40 Mile High Club

CHEVROLET SONIC 1.4 TURBO

$16,395 – $19,870
City: 29 MPG
Highway: 40 MPG
Combined: 33 MPG

This could well be the most enjoyable way to get 40 MPG. The 1.4 Turbo is the hot-rod version of the Chevy Sonic, and because of it’s small, high-tech engine, it actually gets better gas mileage than the base-model Chevy Sonic. Unfortunately, the high-MPG engine isn’t available with an automatic transmission.

Love It: : CHevy Sonic combines high MPG with a high fun-to-drive factor
Like It: Cute styling
Leave It: Top-end models are pricey, non-turbo versions get mediocre gas mileage

FORD FIESTA SFE

$17,255 – $18,470
City: 29 MPG
Highway: 40 MPG
Combined: 33 MPG
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We love the Ford Fiesta for it’s cute, cheeky personality and smile-inducing handling, but if you want to break the 40 MPG barrier, you’ll need to opt for the $695 Super Fuel Economy package, offered only on the mid-level Ford Fiesta SE. Without SFE, the Ford Fiesta is rated at 29 MPG city/38 MPG highway for automatics, 28/37 for manuals.

Love It: Cute styling, loads of character
Like It: The entry-level Ford Fiesta (without SFE) is attractively priced
Leave It: 40 MPG costs extra

FORD FOCUS SFE

$19,885 – $23,160
City: 28 MPG
Highway: 40 MPG
Combined: 32 MPG
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Just like the Ford Fiesta, we love the Focus but are disappointed that the Super Fuel Economy package (priced at $495) is only available on the mid-level SE sedan. Shame, because higher-end Ford Focus models offer some really nifty options, like a self-parking system. Without SFE, the Ford Focus is rated between 26 and 28 MPG city and 36 to 38 MPG highway.

Love It: European design, fantastic handling
Like It: Lots of cool extra-cost options
Leave It: 40 MPG is limited to a select few low-end models

HONDA CIVIC HF

$20,225
City: 29 MPG
Highway: 41 MPG
Combined: 33 MPG

Compared to a regular Honda Civic, the Honda Civic HF has improved aerodynamics and low rolling resistance tires that raise its EPA estimates by one MPG in the city (3.6% better) and two MPG (5%) on the highway. At that rate, it takes five to eight years to make up the $800 price premium over a standard Honda Civic LX.

Love It: Reliable, roomy and family friendly
Like It: “Econ” button helps drivers reach the 41 MPG figure
Leave It: Fuel savings may not justify the extra cost over regular Civics

HYUNDAI ACCENT

$13,205 – $17,555
City: 30 MPG
Highway: 40 MPG
Combined: 34 MPG (manual), 33 MPG (automatic)
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The all-new entry-level Huyundai Accent is the least expensive car to hit the 40 MPG mark. The base-model Hyundai Accent is cheap, but to find one at the Hyundai dealership stripped down is tough. Most cost $16k or better. The Hyundai Accent uses a high-tech direct fuel injection system and slick aerodynamics, but you’ll need to stick to the speed limit to see 40 MPG.

Love It: High-tech direct fuel injection is a rare find in an inexpensive car like the Hyundai Accent!
Like It: Much nicer interior than you’d expect from an entry-level Hyundai
Leave It: Inexpensive versions that aren’t loaded with options are hard to find

HYUNDAI ELANTRA

$17,220 – $23,320
City: 29 MPG
Highway: 40 MPG
Combined: 33 MPG
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The Elantra is a wonderful car: Beautifully styled, nicely appointed inside, and very inexpensive for what you get. The 40 MPG EPA highway rating is icing on the cake. As with most gas-powered 40 MPG cars, speed matters: We’ve seen 42 MPG when sticking to the 65 MPH speed limit, but crank ‘er up to 75 or better, and mileage drops into the mid-30s.

Love It: the Hyundai Elantra is loads of car for the money
Like It: Driven gently, it really will get 40 MPG on the highway
Leave It: No serious complaints

HYUNDAI VELOSTER

$18,075 – $23,325
City: 28 MPG (manual), 29 MPG (automatic)
Highway: 40 MPG (manual), 38 MPG (automatic)
Combined: 32 MPG (both)
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Here’s an unexpected surprise: The darling new Hyundai Veloster — designed to turn heads rather than save the planet — is a 40 MPG car, at least in manual-transmission form. The small engine is responsible for the excellent fuel economy, but it makes the Hyundai Veloster a poor choice for people in a hurry. It’s incredibly underpowered when facing headwinds or driving up steep hills.

