Some car shoppers go for luxury, power or cargo space. Other shoppers, however, are all about fuel efficiency and saving money from the get-go. If that's you, here's a list of the 10 best gas- and diesel-engine cars that deliver at least 40 miles per gallon in the EPA's highway driving test. Because these cars have standard gasoline or diesel engines, they are more affordable than cars with costlier hybrid and electric drivetrains, which can send purchase prices skyward and can require years to recover the purchase price through fuel-efficiency savings — particularly when gas prices are low.
Some of the cars listed are specialized, low-volume variants of more mainstream models. Some achieve their fuel efficiency with special equipment packages not found on the volume sellers. In other words, the fuel-sippers aren't always easy to find, but if efficiency and cost savings are your goals, they can be well worth the hunt.
Remember, though, that the EPA ratings are based on laboratory tests and should be considered guidelines for what you can expect with a moderate driving style. Real-world fuel efficiency depends on numerous factors, including cargo loads and the weight of the driver's foot on the accelerator.
We've ranked the cars according to their fuel-efficiency ratings. To help ensure you get the best price possible on whatever vehicle you choose, be sure to visit our Incentives and Rebates page to learn about current incentive and rebate offers before you buy. You might also find the vehicle you're interested in offered through Edmunds.com's Price Promise® program.
1. 2016 Ford Fiesta SE (with the EcoBoost fuel economy package)
43 mpg highway. The SE trim level of the 2016 Fiesta is eligible for the EcoBoost Fuel Economy package (which the EPA's fueleconomy.gov site renders as the Fiesta SFE). The Fuel Economy package uses a turbocharged three-cylinder, 1.0-liter engine, a five-speed manual transmission, special wheels and tires and some aerodynamic improvements to achieve better fuel economy than the average Fiesta. City mileage comes in at 31 mpg, and the combined mileage rating is 36 mpg. The 2016 Ford Fiesta's nimble handling and nicely trimmed cabin make it a pleasant everyday companion, though its modest interior space is a factor to consider. Among gas and diesel cars, the Fiesta SFE is the undisputed highway efficiency champ.
42 mpg highway. This features-laden small sedan not only delivers on the highway, but also earned an Edmunds "B" rating (with an "A" for value). The Scion iA is new for 2016 and is Toyota's version of the Mazda 2, which isn't being sold in the U.S. With its 1.5-liter engine and six-speed automatic, the Scion iA returns 33 mpg in city driving and 37 mpg combined. With the standard six-speed manual transmission, efficiency drops a bit but remains very respectable: 41 mpg on the highway, 31 mpg in the city and 35 mpg combined. We were impressed not only by its efficiency and affordability but with its long list of equipment and its refined interior.
42 mpg highway. A perennial favorite, the Edmunds "A" rated Honda Civic sedan comes in numerous models, including the super-efficient, EX-T, EX-L and Touring trim levels. All bring 42 mpg highway, with city mileage rated at 31 mpg. Their combined fuel efficiency rating is 35 mpg. These three trim levels use Honda's new turbocharged 1.5-liter engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to achieve their fuel efficiency numbers. Some other Civics also will achieve 40 mpg highway or better, depending on their engine and transmission configurations. Check our review for full details. In all cases, these Civics offer roomy cabins, big trunks, available advanced safety and infotainment equipment and peppy performance.
42 mpg highway. The first diesels on our list, the 2016 BMW 328d sedan, its all-wheel-drive variant, the 328d xDrive and the all-wheel-drive 328d xDrive Sports Wagon, are among the best-equipped and most fun-to-drive cars that achieve 40 mpg or better on the highway. The rear-wheel-drive version of the 2016 328d sedan gets an estimated 32 mpg city and 36 mpg combined, while the xDrive models return 40 mpg on the highway, 30 in the city and 34 combined. All three use 2.0-liter turbodiesel engines, mated in the sedans to seven-speed automatic transmissions and in the wagon to an eight-speed automatic. We find the BMW 3 Series diesels — even the wagon — to be sporty and refined, and count them among our favorites in the compact luxury class.
