While most car shoppers associate fuel-efficient vehicles with tiny exteriors and cramped cabins, miserly cars aren't always miniscule. To prove our point, we've rounded up several gas-sipping new models like the Toyota Prius that offer substantial cargo room while still achieving fuel economy figures of more than 40 miles per gallon.

Chevrolet Sonic

The subcompact Chevrolet Sonic combines fuel efficiency with a deceptively large hatchback body style. While the only variants of the Sonic that reach 40 mpg are LT and LTZ models with the optional 1.4-liter engine and 6-speed manual transmission, even the base-level Sonic LS can easily achieve 35 mpg on the highway. The Sonic also offers up to 19 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats in place and nearly 48 cubic feet with the seats folded down, both figures that place it near the top of its class. Rounding out the Sonic's best attributes is a competitive price: A base-level version of the small hatchback starts around $15,500 including destination, while a well-equipped LTZ model can easily be had for under $20,000.

Ford Fiesta

The compact Ford Fiesta hatchback receives our hearty recommendation for combining excellent fuel economy with a reasonable base price and ample cargo room. In addition to gas mileage figures that reach 40 mpg in highway driving--even with an automatic transmission--the Fiesta hatchback starts at just $15,000 with destination, making it affordable for a wide range of buyers. But the hatchback's major selling point over its sedan stablemate is cargo capacity, which tops 15 cubic feet with the rear seats in place. While that number increases to only 26 cubic feet with the seats folded, we've found that the hatchback provides more than enough room for all the gear that a typical car owner will carry in nearly all situations.

Honda Insight

Among the least expensive hybrid vehicles available, the second-generation Honda Insight offers more than 40 mpg in combined city and highway driving and boasts four full-size doors for easy entry and exit. It also offers nearly 16 cubic feet of cargo volume with its rear seats in place, or more than 31 cubic feet with them folded--numbers that rival larger station wagons and compact SUVs. We especially like the reasonably priced Insight EX with navigation, which offers a rearview camera, a navigation system, automatic headlights and alloy wheels for around $24,000 including destination.

Kia Rio

The recently redesigned Kia Rio hatchback offers many strong selling points for shoppers interested in a fuel-efficient car that can carry lots of gear. While its cargo area doesn't offer as much space as some rivals, the Rio's low load floor and high roof make quick work out of packing large items. And while the Rio doesn't offer hybrid technology like some top rivals, its gasoline engine achieves a stunning 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg highway with either 6-speed manual or available 6-speed automatic transmissions. Best of all, the Rio is available with Kia's new UVO entertainment system, which provides many in-car entertainment features and a standard reversing camera.

Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius hatchback may look small from the outside, but inside, it's surprisingly cavernous. In addition to a roomy backseat that can easily seat three adults, the Prius boasts a hatchback body style that offers more cargo capacity that rivals many compact SUVs, all while achieving more than 50 mpg. Still need more room? Toyota now offers an even larger version of the Prius, dubbed the "Prius v," which is capable of more than 40 mpg in combined city and highway driving. The Prius v also boasts an enlarged version of the standard model's rear cargo area, adding 13 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats in place and nearly 30 cu ft with the seats folded.

Volkswagen Golf TDI

The compact Volkswagen Golf hatchback is a great choice for shoppers interested in a cavernous small car that's easy on gas. We especially enjoy the diesel-powered Golf TDI, which returns 30 mpg in the city or a whopping 42 mpg in highway driving, figures that rival many of today's hybrid cars. But unlike many hybrids, which are often tuned for fuel economy over performance, the Golf also TDI boasts a tremendous 236 lb-ft of torque, which gives it passing power in just about any situation. And while we recommend the four-door Golf TDI to buyers interested in strong fuel economy and ample passenger room, even a less expensive two-door model boasts terrific cargo capacity and the same miserly fuel rating as its larger stablemate.

What it means to you: We've proven that you can combine ample cargo space with wallet-friendly fuel efficiency.

author photo

Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

Related Articles & Car Reviews

Find Cars for sale near you:

Research by Vehicle Type

  • Convertible
  • Coupe
  • Hatchback
  • Hybrid
  • Luxury
  • Sedan
  • SUV
  • Truck
  • Van/Minivan
  • Wagon

Shopping Tools

Compare the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic with these competing Sedans:

  • 2012 Chrysler 300
  • 2012 BMW 7 Series
  • 2012 Nissan Altima

For Sale on Autotrader.com

Loading Ajax Content Loading Ajax Content