Love It: The Hyundai Veloster has eye-catching styling
Like It: Cool interior, great tech-savvy features
Leave It: It’s sloooooowwwwwww

KIA RIO

$14,150 – $20,650
City: 30 MPG
Highway: 40 MPG
Combined: 34 MPG (manual), 33 MPG (automatic)

Under the skin — and what a handsome skin it is! — the Kia Rio is largely identical to the Hyundai Accent, including the direct-injected 1.6 liter engine, and as with the Accent, styling and quality belie the cheap price. Meeting the 30 MPG city estimate should be no problem, but to hit 40 MPG in a Kia Rio on the highway requires a bit more effort. You’ll need to abandon your lead foot.

Love It: Beautiful styling, well-appointed interior
Like It: Affordable pricing, long warranty
Leave It: The Kia Rio doesn’t offer much to complain about

MAZDA3 SKYACTIV

$20,345 – $24,745
City: 28 MPG (automatic), 27 MPG (manual)
Highway: 40 MPG (automatic), 39 MPG (manual)
Combined: 33 MPG (automatic), 31 MPG (manual)
Read Review

The Mazda3 is a long-time favorite of car enthusiasts; of all the small cars out there, a Mazda is hands-down the most fun to drive. The new SkyActiv engine and transmission options put the Mazda3 in the 40 MPG club, but the base-model Mazda3i SV and the more powerful Mazda3 “S” get less fuel-efficient engines.

Love It: Mazda3 is big fun to drive
Like It: : Mazda3 SkyActiv engines deliver great MPG, even in city driving
Leave It: : Drab interior, base and top-end models get mediocre gas mileage

SMART-FOR-TWO

$13,240 – $23,335
City: 33 MPG
Highway: 41 MPG
Combined: 36 MPG

Small as it is, you’d expect the Smart to get stellar gas mileage, but its tiny 3-cylinder engine has to work its little heart out to keep up a head of steam. 41 MPG is difficult, although one Vroomie did manage to coax a Smart convertible up to 39 MPG.

Love It: Cute styling, available as a convertible
Like It: Low price
Leave It: Rough ride, not as fuel efficient as we expected given its size

ELECTRIC CARS

Battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs) don’t use any gasoline at all, and are practically maintenance free. Limited production numbers and constantly-developing battery technology keep the prices high, but keep in mind that most EVs quality for a $7,500 Federal tax credit and additional state and local incentives.

A Note on EV Fuel Economy

Because electric vehicles (also called EVs) don’t use gasoline, the EPA rates them with MPGe — Miles Per Gallon Equivalent. MPGe measures how far the car can go on 33.7 kilowatts (kW) of electricity. Why 33.7 kW? Because that’s how much electricity it takes to match the amount of energy in a gallon of gasoline. Unlike gasoline or diesel powered cars, electric vehicles use less electricity in slow or stop-and-go driving, and consume more power at highway speeds.

NISSAN LEAF

$36,050 – $39,215
Range: 73 miles
City: 106 MPGe
Highway: 92 MPGe
Combined: 99 MPGe
Read Review

Of all the electric vehicles on this list, the Nissan Leaf is probably the easiest to live with, and the one that blends in the most. The Nissan Leaf has the space and comfort of a conventional car and the smooth, quiet driving experience that is unique to EVs. And with government incentives factored in, the Leaf‘s price is pretty reasonable.

Love It: High-zoot interior, quiet ride
Like It: Reasonably priced for an EV
Leave It: The Nissan Leaf has polarizing odd styling

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2 Responses to “40 Mile High Club”

  1. Toodie says:

    VERY helpful article.

    My secret was to buy a used 2005 Prius two years ago, so the cost was lower, but the efficiency fantastic!

    Seems the owner traded it in for a newer model. And the mileage was low, which was great.

    But even with high mileage, the Prius is Queen.

    I’ve NEVER regretted this decision.

  2. John says:

    I bought a 2012 Focus S with the 5-speed manual, and have gotten 40-43 mpg on the highway with it, and my routine driving (city/mountain commuting) is in the 32-34 range. Great car, and very fun to drive. And being the base model…none of that glitchy MyFordTouch stuff to go wrong and cause problems.

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