42 mpg highway. There are two versions of the 2016 Ford Focus that achieve 40 mpg or better. Leading the pack is the Focus SE EcoBoost with a turbocharged three-cylinder, 1.0-liter engine and six-speed manual. It also gets 30 mpg city and 35 mpg combined. The same Focus model with a six-speed automatic sees highway mileage drop to 40 mpg, with a 28-mpg city rating and a combined rating of 32 mpg. The 2016 Ford Focus S, SE and Titanium models with a 2.0-liter engine and six-speed automatic deliver 40 mpg highway, 27 city and 31 combined. The Focus offers sporty looks, well-balanced handling and an attractive interior. But be aware that the backseat is tight and acceleration is underwhelming.
42 mpg highway. The only other diesel on our list is the 2016 Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec, a midsize sedan that keeps up, fuel-efficiency-wise, with the smaller BMW diesels on the highway. But the Mercedes is heavier and its city rating drops to 28 mpg, with a combined rating of 33 mpg. Power comes from a 2.1-liter turbodiesel via a seven-speed automatic. The Mercedes E-Class' superb ride, elegant interior and sophisticated electronics epitomize the midsize luxury sedan.
41 mpg highway. Although it is officially a subcompact, the Edmunds "A" rated Honda Fit hatchback offers an impressively large, comfortable and flexible cabin that belies its size. The list of standard and optional equipment is impressive as well. The only member of the Fit family that meets the 40 mpg club requirements is the base LX model with the optional CVT. In that trim, the 2016 Fit also delivers 33 mpg in city driving and 36 mpg combined.
8. 2016 Mazda 3
41 mpg highway. There are several versions of the Mazda 3 in the 40 mpg club: two body styles, sedan and hatchback; two transmission types, manual and automatic; and two engine sizes, 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter. Overall, we find the Mazda 3 to be one of the best all-around compact cars in the market, with sporty driving characteristics, a comfortable ride and one of the nicest interiors in the non-luxury segment.
The 2016 Mazda 3i models all come with a 2.0-liter engine. The 3i sedan is the 41-mpg winner. With a six-speed automatic, the 3i sedan also gets 30 mpg city and 34 combined, while the 3i sedan with a six-speed manual gets 29 mpg city and 33 mpg combined. The Mazda 3i hatchback gets a 40 mpg highway rating, with the six-speed automatic version returning 30 mpg city and 33 mpg combined and the six-speed manual rated at 29 mpg city and 33 mpg combined. The Mazda 3s sedan with the 2.5-liter engine and six-speed automatic is rated at 40 mpg highway, 29 mpg city and 33 mpg combined.
40 mpg highway. The 2016 Chevrolet Sonic, with its 29 mpg city and 33 mpg combined ratings may be near the bottom of this list, but its availability in both sedan and hatchback body styles and its blend of safety features, driving dynamics, comfort and plentiful standard equipment makes it one of our top subcompact choices overall. With their five-speed manual transmissions, you can expect the necessary fuel efficiency from the Sonic sedan or hatchback in LT trim with the standard 1.4-liter turbocharged engine or from the LTS trim with the turbo 1.4-liter option.
10. 2016 Mazda 6
40 mpg highway. There's only one version of the Edmunds "A" rated Mazda 6 sedan that makes the club. But while many automakers save fuel efficiency for their base models, Mazda does it differently. The top-of-the-line 2016 Mazda 6 Grand Touring with six-speed automatic gets the carmaker's special "i-Eloop" energy recovery system, enabling its stellar highway rating as well as 28 mpg in city driving and 32 mpg combined. The fuel efficiency — along with a roomy cabin, sporty styling and agile handling — makes the 2016 Mazda 6 a fine choice for a midsize sedan with personality.