Fuel-Efficiency American Style
Back in the day — call it the close of the previous millennium — shoppers looking for a fuel-efficient ride had to direct most of their attention to offerings from Asia and Europe, and for good reason. Back then American brands simply didn’t have much to offer in terms of a quality ride that could deliver high fuel economy. But now there are quite a few American options — with some even becoming the most fuel-efficient vehicles of their class. Here’s a look at the most fuel-efficient American vehicles for the 2017 model year — all of which claim to achieve at least 30 mpg. (Vehicles are listed by combined fuel economy ratings as reported by the U.S. EPA. MPGe is “miles per gallon equivalent,” which equates electric energy to that found in a gallon of gasoline.)
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Starting MSRP: $37,495
MPGe (city/hwy/combined): 128 / 110 / 119
Chevrolet introduced the all-electric Bolt EV last January at the Detroit Auto Show. The compact EV boasts a 238-mile range, which exceeds almost every other electric car currently on the market — the one exception being Tesla. However, the Bolt EV is less than half the price of the Model S. In addition to its impressive electric range, the Bolt EV offers good performance with 200 horsepower on tap. The all-new model is also loaded with innovations. A Bluetooth low-energy system — designed specifically for the Bolt EV — connects to a smartphone as the driver approaches the car. A large 10.2-inch touchscreen display and a rear camera mirror will be available, and a dedicated EV nav system plans a route while taking into account terrain that will affect the battery’s depletion rate.
2017 Ford Focus Electric
Starting MSRP: $29,120
MPGe (city/hwy/combined): 118 / 96 / 107
The Focus is the only fully-electric vehicle available from Ford, and is one of the most fuel-efficient compact cars on the market. The fun-to-drive Focus gets upgraded for the 2017 model year with total range climbing to 115 miles — a noticeable improvement over the previous year’s 76 mile range. With a DC fast-charging station, the Focus can get 75 miles of range in just 30 minutes of charging. With 143 horsepower on tap, the Focus Electric provides fine performance with a top speed of 84 mph.
2017 Chevrolet Volt
Starting MSRP: $33,220
MPGe (combined): 106 ; MPG (combined): 42
Many consumers say they would like to have an electric car; however, an EV’s limited range can often be a deal breaker. The alternative powertrain of the Chevrolet Volt eliminates range anxiety while still providing the benefits of an electric car. Updated for 2017, the new Volt can travel more than 50 miles on electricity alone, and can be recharged on a 240-volt fast charger in just 4.5 hours. If you must travel farther than 50 miles, an onboard gas-powered generator keeps the batteries charged and the electric motor moving for a total range of more than 400 miles. The Volt is rated at 106 MPGe when running on electricity alone, and 42 mpg when the generator is running.
2017 Tesla Model S 60D
Starting MSRP: $71,000
MPGe (city/hwy/combined): 101 / 107 / 104
The remarkable Tesla Model S stands out for its technological prowess and fantastic driving range. The Model S 60D has two motors that produce a combined 328 horsepower, and Tesla says this Model S will hit 60 mph in just over 5 seconds. Although a standard charge time at 240 volts is 12 hours, that can be significantly reduced with an 80-amp dual charger. The S60 D has an estimated range of 218 miles.
2017 Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid
Starting MSRP: $31,120
MPGe (combined): 97; MPG (combined): 42
Ford’s Fusion plug-in midsize sedan receives a facelift for 2017, which is good timing considering the arrival of rivaling models from Kia and Hyundai. The hybrid employs a 141-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gas engine and a 118-horse electric motor, which draws power from a 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery. The advanced hybrid powertrain provides an all-electric range of 21 miles and a total output of 188 horsepower. A new Platinum trim level adds premium features at a premium price point.
2017 Ford C-Max Hybrid Energi
Starting MSRP: $27,120
MPGe (combined): 95; MPG (combined): 39
Ford’s C-MAX looks like the cross of a minivan and a small SUV, so its high-roof design and fold-flat second-row seating offer a lot of versatility. The powertrain of the C-MAX Energi is a 188-horsepower gas-electric hybrid system delivering a combined 39 mpg. However, the Energi can also be plugged in, and with a full charge it can travel almost 20 miles on batteries alone. To further improve fuel economy, the C-MAX Energi has technology to help drivers be more efficient. A SmartGauge with EcoGuide shows operators how their actions affect fuel efficiency, while the Brake Coach helps drivers brake properly to fully optimize the regenerative braking system.
