Top 10 Cars with the Best Real-World MPG

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Top 10 Cars with the Best Real-World MPG

As you probably already know, some vehicles return better mpg than advertised.

With numerous automakers in recent years having to adjust their mpg figures for being too high, it’s good to know some vehicles actually can exceed EPA estimates. On FuelEconomy.gov, the official U.S. government source for fuel economy information, the website allows vehicle owners to report their real-world mpg to see how it compares with what the EPA estimates. Rankings are determined based on fuel economy records provided by actual vehicle owners.

Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles are omitted from the list, as are vehicles that have records from fewer than 10 drivers.

Here are the Top 10 cars with the best real-world mpg according to actual owners.


1995-honda-civic-vx-hatchback

10. 1992-1995 Honda Civic VX Hatchback

Honda was focused on fuel economy before it was the cool thing to do. Coming in 10th place in the real-world mpg contest is the 1992-1995 Honda Civic VX hatchback, a popular model with tuners to this day. From the factory, it came equipped with a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and when paired with a five-speed manual transmission, 43 owners report an impressive 47.4 mpg. That’s actually not too far off from the EPA estimated 43 mpg combined rating.


1996-volkswagen-passat

9. 1996 Volkswagen Passat

Diesel engines may not have been that popular in the U.S. back in the 1990s and early 2000s, but Volkswagen did equip its 1996 Passat with a 1.9-liter four-cylinder diesel engine. Combined with a five-speed manual transmission, 35 drivers get a nice 47.6 mpg, plenty more than the EPA-estimated 35 mpg figure.


2002-volkswagen-jetta-wagon

8. 2002-2003 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon

Similar to the 1996 Volkswagen Passat, the 2002-2003 Volkswagen Jetta wagon was also available with a 1.9-liter diesel four-cylinder engine. Along with a five-speed manual transmission, this family hauler is returning 48 mpg for 24 drivers, a nine-mpg difference compared to the EPA combined rating of 39 mpg.


2005-honda-civic-hybrid

7. 2003-2005 Honda Civic Hybrid

Our first hybrid on the list, the 2003-2005 Civic Hybrid pairs a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine with a hybrid powertrain to get an EPA-estimated 41 mpg combined rating. Owners of the vehicle are reporting 48.1 mpg in the real world through 21 drivers.


2014-toyota-prius

6. 2010-2015 Toyota Prius

No surprise here, the most popular hybrid model in the U.S. lands in the sixth spot powered by a hybrid powertrain with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Perhaps a disappointment to owners, 322 drivers report an average fuel economy of 48.6 mpg, which is actually less than the 50 mpg combined rating EPA estimates.

Despite falling a bit short of its ratings, the Prius is still one of the most efficient cars on the market.


1999-chevrolet-metro

5. 1999 Chevrolet Metro

The first American car to make it on the list is a nameplate that doesn’t even exist today. The 1999 Chevrolet Metro has 10 owners reporting an impressive 48.8 mpg compared to the EPA combined rating of 37 mpg. Powering the Metro is a fuel-efficient 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine paired to a five-speed manual transmission.


1990-honda-civic-crx-hf

4. 1990-1991 Honda Civic CRX HF

Another favorite among tuners for its compact, lightweight body, the 1990-1991 Honda Civic CRX HF returns a nice 49.8 mpg according to 13 drivers. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a five-speed manual transmission is besting the 43 mpg figure EPA gives it.


1991-geo-metro

3. 1990-1994 Geo Metro XFI

Perhaps it’s more surprising that there’s 20 Geo Metro owners reporting their fuel economy than the fuel economy figure itself. With a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine under the hood, the subcompact Metro XFI is getting a 50.4 mpg compared to the 47 mpg EPA combined rating. Maybe there’s a reason why Geo Metro owners are still holding onto their vehicles: better fuel economy than a Prius.


2012-toyota-prius-c

2. 2012-2014 Toyota Prius c

The smallest of the Prius family is the Prius c, and 52 owners are getting 51.1 mpg, which is better than the EPA-estimated 50 mpg combined rating. Unlike the larger Prius, the Prius c has a smaller 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a hybrid powertrain and a CVT.


2006-honda-insight

1. 2004-2006 Honda Insight

It’s a shame the Honda Insight no longer exists, but 15 owners of the first two-door model from the 2004-2006 model year are quite happy with their purchase. Reporting a ridiculous 71.4 mpg from the 1.0-liter, three-cylinder hybrid with a five-speed manual transmission, the Honda Insight’s real world mpg trumps the EPA-estimated 52 mpg by a landslide.

Discuss this story at our Honda Forum

  • smartacus

    That Geo Metro XFI gas mileage is still impressive to this day.
    50.4MPG with no battery-electric weight/space penalty

  • Mike

    Not really. No airbags or safety systems. Had a 91 Ford Festiva(all Mazda, THANK GOD) that got those numbers. Not even an airbag in sight.

  • smartacus

    Oh Yes Really

    -no airbags or ABS also means no recalls for airbags and ABS like the false promise of working airbags and ABS in Toyota.

