Despite continuing advances in fuel-saving technology, it seems that the most efficient cars are still the smallest. According to a list compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency, every one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles of the last 25 years is a small, front-wheel-drive hatchback or sedan – and not one has an engine larger than 1.8 liters.
The EPA's list, which can be found below, considered combined city and highway fuel economy to determine the most fuel-efficient vehicles sold in the United States since 1984.
Japanese automaker Honda took five of the ten slots, including first place, which went to its futuristically-styled Insight coupe, sold from 2000 to 2006. According to the EPA, the first-generation Insight achieved an impressive 53 miles per gallon in combined driving.
Aside from the list's inclusion of only the smallest cars, another surprise was the amount of older cars on the list. Despite rising gas prices, increased efficiency, and updated technology, the majority of the list is comprised of cars made before 2000 – perhaps due to ever-increasing curb weights on newer vehicles.
In a surprising choice, the EPA named the 1986 Chevrolet Sprint the third-most efficient vehicle, beating out new vehicles like the Honda Civic Hybrid and Honda's popular new Insight, a four-door hatchback.
Perhaps not so surprising, the Toyota Prius took two spots on the list, with the newest model ranked second and the first-generation model, which was offered as a sedan only, coming in at ninth.
Though most consumers shopping for a new hybrid probably wouldn't consider a twenty-year-old Chevrolet Sprint or Geo Metro instead of a Prius, the EPA's list certainly provides an interesting look at automotive efficiency through the years.
The EPA list:
- Honda Insight – 2000 – 53mp
- Toyota Prius – 2010 – 50mpg
- Chevrolet Sprint ER – 1986 – 48mpg
- Geo Metro XFI – 1990-1994 – 47mp
- Honda Civic Coupe HF – 1986-1987 – 46mpg
- Honda Civic VX hatchback – 1994-1995 – 43mpg
- Honda Civic Hybrid – 2006-2010 – 42mpg
- Honda Insight – 2010 – 41mpg
- Toyota Prius – 2001-2003 – 41mpg
- Chevrolet Sprint – 1989 – 41mpg
- Suzuki Swift – 1989 – 41mpg