Hybrid and electric vehicles have certainly made a splash in the American car market; however, closer examination reveals this splash is actually more like a ripple — plug-in vehicles still represent a very small percentage of overall car sales. Although these efficient vehicles post some of the highest EPA fuel-economy numbers, they don’t properly reflect the U.S. car market. Therefore, let’s look at the 20 most fuel-efficient vehicles in America that have no electric motors and don’t get plugged in. As a bonus, most of these happen to be the least expensive cars in America as well as the most fuel efficient, so a variety of thrifty consumers will likely find something on this list that suits their individual taste and budget. Cars are listed in ascending order by their EPA city / highway combined fuel-economy rating, followed by engine type and transmission in parentheses.
2017 Ford Focus
26 mpg city / 36 mpg hwy / 29 mpg combined (gas, automatic)
Starting MSRP: $16,775
One of the best-selling cars in America, the Focus is available as a sedan or hatchback; however, the entry-level S trim is only available as a sedan. The standard powerplant for Focus S is a 2.0-liter 160-horsepower engine; fuel economy for the entry S sedan is EPA rated at 26 mpg city / 36 mpg highway with an automatic transmission. Focus also comes standard with a rearview camera, an air-filtration system, multiple safety features and the SYNC voice-activated communications and entertainment system with hands-free calling.
2017 Toyota Corolla
28 mpg city / 36 mpg hwy / 32 mpg combined (gas, CVT)
Starting MSRP: $18,500
According to Toyota, more than 40 million Corollas have been sold since its introduction, and it is currently the best-selling compact car in America. Refreshed for 2017, Corolla gets power from an efficient 1.8-liter engine that achieves 132 horsepower while delivering 35 mpg on the highway when equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission (the standard CVT gets 36 mpg). The Corolla LE Eco gets even better with EPA ratings of 30 / 40 / 34. Corolla features an Entune Audio system with a 7-inch touchscreen display, a USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and control, advanced voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, music streaming via Bluetooth and Siri Eyes Free. The 2017 Corolla also achieves recognition as an IIHS Top Safety Pick +.
2017 Nissan Sentra
29 mpg city / 37 mpg hwy / 32 mpg combined (gas, CVT)
Starting MSRP: $16,900
Nissan’s popular compact sedan received a refresh for the 2016 model year with updated styling and several new safety and convenience technologies. Standard features include an AM/FM/CD audio system, remote keyless entry, multiple airbags, a split-folding rear seat and 16-inch steel wheels. Safety features such as vehicle dynamics control, traction control and anti-lock brakes are also standard. Power comes from 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 130 horsepower. Fuel-economy ratings are quite good — Sentra is rated at 27 mpg city / 35 mpg highway when equipped with the manual transmission. Upgrading to the Xtronic CVT jumps the mpg numbers to 29 and 37, respectively.
2017 Kia Forte
29 mpg city / 38 mpg hwy / 32 mpg combined (gas, automatic)
Starting MSRP: $16,600
The only Kia model on this list of fuel-thrifty new cars, the refreshed Forte offers attractive styling as well as an impressive list of standard features. The equipment list includes an AM/FM/CD/MP3/SiriusXM audio system, USB input jacks, Bluetooth connectivity, a 6-way adjustable driver’s seat and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. The Forte’s 2.0-liter engine puts out 147 horsepower and is rated as high as 38 mpg on the highway when equipped with an automatic transmission.
2017 Volkswagen Jetta
28 mpg city / 40 mpg hwy / 33 mpg combined (gas turbo, manual)
Starting MSRP: $17,895
One of the best-selling passenger cars in America, the VW Jetta offers great value in a fun-to-drive 4-door sedan. The base-level Jetta S has a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that produces 150 horsepower while delivering up to 40 mpg on the highway, 28 in the city with its 5-speed manual transmission. Features such as Bluetooth with audio streaming, a USB port, a multi-function trip computer, a color touchscreen display and cruise control are standard.
2017 Toyota Yaris
30 mpg city / 36 mpg hwy / 33 mpg combined (gas, manual)
Starting MSRP: $15,250
Yaris is the least-expensive Toyota on the U.S. market and comes as either a 3-door or 5-door hatchback. The 3-door Yaris L is the entry-level version, powered by a 1.5-liter engine producing just 106 horsepower and 36 mpg on the highway when matched with a 5-speed manual transmission. Standard on all Yaris variants is the Entune audio system that includes a 6.1-in. touch-screen, an AM/FM CD player with MP3, six speakers, HD Radio, a USB port with iPod connectivity and control, hands-free phone capability, voice recognition, and Bluetooth music streaming.
