes with a power seat for an affordable price. A suite of advanced safety features is available, including automatic braking, smart cruise control, and blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility is standard. There are also plug-in and fully electric versions.

Read the complete Hyundai Ioniq road test.

Make & Model

Overall MPG

City MPG

Highway MPG

Hyundai Ioniq

52

42

60


Toyota Prius Prime

Toyota Prius Prime

The Prime is a plug-in Prius that can usually drive about 23 miles on electricity only. However, the gas engine tends to start up in cold weather and under full-throttle acceleration. It takes two hours to charge the Prime through a 240 volt connector, and five hours on regular 120 volts. When not running in EV mode, the Prime operates much like the regular Prius, alternating between electric and gas power, returning 50 mpg overall. With slightly altered styling than the regular Prius, the Prime is can hold only four passengers, and it loses the rear wiper. The infotainment system, with its large touch screen, is unintuitive to use. Ride and handling are quite similar to the regular Prius, with responsive handling and a compliant ride. Standard safety features include automatic emergency braking and lane-keep assist.

Read the complete Toyota Prius Prime road test.

Make & Model

Overall MPG

City MPG

Highway MPG

Toyota Prius Prime

133*/50**

38**

62**

  1. * = MPGe, ** = MPG on gas engine only

Kia Niro

Kia Niro

Kia's five-passenger Niro marries good fuel economy with cargo versatility. This front-wheel-drive hybrid uses a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine which, in conjunction with the electric drive unit, puts out a combined 139 hp. This combo is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. Because the lithium-ion battery is located under the rear seat, that creates a flat cargo floor when the rear seats are folded. We got 43 mpg overall, which is good but not as good as the Hyundai Ioniq or Toyota Prius. The handling lacks agility and the ride is a bit choppy. The optional power driver seat provides better support than the standard seats do. A suite of advanced safety features is available, including automatic emergency braking, smart cruise control, and blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, but that tends to push the price to above $30,000.

Read the complete Kia Niro road test.

Make & Model

Overall MPG

City MPG

Highway MPG

Kia Niro EX

43

33

52


Toyota Prius C

Toyota Prius C

This smaller, less expensive alternative to the regular Prius feels like a Spartan subcompact, but with a hybrid powertrain. In the end, you pretty much get what you pay for, and it is no substitute for the real Prius. The C has a harsh ride, a noisy engine, and slow acceleration. The interior looks and feels cheap, the driving position and rear seats are cramped, and there's little cargo space. However, its 37 mpg makes the Prius C one of the most frugal vehicles we've tested, and its 43 mpg overall is just 1 mpg less than the previous-generation Prius hatchback. Its tiny dimensions make it a natural for urban driving. Reliability is above average, but the Prius C scored too low to be recommended. For the 2017 model year, automatic emergency braking is standard.

Read the complete Toyota Prius C road test.

Make & Model

Overall MPG

City MPG

Highway MPG

Toyota Prius C Two

43

37

48


Chevrolet Malibu

Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

Swoopy styling and modern powertrains are highlights of Chevrolet's redesigned Malibu. The new car is competitive among midsized sedans, with a quiet cabin and easy-to-use controls. In tests we found the Malibu to be quiet, with a comfortable ride and responsive handling. Two four-cylinder turbo engines are offered: a 1.5-liter with a six-speed automatic--which got 29 mpg in our tests--and a more powerful and refined 2.0-liter backed by an eight-speed automatic. A new hybrid, utilizing some of the Chevrolet Volt's technology, is also available. It got an impressive 41 mpg overall in our tests. Up front is a roomy, comfortable cockpit and an updated version of Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system. But the cloth seats are a bit short on support. The rear seat is roomy, so long-legged passengers can stretch out.

Read the complete Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid road test.

Make & Model

Overall MPG

City MPG

Highway MPG

Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

41

33

49


Toyota Prius V

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, the 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, but uneven pavement can cause an annoying side-to-side rocking. Handling is sound and secure but hardly inspiring. Rear visibility is better than in the standard Prius. A larger 4.1-inch dash-top screen for trip computer functions is also new.

Read the complete Toyota Prius V road test.

Make & Model

Overall MPG

City MPG

Highway MPG

Toyota Prius V Three

41

33

47


Lexus CT 200h

Lexus CT 200h

This small hatchback has excellent fuel economy, but it's no Toyota Prius. Plus, its refinement isn't up to the Lexus standard. A recent freshening brought styling updates and mechanical tweaks that resulted in claimed improvements to ride comfort and noise levels, two areas we found to be problematic in our testing. Using the same powertrain as the previous-generation Prius, the CT's 40 mpg is 4 mpg less than the roomier Toyota's. The CT can drive solely on electric power at low speed. Handling is responsive and secure, but the ride is stiff and choppy. The cabin is well-assembled, with quality materials. But the rear seats are tight, cargo capacity is modest, and the view out back is limited. Reliability has been outstanding. A redesign based on the current Prius is expected.

Read the complete Lexus CT 200h road test.

Make & Model

Overall MPG

City MPG

Highway MPG

Lexus CT 200h

40

31

47


Ford Fusion

Ford Fusion Hybrid

The Fusion is a delight to drive, with a supple ride and nimble handling reminiscent of a European sports sedan. All trim levels and powertrains feel solid and upscale, with a well-finished and quiet cabin. We found the optional leather seats to be more supportive than the cloth ones, and the rear seat is somewhat snug. The 1.5- and 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinders are powerful enough, but neither has competitive fuel economy. A new high-end version, the Sport, is equipped with all-wheel drive and a 325-hp, 2.7-liter V6. It is quick, comfortable, and quiet, but it costs more than $40,000. The Hybrid and Energi plug-in hybrid receive more-efficient electric motors for 2017. A new rotary shift dial and Ford's new and improved Sync 3 infotainment system highlight the updates to the interior.

Read the complete Ford Fusion Hybrid road test.

Make & Model

Overall MPG

City MPG

Highway MPG

Ford Fusion Hybrid SE

39

35

41


Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

This competitive but ho-hum sedan has a quiet cabin, a comfortable ride, and excellent rear-seat room and access. Handling is sound and responsive enough. But the SE we tested had lackluster tire grip, hurting braking and emergency handling. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder returned a good 28 mpg overall; a stronger 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder is optional. The Eco uses a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder paired with a seven-speed automated manual. We found the controls to be easy to use, and the rear seat is one of the roomiest in the class. Safety features include forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and blind-spot detection. Plug-in and hybrid versions are available; the latter returned an impressive 39 mpg overall in our tests and makes for a very pleasant sedan.

Read the complete Hyundai Sonata road test.

Make & Model

Overall MPG

City MPG

Highway MPG

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

39

31

46