2016 Tesla Model X 75D
Starting Price: $88,800
MPGe (city/hwy/combined): 91 / 95 / 93
The Model X is currently the only production electric SUV on the market, and this sleek vehicle offers more than simply impressive fuel economy. According to Tesla, the 75D has a range of around 237 miles on a full charge and can reach 60 mph in just 6 seconds. There’s seating for seven, and easy rear-seat access courtesy of Falcon Wing doors. Without an internal combustion engine, the Model X actually offers a large front trunk in addition to the rear cargo area. Last year there was a six-month wait to be a Model X owner; now buyers should be able to take delivery within a couple weeks.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Starting Price: $41,995
MPGe (combined): 84; MPG (combined): 32
Chrysler invented the minivan more than 30 years ago, and after selling an impressive 14 million the company has introduced the all-new Pacifica Hybrid. America’s first-ever hybrid minivan, the Pacifica Hybrid has a plug-in system featuring a unique powertrain combining the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 gas engine of the standard Pacifica with two electric motors. The hybrid’s V6 uses an Atkinson-cycle combustion system for improved efficiency, the compression ratio has been increased and friction decreased. The Pacifica Hybrid will operate solely on electric power for about 33 miles with a top speed of 75 mph. Electric power comes from a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack stored under the floor. Total system output is 260 horsepower — only slightly lower than the 287 horses of the gas-powered Pacifica.
2017 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
Starting Price: $28,750
MPG (city/hwy/combined): 49 / 43 / 46
The 2017 Malibu Hybrid leverages components and knowledge developed from the innovative Chevrolet Volt, and it gets power from a new 1.8-liter direct-injection 4-cylinder gas engine mated to a two-motor drive unit slightly modified from the Volt. The drive unit provides additional power to assist the engine during acceleration for a total system output of 182 horsepower. Power to the hybrid system comes from an 80-cell 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that can power the Malibu Hybrid to 55 mph on electric power alone. The gasoline engine automatically turns on at higher speeds and high loads for additional power. The Malibu Hybrid shares Volt’s blended regenerative braking system for maximum energy recovery during braking.
2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Starting Price: $25,295
MPG (city/hwy/combined): 43 / 41 / 42
The Fusion Hybrid receives a refresh for the 2017 model year, but exterior changes are minimal: a reshaped grille, a revised front fascia and a new headlight design. Fusion Hybrid is offered in S, SE, Titanium and Platinum trim levels. In addition to the updated styling, the hybrid receives software updates and more efficient electric motors for smoother cruising, better fuel economy and more range. Power comes from a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle engine combined with an electric motor to produce 188 horsepower.
2017 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
Starting Price: $35,170
MPG (city/hwy/combined): 41 / 38 / 40
The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is one of the most fuel-efficient luxury cars on the market. The alternative powertrain consists of a 2.0-liter Atkinson-Cycle gas engine teamed with an electric motor to produce 188 horsepower. The MKZ Hybrid can cruise as fast as 85 mph on electric power alone. As expected in a vehicle from Ford’s luxury brand, the MKZ Hybrid is available with numerous amenities including SYNC with MyLincoln Touch featuring an 8-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, class-exclusive LED headlamps and Lincoln Drive Control.
2017 Ford Fiesta SE (with Fuel Economy Package)
Starting Price: $16,260
MPG (city/hwy/combined): 31 / 41 / 35
Not only is the Fiesta the smallest car in the Ford lineup, it’s available with the smallest engine in a Ford. The tiny 1.0-liter EcoBoost puts out 123 horsepower and delivers as high as 41 mpg on the highway. Ford points out that the power per liter of displacement in the Fiesta is better than that of a Lamborghini Aventador — which is probably the only time these two vehicles will ever be mentioned in the same sentence. Although not very powerful, the Fiesta is small and agile, proving that high fuel economy doesn’t have to come at the cost of fun.
