7 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 7 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.
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 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.
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.
2003 Toyota Echo
A version of the 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 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).