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10 American Cars With the Worst MPG of All Time

Check Out The 10 Worst MPG Cars From America!

1966 Chevrolet Camaro
1966 Chevrolet Camaro (Courtesy: Robert Magina at flickr.com)

Back in the 1960s a gallon of gas was as low as 35 cents. No wonder that was the decade of the muscle cars like the Mustang, Camaro, the Challenger, and Charger, all listed below as one of the 10 worst American gas-guzzlers of all time. Scroll down to view the entire list:

64 MUSTANG - Worst MPG Cars

The Worst MPG Cars To Roll Out Of America

10) Chevrolet Corvette

Introduced in 1953, the Chevrolet Corvette became the legend it continues to be in the 1960s. Production rose from 1,000 each year to about 27,000 a year. During that era the car was offered with a variety of engine options and several special performance editions were available as well. The car is in its seventh generation of production. The 1960 model was equipped with a 283, 230 hp or 245-hp V8 and has an MPG rating of around 13 to 14.

Worst MPG Cars - Chevrolet Corvette


9) Pontiac Grand Prix

Introduced in 1962, Pontiac produced the car through the 2008 model year. A 303 hp 389 cubic inch V8 engine with four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts powered the 60s models. It has been estimated that it had a 10 to 14 MPG rating.

Pontiac Grand Prix


8) Pontiac Bonneville

Introduced in 1957, the car was named after the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah where land speed records are made. It was considered a luxury and performance vehicle because it was fitted with muscle-car-era V8 engines. Due to the gas embargo of the 1970s, Pontiac downsized the engine and made it more fuel efficient in 1977. The 1988 model had a rating of 11.5 MPG.

Pontiac Bonneville


7) Dodge Viper

The Dodge Viper was introduced in 1992. Priced at $50,000, only 155 of them were sold from 1992 through 1993. The car rated 11 MPG in the city and 20 on the highway with a combined MPG rating of 14.

Dodge Viper


6) Pontiac GTO

The GTO was unveiled in 1963 and helped to introduce the era of the muscle car. It featured a 389 V8 engine and was named after a European racing series. FIA racing fans were upset, but U.S. muscle car enthusiasts loved it. Its average MPG rating was 10.3.

Pontiac GTO


5) Ford Mustang

First introduced by the Ford Motor Company in 1964, the Mustang evolved from the intermediate sized muscle cars of the 1950s that featured big block engines. 22,000 Mustangs were sold on the first day and one million were sold in the first two years. It rated 10 MPG.

Ford Mustang


4) Hummer

Originally made by AM General for the United States Army, the Hummer was introduced to the civilian market in 1992. In 1999 the company sold the Hummer name and rights to market and distribute it to General Motors. GM introduced three Hummer models – the H1, H2 and H3. The 2002 model was rated 9.6 MPG.

Worst MPG Cars - Hummer


3) Dodge Challenger

Dodge introduced the Challenger in 1970 as its answer to the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. The basic Challenger used an I6 or V8 engine and the Challenger R/T featured a 383 cubic inch V8. People who owned one say that it had about 8 to 10 MPG rating.

Dodge Challenger


2) Dodge Charger

The 1969 Dodge Charger featured a V8 engine and clocked in at 8.7 MPG.

Worst MPG Cars - Dodge Charger


1) Chevrolet Camaro

Introduced as General Motors answer to the Ford Mustang, the Camaro came out in 1966. It was powered by a 140 hp, 3.8 liter I6 engine mated to a Saginaw three-speed manual transmission. It achieved a 5.4 MPG rating.

Chevrolet Camaro

So now you’ve seen the worst offenders, how about some of the more economical models available on the market today?

6 Cheap Used Cars With Fuel Economy As Good As Today’s Gas Sippers

Not everyone can afford to buy a new hybrid to save gas, so we found 6 used cars that deliver mileage close to a new hybrid for a fraction of the price.

One note: The US EPA changed the way it estimates fuel economy starting with the 2008 model year. This “new” way of estimating fuel economy supplements the previous method by incorporating the effects of faster speeds and acceleration, air conditioner use, and colder outside temperatures. However the EPA has gone back and re-rated cars produced prior to 2008 so it creates an “apples to apples” comparison between cars built on either side of 2008. It is the updated EPA number we used in these comparisons.

2005 Honda Civic EX

Honda introduced its D Series engines in 1988 and continued to refine them through the 2005 model year. The Honda Civic EX was powered by not necessarily the most powerful D Series engines, but among the most sophisticated. The basics of the engine were a four-cylinder 1.7 liter SOHC motor, but that was just the start. Honda designed a SOHC cylinder head that operated four valves per cylinder without the cost and weight of a second camshaft. Further, Honda’s VTEC-E variable valve timing which staggered the opening on each valve separately and  multi-point fuel injection keep fuel economy and power up at the same time. The 1.7 engine produced a respectable 127 hp at 6800 rpm while delivering 31 mpg City and 39 mpg Highway when coupled to the 5-speed manual transmission.

2005 Honda Civic EX

2007 Toyota Corolla

Where the Civic gained its efficiency from an engine that had undergone a long development process, the 2007 Toyota Corolla hit its MPG milestone with a brand new motor. The 2ZR-FE is a DOHC, 16-valve, 1.8 L engine equipped with Toyota’s Dual VVT-i, which adjusts timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts. Adjustments in the overlap time between the exhaust valve closing and intake valve opening result in improved engine efficiency. The engine produces 168 hp at 6000 rpm and achieves 28 mpg City, 37 mph Highway when driven through the 5-speed manual transmission. A little trivia: this engine was also fitted to the Lotus Elise with a Magnuson supercharger and produced 217 hp.

