Although hybrid and electric cars are currently all the rage, for some, nothing beats an internal-combustion engine. Affordable, fuel-efficient, gasoline-powered cars still outnumber electric cars. They also have a lock on the under $30,000 category— at least, for now. While gas prices continue to fluctuate, getting the most from a fuel tank is more important than ever. However, with the rise in popularity of hybrid vehicles, here’s a brief overview of what fuel efficiency means and our top picks for the most fuel-efficient cars in Canada.

What is fuel efficiency?

Fuel efficiency refers to the distance you can travel in your vehicle on an amount of fuel. The first (and most common) reference is litres per 100km (litres/100km). This is how many litres of fuel your car needs to travel 100km. You’ll often see it referred to as ‘fuel economy.’ Rule of thumb: the lower the number of litres stated, the better the fuel economy.

What do the EPA fuel economy numbers mean?

The Environmental Protection Agency tests all vehicles under controlled lab conditions so consumers can compare the fuel economy between different models. These conditions are designed to account for real-world driving conditions. Conditions like faster driving speeds and acceleration, air conditioner use and colder outside temperatures are tested. However, on the road, your vehicle’s mileage will vary due to individual driving habits, cargo and maintenance. Vehicles’ mpg is usually rated for city, highway, and combined ratings.

Top 10 most fuel-efficient cars in Canada

If you’re looking for fuel efficiency in the pursuit of your next vehicle, here are the top 10 fuel-efficient cars in Canada you should consider investing in (in no particular order):

1. Mitsubishi Mirage

The reigning fuel mileage champion for pure internal-combustion power is the plucky Mitsubishi Mirage. Although it has less than 100 horsepower, it’s the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid vehicle. The most fuel-efficient Mirage is the hatchback with the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), rated at 36/43/39 mpg. The base price for this model is $16,125.

2. Hyundai Elantra 

The Elantra offers distinctive styling and standard features, like an 8-inch touchscreen. It has a 147-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, turning the front wheels through a CVT. For a sharp-looking sedan that starts just north of $20,000, the Elantra is an attractive choice, inside and out.

3. Toyota Prius

Rolling out in 2001 being a trailblazer for hybrid vehicles, the 2023 Toyota Prius has come back into the fold better than ever. Sporting a new sleek, modern look, user-friendly displays, and a multimedia system designed for function and style. Its firmer brakes and faster speed capabilities, with horsepower capabilities of up to 196hp. In addition to the new look comes a new price. A 2023 Prius, in its basic trim and model, starts at around $28,545  and rises to $39,090 with added features and amenities.

4. Toyota Corolla Hatchback

With an EPA-estimated 36 mpg combined, this Corolla falls short of its hybrid counterpart—capable of 52 mpg. However, it is still among the best against its gasoline-only competitors. The smartly styled Toyota Corolla Hatchback starts at $23,040 with an automatic CVT. That price gets you a 2.0-litre, naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine, making 168 horsepower, standard-issue aluminum wheels, and Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, among other things.

5. Nissan Versa

Front-wheel drive and powered by a 122-hp inline-four, only the Nissan models equipped with the automatic transmission have an EPA combined rating of 35 mpg. The Versa was redesigned last year; it rides, drives, and steers better than before, and a larger 7.0-inch touchscreen is now standard. The Versa features surprising technology for its price point, such as pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, and automated emergency braking, all standard. Even the most expensive Versa SR model starts at a wallet-friendly $19,615, while the base price is $15,930.

Many extra features increase the fuel a vehicle consumes by adding weight, increasing aerodynamic drag, or drawing extra power from the engine. Ask yourself whether the comfort or convenience these features provide is worth an ongoing increase in fuel costs.

6. Hyundai Accent & Kia Rio

Both South Korean subcompacts come standard with a 120-hp, 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine and CVT. Each sedan is rated at 33/41/36 mpg. Every Hyundai Accent has a 120-hp inline-four engine and CVT under its hood. This is the smallest sedan in the Hyundai lineup. The Accent is a nicely-equipped small vehicle with an EPA-estimated 36 mpg combined fuel economy, starting at $16,125.

Meanwhile, the 120-hp 1.6-litre engine and CVT in the Kia have dropped in power from the previous Rio but get better mileage. The Rio sedan earned a Top Safety Pick classification from IIHS. Equipped with an 8-inch touchscreen and rear camera, the base price for this model is $17,275.

7. Volkswagen Jetta

Known as “the Golf with a trunk,” the Jetta is fun to drive and offers far more space than expected. The Jetta comes standard with a 158-hp turbo four-cylinder and a six-speed manual transmission, though the most efficient Jetta uses the optional eight-speed automatic. According to the EPA, the Jetta gets better mileage than the slightly more expensive Nissan Sentra, with a base price of $21,190. The EPA lists Jetta’s package as offering the best mileage ratings in its class.

8. Kia Forte

Kia’s small sedan gets a sharp visual upgrade for 2022. The Forte sits between the smaller Rio and larger K5 in the Korean brand’s lineup. It’s excellent on the highway, with an EPA-estimated 41 mpg. Starting at $20,115 in FE trim, it features a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 147 horsepower, turning the front wheels through a CVT. An eight-inch touchscreen is standard, and the Forte was a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS.

Did you know? While in the city, most vehicles have a fuel economy of 10.7. However, driving on highways, most vehicles have a fuel economy of 7.4L.

9. Honda Accord Hybrid

The base Honda Accord comes with a 192-hp turbocharged four-cylinder and a CVT. It’s not the cheapest car on this list, but it’s spacious, has an EPA-estimated range of 488 miles on a single gas tank, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named it a Top Safety Pick+. If you’re wondering, the Accord Hybrid starts at $27,565, gets 10mpg more on the highway, and beats this gas-only powertrain by 14 mpg in the city.

10. Nissan Sentra

The Nissan Sentra proves that affordable and fuel-efficient cars in Canada don’t have to look less appealing than their more-expensive competition. The Sentra can go an EPA-estimated 409 miles between fuel stops. It’s powered by a 149-hp 2.0-litre inline-four and continuously variable transmission (CVT). When gas prices soar, the Sentra’s small 12.4-gallon fuel tank can make filling up less heartbreaking than larger cars with 17-gallon tanks. The base price is $20,635.

In conclusion

Remember, when looking for your next fuel-efficient vehicle, remember a few points. Front-wheel drive and a smaller horsepower engine help save on fuel consumption. Also, consider a CVT to get the most gear ratios possible. Extra gears do a better job keeping the engine running at its most efficient level. If you have recently bought a more fuel-efficient vehicle, call one of our isure representatives to ensure you get the best rate for your new ride.

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