2017 Chevrolet Spark
30 mpg city / 38 mpg hwy / 33 mpg combined (gas, CVT)
Starting MSRP: $13,000
The least-expensive new domestic car available in America, the Spark was completely redesigned for the 2016 model year. Stylish and fun to drive, Spark can be had in several bright colors with fun trim names such as Splash, Salsa and Lime. Standard safety features include a rearview camera, stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and 10 airbags. Spark also comes equipped with a built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and access to GM’s OnStar communication service. Power comes from a 1.4-liter engine producing 98 horsepower with fuel-economy ratings of 30 mpg city / 38 mpg highway.
2017 Fiat 500
31 mpg city / 38 mpg hwy / 34 mpg combined (gas, manual)
Starting MSRP: $14,995
At just over 11 feet long, the Fiat 500 is one of the smallest cars on U.S. roads. This little Italian model features an equally tiny 1.4-liter MultiAir 4-cylinder engine producing just 101 horsepower. Despite the meager power, fuel economy is good — EPA rated at 31 mpg city / 38 mpg highway with the 5-speed manual transmission. The 500 Pop is the entry-level version and comes equipped with air-conditioning, a trip computer, remote-keyless entry, and Uconnect AM/FM stereo with 6-speakers and Bluetooth streaming.
2017 Nissan Versa
31 mpg city / 39 mpg hwy / 34 mpg combined (gas, CVT)
Starting MSRP: $11,990
The Nissan Versa retains its crown as the least expensive new car available in America. For that low price you get much more than a bare-bones econobox. Versa comes standard with air-conditioning, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, an AM/FM/CD audio system and a trip computer. Also standard are traction and stability control as well as anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution. The 109-horsepower 1.6-liter engine is teamed with a CVT — although the Versa won’t win any races, it is rated at 39 mpg on the highway. And you can drive smiling past gas pumps all the way to the bank.
2017 Ford Fiesta
31 mpg city / 41 mpg hwy / 35 mpg combined (gas turbo, manual)
Starting MSRP: $13,660
Fiesta continues the trend of small, economical cars that are actually fun to drive. Available as a sedan or hatchback ($300 more), the Fiesta comes with a 120-horsepower 1.6-liter engine rated at 37 mpg on the highway. The updated Sync 3 communication and entertainment system was new for 2016 and features enhanced voice recognition, a 6.5-inch display screen with pinch-to-zoom capabilities and smartphone integration.
2017 Jaguar XF
31 mpg city / 42 mpg hwy / 35 mpg combined (turbodiesel, automatic)
Starting MSRP: $47,450
No longer the entry-level Jag since the introduction of the XE, the completely redone XF has a new aluminum-intensive architecture that offers considerable weight savings, as well as improved fuel economy and vehicle dynamics. Jaguar adds a 180-horse 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbodiesel to the engine choices, joining the 340-horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged V6 unit (the S gets a bump to 380 horses). Torque remains the same for both V6 engines at 332 lb-ft. Both reach 60 mph in about 5 seconds, but the more-powerful XF S is about one-tenth of a second faster. Dedicated Sport and Eco modes adjust shifting to match driving style. The EPA rates the diesel variant at 31 mpg city / 42 mpg highway.
2017 Toyota Yaris iA
32 mpg city / 40 mpg hwy / 35 mpg combined (gas, automatic)
Starting MSRP: $15,950
Previously a Scion product until parent-company Toyota shuttered the youth-oriented brand, the Yaris iA gets power from a 1.5-liter engine producing 106 horsepower, teamed with a 6-speed manual transmission. The silver lining behind the Yaris’s lack of power is impressive fuel economy — EPA ratings are 40 mpg on the highway, 32 mpg in the city. The Yaris iA is also one of the least expensive vehicles to earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating, coming standard with a Low-Speed Pre-Collision System that uses an infrared laser sensor in the windshield to determine if a frontal collision is imminent, and then automatically applies the brakes in certain low-speed situations.
2017 Hyundai Elantra
32 mpg city / 40 mpg hwy / 35 mpg combined (gas turbo, automatic)
Starting MSRP: $17,150
All new for the 2017 model year, the Elantra is slightly longer and wider than its predecessor yet considerably more aerodynamic. Elantra comes well equipped with air-conditioning, premium cloth trim, an AM/FM/SiriusXM/CD/MP3 6-speaker sound system with USB input, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and multiple airbags. The standard engine powering Elantra is a new 2.0-liter 4-cylinder unit producing 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque; EPA fuel-economy ratings are an impressive 29 mpg in the city / 38 mpg on the highway. To achieve the EPA ratings shown above the Eco trim must be chosen, which has a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with a dual-clutch automatic transmission and an MSRP starting at $20,650.