    All your unsafe fantasies about Geo Metro never materialized like the very real unsafety of Toyota who still hasn’t apologized (or aporogized) for all those serious injuries caused by the Camry Hybrid alone.

    You remember when even Toyota’s biggest cheerleader Consumer Reports was begging them to recall it already.

    -Thanks for going ahead and making my day 😉

  • smartacus

    and you THANK GOD the Ford Festiva was not a real Ford, but “all Mazda”.
    Well, now is a good time to educate you that the Geo Metro was not a real GM but all Suzuki, you Jap-basher you 😀

  • Jonny_Vancouver

    Cool list. Thanks!

  • Mike

    Why don’t you go worry about Government Motors unfolding criminal events with 30+ million RECORD recalls and 120+ deaths. Or better yet go worry about Ford being caught with their pants down on the new F150. Guess they didn’t think the other models would be tested, so lets save a few bucks on appropriate materials to save lives. Ford should be ashamed of itself, as should GM.

  • Mike

    Duh. You’re not telling me anything I didn’t already know.

  • Mike

    Btw that Ford Festiva was the best car I’ve ever owned. Simple and reliable as he*l. Still see them on the road today. Sure do miss that car.

  • smartacus

    yes i believe you
    Ford Festiva was the best car you ever owned.

  • smartacus

    haha!
    bullcrap! i obviously educated you and now you pull out the ” i knew that”

  • smartacus

    yes, if i were a Toyota fanboi like you; it would be depressed knowing it’s only a matter of time before Toyota is bought up by KIA or TATA

  • Mike

    Yah, so likely. Toyota just happened to make more profit last year than Government Motors, Ford, and Fiat/Chrysler COMBINED. Go think about that for a while.

  • smartacus

    go think about this for a while, you hate being stuck with Toyota because you are poor 🙂

  • Mike

    Poor because I drive a Toyota?! You’re delusional. Surely you’re thinking of Hyundai/Kia. Toyota doesn’t do subprime loans. A lot harder to get a Toyota than a GM or Ford. With that statement alone I question your mental health.

  • smartacus

    aha! So you ARE poor and hating it. I knew it!
    and it’s affecting your mental health.
    You have a psychosexual complex that is fueled by your inability to get a woman you REALLY want.

    It’s easy, Mike. Just earn more money and lose some weight. Join the human race

  • Khalid Ansari

    Dude… What is wrong with you?

  • Mike

    I feel so sorry for you. I really do. You’re so pathetic.

  • smartacus

    no, you are projecting. you are feeling sorry for your life and are contemplating exiting. Why don’t you let go of your depression and seek help

  • smartacus

    oh, you’re upset someone said something you didn’t agree with? Oh poor baby

  • Jerry Normandin

    My 2014 Beetle TDI gets 53mpg with Premium Diesel. (Irving and some Shell stations sell it)
    MPG is all about the Cetane content when it comes to diesel. Cetane level of 47 or greater I get awesome MPG

  • timothyhood

    I’m not here to argue the merits of the Metro vs. the Toyota. But to claim that the Metro is somehow better than modern cars because it didn’t have ABS or airbags is nuts. The Metro rated “poor” in crash ratings for it’s time. Since then, the standards have been increased twice. If it was tested today, there would need to be a new category: “death trap.”

    People that drove these basically traded safety for gas mileage. Today, that’s not necessary.

  • pleisch

    I noticed that most of the winners have manual transmissions. There’s a real need for good mileage to be paired with cars that can be driven by seniors and handicapped drivers. Many can’t drive a manual transmission or get into a car that’s too small or too low, plus the vehicle needs to have enough room to carry a walker or fold-up wheel chair. I’ve seen some small cars that are too light and small to even mount a rack for a manual wheelchair, forget trying to take along the lightest of the electric scooters. I know we can’t have everything, but this segment of the population is increasing and the options are shrinking.

  • smartacus

    i understand and i’m not affiliated with Geo, but in the real world the Metro is by far and away the safer car.
    I’m not here to say it’s better to know you don’t have ABS and SRS than to believe you do. But all those Metro deaths have never materialized and even today have racked up less injuries and deaths than Toyotas with ABS and SRS.

    To say the Metro belongs in a new category of “death trap” is nuts. State and Federal Agencies would have banned them a long time ago.

  • Yunzer

    So basically my takeaway from this is that when it comes to fuel efficiency, automotive technology in the USA has only only gone backward over the past 15 to 20 years – or is it that the manufacturers simply refuse to offer us cars with the kind of fuel economy – there simply isn’t money in such cars, especially for their friends in the oil business? Of course cars with such fuel economy are available – but only in Europe.

  • elkhornsun

    It is based on what people want to buy and most people buy vehicles for status as with all the city folk with their large SUV’s (Hummer being the most ludicrous to own) with 4WD who will never go off the pavement or the guys with their diesel pickups that will never haul 3,000 lbs. in the bed or tow 10,000 lbs. of trailer down the highway.

    I have a diesel truck that gets 14.5 MPG on average over the past 4 years and a Prius that burns regular gas and has averaged 45 MPG over the past 7 years. 90% of the time the Prius is the vehicle of choice.

