Although hybrid and electric cars are currently all the rage, for some, nothing beats an internal-combustion engine. In fact, 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. With 2022 shaping up to be a year of record-high gas prices, getting the most from a tank of fuel is more important than ever. 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 in order to travel 100km. You’ll often see it referred to as ‘fuel economy’. Rule of thumb on this one: 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, such as 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 factors, such as individual driving habits, cargo and maintenance. Vehicles mpg are usually shown rated for city, highway, and combined ratings (city/highway/combined).
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 ten fuel-efficient cars in Canada you should invest in:
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 available. 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 a host of 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. Honda Civic
It would be hard to find something that the Honda Civic doesn’t excel at. Another vehicle with a wealth of choices for buyers, the 2022 Civic comes in both sedan and hatchback body styles, three engine choices and either a six-speed manual transmission (in the hatchback or sportier Si sedan) or CVT. The most fuel-efficient model of 2022 is the EX with 180 horsepower, turbo, 1.5 litre with CVT rated 33/42/36 mpg. However, it does come with a heftier price tag, starting at $26,365.
FYI: Anything that is listed as less than 6-litres/100km or more than 16.5km/1-litre is considered to be pretty good.
4. Toyota Corolla Hatchback
With an EPA-estimated 36 mpg combined, this Corolla falls short of its hybrid counterpart—which is capable of 52 mpg. However, it is still among the best against its gasoline-only competitors. The smartly styled Toyota Corolla Hatchback, with an automatic CVT, starts at $23,040. 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 amount of 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 has dropped in power from the previous Rio, but gets 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 you might expect. 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 Jetta’s package is listed by the EPA as offering the best mileage ratings in its class.
8. Chevrolet Spark
The Spark has a sub-$15,000 starting price, making it the least expensive car for sale in 2022. Its 98-hp four-cylinder is smaller than most, however, it makes the most out of its nine-gallon fuel tank, getting an EPA-estimated 478 kms on a single tank of gas. The Spark LT managed 37 mpg during highway fuel-economy testing. Interesting to note, the 2022 is the final model year for the Spark, as Chevy plans to discontinue the model.
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
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 tank of gas, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named it a Top Safety Pick+. In case you’re wondering, the Accord Hybrid starts at $27,565 and gets 10 mpg 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-liter 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. Base price is $20,635
Honorable mention: 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 especially good 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.
Remember, when looking for your next fuel-efficient vehicle, there are a few points to keep in mind. 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 of 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 make sure you are getting the best rate for your new ride.