2017 Chevrolet Cruze
Starting Price: $16,975
MPG (city/hwy/combined): 30 / 40 / 34
Redesigned last year, the Chevrolet Cruze is larger, lighter and built on a more rigid architecture that improves driving dynamics as well as efficiency and safety. The new standard turbocharged 153-horsepower 1.4-liter direct-injection engine is paired with either a 6-speed manual transmission or an available 6-speed automatic and achieves 40 mpg highway, with start-stop technology improving efficiency in stop-and-go driving. Cruze also has next-generation Chevrolet MyLink with smartphone integration that includes compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as a standard 7-inch-diagonal screen and an available 8-inch-diagonal screen. Available in more than 40 countries, Cruze is Chevrolet’s best-selling model around the world with more than 3.5 million sold since 2008.
2017 Ford Focus
Starting Price: $18,175
MPG (city/hwy/combined): 30 / 40 / 34
Ford’s compact Focus is one of the best-selling models on the planet. Similar to the Fiesta, the Focus SE can be equipped with the optional 1.0-liter EcoBoost 3-cylinder engine producing 123 horsepower with impressive fuel economy numbers when teamed with the 6-speed manual transmission. Focus also offers the new SYNC 3 with conversational voice recognition, and an available 8-inch LCD touchscreen with swipe and pinch-to-zoom functionality. Focus also features an impressive array of safety technology including a rearview camera, a blind-spot warning system with cross-traffic alert and a lane-keeping system.
2017 Chevrolet Spark
Starting Price: $13,000
MPG (city/hwy/combined): 30 / 38 / 33
Completely redesigned last year, the Spark is Chevrolet’s smallest offering and it’s nice to see an attractive, efficient fun-to-drive small car coming from an American car company. Thanks to smart use of space and a high roof, this small car doesn’t feel claustrophobic — even for tall folks. And while inexpensive, the Spark doesn’t feel cheap. The Chevrolet Spark is one of the least expensive cars on the market to offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. It may not offer a lot of power, but the Spark is rated at an impressive 38 mpg on the highway.
2017 Chevrolet Sonic
Starting Price: $15,145
MPG (city/hwy/combined): 28 / 38 / 32
Proof that you don’t have to buy a boring econobox to save money, the Sonic is available as a surprisingly roomy 5-passenger sedan or hatchback. It features a 60/40 split-folding rear seat for added versatility, and the hatchback has a hidden storage compartment in the cargo area. Choose the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine and a manual transmission for the most enjoyment behind the wheel as well as the best fuel economy. Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and six months free of OnStar Guidance Plan, which gets you Automatic Crash Response, Stolen Vehicle Assistance, Roadside Assistance and Turn-by-Turn Navigation.
2017 Chevrolet Malibu
Starting Price: $21,680
MPG (city/hwy/combined): 27 / 36 / 30
The Chevrolet Malibu was all-new for 2016 with a 3.6-inch longer wheelbase and 2.3-inch longer overall length for more interior volume, but 300 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The sleek new design features slim, swept-back headlights and a new take on the Chevrolet dual-port grille, as well as body-side creases that redefine the profile. The standard engine – and most fuel-efficient – is an ECOTEC 1.5-liter turbocharged four cylinder that produces 163 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, combined with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
2017 Buick Encore
Starting Price: $22,990
MPG (city/hwy/combined): 27 / 33 / 30
Redesigned for 2017, Encore is Buick’s best-selling vehicle with a revised appearance that includes new front and rear fascia, a new hood, front fenders, headlights, winged grille with Buick tri-color insignia and new taillights with LED lighting. Two engines are offered: a turbocharged Ecotec 1.4-liter producing 138 horsepower, and a turbocharged Ecotec 1.4-liter producing 153 horsepower for the Encore Sport Touring, which is also the most fuel-efficient option.
2017 Chevrolet Trax
Starting Price: $21,000
MPG (city/hwy/combined): 24 / 34 / 28
For 2017 the Chevrolet Trax receives an exterior refresh with a new dual-port grille, sleek halogen headlights, a new rear fascia and new taillights with signature LED for the LT and Premier trims. Inside, the dual cockpit design has chrome accents, a new instrument cluster with new gauges and a driver information center. The Trax arrived in the U.S. for 2015 and is sold in 66 global markets. Trax seats five, and the split-folding rear seat adds considerable versatility to the small crossover. It also comes standard with GM’s latest tech offering — OnStar with 4G LTE and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. Power comes from a rather small 1.4-liter turbocharged engine producing 138 horsepower.