    In Europe people pay the entire cost of having cars and highways and are not subsidized by the government so gas and diesel cost 4 times as much as in the USA where our highways and bridges are rapidly deteriorating. When you are paying $4 for a liter of gas you buy a smaller and more fuel efficient car and opt for the manual transmission. In Europe though the majority of people have the option of taking a high speed train or using light rail or subways to travel and are not having to support 2-3 cars to get to work, school, shopping, or recreate. Difference is that in these countries the government puts the people first unlike in the USA where profits come first (for the 1%) and people are last – often dead last.

  • pgtipsster

    In Europe, about 65% of fuel price is tax. That is why it is so expensive.

  • timothyhood

    So, your theory is that because Metro drivers know they are driving a car with no modern safety features, they will compensate by being extra careful. And, somehow, that will also magically make them immune to any kind of accident.

    The car was rated “poor” in safety tests during its time. Since then, safety standards have been increased twice. If it were crashed tested today, it would be by far the worst vehicle rated at current standards. That it never was considered a safe car and would today be rated far worse than the least-safe new car made today is enough to warrant it a death trap. It’s not banned because it can’t be retroactively removed from the market just for being far below current standards.

  • smartacus

    So your theory is that because Geo Metro does not measure up to safety standards that YOU personally want in your life; you religiously believe they will magically gravitate towards accidents?

    Where are all your imaginary Geo Metro deaths, Santa Claws?

  • timothyhood

    It has nothing to do with me. I’m talking about Federal safety standards. You know, NHTSA and IIHS (the private entity). Who keeps track of Geo Metro deaths? What, I’m supposed to go out and find some list for you just to prove that the absence of data doesn’t mean it’s not so? Why don’t you go find the data to back up your crazy notions? I’m using widely-accepted information. Perhaps there aren’t so many Metro deaths any more because most Metros have already been crushed–either in an accident or at the wrecking yard.

    Go find current data of the number of Metros on the road and the number of deaths by Metro occupants to back up your unproven statements.

  • smartacus

    No YOU MUST GO FIND THE DATA, not me.
    the onus is on YOU, genius!

    Sounds like you lost your attempt to say no no no, i iz right you iz wrong because i feel that way
    Awaiting the no i didn’t lose nothing reply in 3…2…1…

  • timothyhood

    So, smartassacus, I have to go find the data that you are claiming there are so many Geo Metros on the road? That is your claim. My claim is that they are dangerous crap that would not come close to passing current safety standards. The “poor” ratings of the Chevy Sprint and Geo Metros are right on the NHTSA web site.

  • timothyhood

    Your personal attacks when you are losing an argument make you oh so transparent. IQ in question here. These are not my safety standards. These are federal safety standards. NHTSA. IIHS. The kind of standards required to sell vehicles in the U.S. if you plan to sell more then 2,500 per year. The kind of standards that have nothing to do with “gravitating toward accidents”, but everything to do with what happens to the vehicle when it is involved in an accident. You can live in your dream world where you drive oh-so perfectly and have nothing to worry about, but the rest of the world realizes that accidents happen where the other driver is at fault and you could do nothing to avoid it. In those cases, the only thing you have left to save you is your car, and that is exactly where the Geo Deathtrap falls short. Perhaps this explains it clearly enough? If not, please, let’s stop this discussion and you go head out on the road in your Metro. The more miles you put on, the better for all of us.

  • smartacus

    you accuse me of personal attacks which is a lie.
    in fact you are the one engaging in personal attacks because you lost.
    You can’t furnish me with all your imaginary Geo Metro deaths so you lost and it hurts your pride because one too many people called you stupid so now you don’t want to be known as stupid.

  • smartacus

    aaaand your attempt to say NHTSA and IIHS are in your corner has not worked out for you.
    Please show me all the non-existent Geo Metro deaths. Please ask your non-existent contacts at NHTSA and IIHS to show me all those non-existent Geo Metro deaths so i can shut them down just as humiliatingly 🙂

  • timothyhood

    I’m beginning to think your intelligence fails to exceed a box of rocks. NHTSA and IIHS don’t track vehicular deaths by make and model. They test vehicles and report on just how safe or unsafe they are. You continue to ignore that the Sprint/Metro received poor scores by standards which have twice since been made more stringent. Poor by those standards means death trap today.

    Go ahead and respond, so you can have the last word. This conversation is going nowhere and you show no signs of progression.

  • smartacus

    OK my last word to you is your new name: LIAR !!!
    IIHS of all people most definitely tracks vehicular deaths by make AAAAND model. YOU LOST…. end of line

  • r92g

    It has to do with safety regulations and people expecting certain luxuries too (like A/C for example). The CRX HF and the Geo Metro are more of a no-frills class of cars.

  • r92g

    That’s because manual transmissions themselves are more efficient. Compare the manual and automatic versions of any given car and you’ll see. Your typical slushbox wastes some torque because of the fluid coupling. BTW, outside the US even seniors tend to drive manuals with no problem.