2007 Toyota Corolla


2007 Hyundai Accent

This may be the best deal on the page. For the 2007 model year, Hyundai introduced a three-door GS version of the GLS sedan. The GS was equipped much like the GLS, with some equipment deleted for a base price of US$10,415. The Hyundai Accent was powered by a 1.6 L version of Hyundai’s Alpha DOHC engine with continuously variable valve timing to produce 110 hp but at 5800 rpm (a lower engine speed than Toyota and much lower than Honda). Even when matched to Hyundai’s automatic transmission, the Accent delivers 28 mpg City and 37 mpg Highway.

2007 Hyundai Accent

2006 VW Golf GLS TDI

Diesels are a matter of taste. Some folks are bothered by the engine clatter while others are not. If you fall into the second category, the Volkswagen Golf TDI may be the car for you. It’s powered by a 100 hp turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder diesel, which like all diesel engines gives great initial acceleration off the line.  Interesting enough, you pay little penalty for the automatic version, both manual and automatic delivering 44 mph Highway, though the automatic gets 4 mpg less than the manual’s 37 mpg in City driving.

2006 VW Golf GLS TDI


2003 Toyota Echo

A version of the Toyota Yaris sold in Japan  was sold in a four-door version with a trunk in the US and called the Echo. It featured the smallest engine of this group, a 1.5L DOHC, four valve per cylinder four cylinder engine using Toyota’s VVT-i system. The motor produces 109 hp at 6000 rpm. Fuel economy is rated at 30 City /38 Highway. If you’re looking for a bit more room, consider the  2003 Corolla which delivers 28 mpg /36 Highway. The difference between the two cars in fuel cost, according to the EPA, is just $100/year.

2003 Toyota Echo

2003 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Wagon

If we were to pick a winner out of this group, it would almost have to be the 2003 VW Jetta TDI wagon powered by the company’s 1.9 diesel. No need to go into the details of the engine as we covered it earlier, but for whatever reason, in 2003, VW hit on some magic combo that gave the TDI wagon the ability to hit an astounding 35 mpg City /45 mpg Highway (a 2015 Prius is rated at 48 mpg).

2003 Jetta TDI Wagon

Are Diesel Cars More Efficient Than Gas Cars?

How much more efficient are diesel engines than gas powered engines? It’s widely been acknowledged that diesel engines get better fuel mileage than gas engines because they are fundamentally more efficient.  Plus, the fact that diesel fuel per unit contains more energy than gasoline doesn’t hurt.  Yes, the diesel engine has some undeniable advantages over gas but the good old gas engine is catching up.

Is Diesel More Efficient?

First, let’s look at efficiency argument. A diesel engine’s higher compression ratio and lean-burn combustion cycle provide an efficiency that no gas engine can currently match. Over the diesel’s operating range, the average “thermodynamic efficiency”—how much actual energy an engine gets from from the fuel—is in the mid 30 percent range, at least 15 percent better than a gas engine.  Big advantage diesel, right? How do you catch that?

The reality is that this lead is shrinking fast. As emissions regulations become stronger and stronger, diesels are slowly losing their edge in the efficiency race.  A big issue is that most of today’s diesel engines need scrubbers that clean up the dirty diesel exhaust. And these systems happen to crimp the overall efficiency of the system due to their design.  They soak up some of the energy that the diesel fuel provides.

And, the gap is shrinking because gas engines continue to improve. Over the past decade, once-exotic efficiency-enhancing hardware such as variable camshaft timing, direct fuel injection and turbochargers have become commonplace on gasoline engines.  And there’s more on the way, like lean-burn combustion and homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI, a gas-combustion technology that blurs the line between gas and diesel engine cycles).  There’s little slowing down to search for efficiency in gasoline engines.

A Gas Pump

But while their gasoline powered brethren continue to improve, don’t expect the diesel engine to lie down and stay static.  Engineers are working hard to improve the efficiency of diesel engines even more too. The gains will come from hardware such as variable valve timing and independent cylinder combustion control, as well as improved after-treatment systems.

As you can see, the race is far from over.  What is interesting is that while Diesel engines are becoming better accepted over here in the US, they make up over 50% of vehicle sales in Europe.  The reason for this is probably more due to an open mind about diesel engines than pure economics, though.  American manufacturers have made some very poor diesel engines in the past and this has slowed American acceptance.

Final Thoughts

In terms of fuel economy you’re always going to want the best ratio of performance to gas mileage that you can buy. However, most drivers are going to want a better economy than overall performance. While the worst gas mileage cars listed above aren’t at all economical, they do have a certain wow-factor that gives them some serious appeal. And of course, some of the best gas mileage cars are a little…uninspiring. If you had the choice between a Bugatti Veyron and a Volkswagen Lupo, we know which one you’re going to choose – even the worst fuel economy cars can be a more attractive prospect. But what about trucks and SUVs? They’re serious gas guzzlers, but they’re much better than they used to be. Think about the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tundra, and others. They used to be much worse in terms of fuel economy, but they still aren’t great. Still, they’re designed to serve different purposes. In summary: a good car is one that balances performance with fuel economy, and doesn’t drink a gallon of fuel just to get off the driveway.

Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them, but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. I founded GearHeads.org and then built and ran AutoWise.com until selling it to Lola Digital Media in 2020. I look forward to watching AutoWise grow as part of the AllGear group.