2017 smart fortwo
33 mpg city / 39 mpg highway / 35 mpg combined (gas turbo, automatic)
Starting MSRP: $14,650
Not only is the smart car inexpensive, it is also the smallest production car in America. Redesigned for the 2016 model year, the tiny fortwo is just 8.8 feet long — about four feet shorter than the MINI Cooper. The fortwo has limited use given that it only seats two and doesn’t offer much cargo space, but for city dwellers the smart could be a perfect fit. The tiny car is easy to park given its impressive maneuverability — the turning circle is a mere 22.8 feet. As expected, fuel economy for the 3-cylinder coupe is good with EPA ratings of 33 mpg city / 39 mpg highway / 35 mpg combined, when equipped with the twinamic transmission.
2017 BMW 328d
31 mpg city / 43 mpg hwy / 36 mpg combined (turbodiesel, automatic)
Starting MSRP: $40,250
Long known as the benchmark sport sedan, the 3 Series typically reigns near the top of luxury sedan sales charts. For 2016 the 3 Series received minor exterior styling updates including available LED headlights, revised suspension for improved handling and new interior trim. The 340i replaced the 335i as the top trim level, powered by a turbocharged inline 6-cylinder producing 320 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. The lineup also includes the 320i, 328i and 328d diesel trim levels, all with rear-wheel drive or available xDrive all-wheel drive. The 328d achieving the above EPA ratings is the 2WD 4-cylinder turbodiesel with automatic transmission.
2017 Jaguar XE
32 mpg city / 42 mpg hwy / 36 mpg combined (turbodiesel, automatic)
Starting MSRP: $35,725
All new for 2017 model year, the XE sport sedan takes its place as the entry vehicle in the Jaguar lineup. Wearing the same stylish grille as the higher-end XF and XJ, the XE offers the luxury expected of a Jaguar without the associated price tag. The XE comes with start/stop technology, halogen headlights with daytime running lights, Jaguar Touch with an 8-inch touchscreen, 10-way power heated seats, a power moonroof and a Jaguar sound system with HD radio. Jag XE buyers have a choice of three different powerplants. To get close to the EPA ratings listed above you must purchase the diesel engine; to remain near the price point listed above the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gas engine putting out 247 horsepower would be the only option, and it has EPA ratings of 21 mpg city / 30 mpg hwy / 24 mpg combined.
2017 Honda Civic
32 mpg city / 42 mpg hwy / 36 mpg combined (gas turbo, CVT)
Starting MSRP: $18,740
A perennial favorite among new-car buyers, the redesigned Honda Civic continually dukes it out with the Toyota Camry for the title of best-selling passenger car in America. The tenth generation of this popular car features fresh styling, improved aerodynamics, new vehicle architecture, a more spacious interior and two new engines. Fuel economy is also impressive — rated as high as 42 mpg highway with a 1.5-liter turbocharged powerplant. Standard features include a 5-inch color LCD screen, LED daytime running lights, and electric parking brake with automatic brake hold, a multi-angle rearview camera, a capless fuel filler, and Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and streaming audio
2017 Honda Fit
33 mpg city / 40 mpg hwy / 36 mpg combined (gas, CVT)
Starting MSRP: $16,090
The Honda Fit excels at space management — the perfect example of a car that’s small on the outside but large on the inside. The rear seats are unique, able to be configured in many ways to allow for cargo storage of all shapes and sizes. Power comes from a 1.5-liter engine producing 130 horsepower and achieving up to 40 mpg on the highway for the LX with a CVT (the turbo version ekes out 42 mpg highway). Standard equipment includes air-conditioning with air filtration, power windows and door locks, a 160-watt AM/FM/CD audio system, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with audio streaming and a number of active safety features.
2017 Chevrolet Cruze
30 mpg city / 52 mpg hwy / 37 mpg combined (turbodiesel, manual)
Starting MSRP: $16,975
Cruze continues as one of the most successful small cars the Detroit-based automaker has ever delivered, and is currently one of the best-selling cars in America. The Cruze was updated for the 2016 model year — it’s larger and lighter than the outgoing model. In addition to fresh styling, Cruze received the latest safety technology as well as a new 1.4-liter turbocharged 153-horsepower engine that’s EPA rated at 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway with an automatic. But the big news for Cruze in 2017 is the addition of a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine with an EPA-estimated 52 mpg highway when equipped with a manual transmission (the automatic gets 47 mpg)
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage
37 mpg city / 43 mpg hwy / 39 mpg combined (gas, CVT)
Starting MSRP: $12,995
Mitsubishi’s entry subcompact Mirage is redesigned for the 2017 model year with fresh styling inside and out. Mirage’s efficiency and performance improve over the previous generation with a more aerodynamic exterior as well as a power increase to 78 horses from its 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine. Mirage is the lowest-powered car in America; however, it does deliver great fuel savings, with an EPA-rated 37 mpg city / 43 mpg highway.