Top 10 Smallest Engines Available in Cars Today

Sami Haj-Assaad
by Sami Haj-Assaad
In an effort to make the most fuel efficient vehicles, automakers are looking at smaller displacement engines, which have made it into plenty of compact and subcompact vehicles.

The motors in these vehicles don’t pack much power, or torque, and are all aimed to use the least amount of fuel. These cars are all ranked in order, right down to the cubic centimeter from most displacement, to least, so take a look below, to see the list of smallest engines available today.

The subcompact Mazda 2 is the first on our list, with the biggest engine here. Thanks to its 1498cc four-cylinder engine, the Mazda2 makes 100-hp at 6000 rpm. Of course, that’s not much but what else do you need in a 2300-lb city car? The Mazda2 starts at $14,530 which isn’t too much for a car that gets 29/35 mpg city/highway with the manual or 28/34 mpg city/highway with the auto.

Coming in at number 9 is a two way tie between bitter rivals. Both the Toyota Yaris, and Honda Fit feature 1497cc engines which are advertised as 1.5-liters. In the Yaris, the little engine puts out 106-hp and 103-lb-ft of torque. Of course that’s plenty for a car that doesn’t weigh more than 2300 lbs. Its a similar story in the Honda Fit, which makes 117-hp and 106-lb-ft of torque, to push around 2500-lbs of metal. The Yaris gets 30/38 mpg with a 5-speed manual, and 30/35 mpg with the automatic transmission.

2012 Honda Fit Sport.

In the Honda Fit, expect 27/33 mpg in both the automatic and manual models. It’s also worth mentioning that the 1.5-liter engine that is in the Yaris, is also used in Toyota’s Prius c hybrid, where it achieves 56/43 mpg thanks to Toyota’s hybrid gas-electric technology. The Toyota Yaris starts at $14,115, while the Honda Fit is a bit more expensive at $15,325. The hybrid powered Prius c comes in at $18,950.

The Chevrolet Volt uses a unique extended-range electric power-train that has a gasoline engine that acts as a generator for the car’s electric motors. That engine is a 1.4-liter (1,398cc) displacement engine which makes 85 hp. That little engine aids the electric motor and battery to get a 94 MPGe rating by the EPA. At $39,145, the Chevrolet Volt isn’t the cheapest car on the list, but it certainly is the most high-tech, and thanks to that Voltec, extended range electric powertrain, the Volt can go around 800 miles on a single tank and charge.

Fiat‘s spunky 500 has another tiny engine, the 1.4-liter MultiAir which makes 101-hp and 98-lb-ft of torque. This 1,368cc engine helps the little Italian coupe earn 30/38 mpg , with a combined rating of 33 mpg. However, the Fiat 500 engine prefers to use premium fuel, which does cut into the cost savings with a smaller’ engine discussion. The same engine is used, but with a turbocharger in the Fiat 500 Abarth as well, which makes 160-hp. The Fiat 500 comes in at $15,500, while the more powerful 500 Abarth costs $22,000.

Dodge‘s new compact has an optional 1.4-liter engine, which is the same MultiAir engine as the Fiat 500 Abarth. This means it has the same 1,368cc engine that sports 160-hp. Dart’s equipped with this engine have a fuel economy rating of 27/39 mpg. This isn’t the most powerful engine available for the Dart lineup, but is so far the most fuel efficient option. None of the Dodge Dart models come standard with the 1.4L MultiAir engine, but it is available as a no-charge option on the $18,995 Dodge Dart Rallye and $20,190 Limited model.

Both the Chevrolet Sonic, and Chevrolet Cruze are available with turbocharged 1.4-liter engines which are incredibly fuel efficient, making 138-hp and 148-lb-ft of torque. This engine is even standard on the Cruze LT, LTZ and Eco models. The little, but peppy 1,364cc engine helps the Sonic earn 29/40 mpg and 33 mpg combined. In the Cruze Eco, the little engine earns 28/42 mpg and 33 mpg combined. The best part about this turbocharged engine? It doesn’t require premium fuel. The $16,600 Sonic LT Manual and the $18,160 Sonic LTZ both feature the 1.4L engine as a $700 option. The 1.4L engine is also standard on every Chevrolet Cruze, except for the base LS trim.

Joining the Volt as another alternate fuel vehicle, is the Honda Insight, which uses a gas-electric hybrid drive train. The tiny 1.3-liter engine works in tandem with the electric motors in the Insight to make a total output of 98-hp. That hybrid system earns a stunning 41/44 mpg. The Insight is attainable at $18,500, which isn’t a bad price point for a compact hybrid vehicle.

Scion‘s micro-subcompact can still somehow seat up to four, but that’s not its only impressive feature. By using a 1.3-liter (1,329cc) four-cylinder engine, which makes 94-hp and 89-lb-ft of torque, the peppy, yet frugal engine helps the iQ get a EPA rated 36/37 mpg. It’s not the smallest engine in the micro-subcompact market, but it is the most fuel efficient. That fuel-efficiency comes at a price though, and the Scion iQ costs a whopping $15,995, far more than its micro-subcompact rivals.

Chevrolet’s new city car, the Spark, features an even smaller engine than the iQ and Insight. The new 1.2L EcoTec engine makes 83-hp and when paired to a five-speed manual transmission earns an EPA rated 32/38 mpg city/highway. That’s not bad at all for a car that starts a $12,245.

smart fortwo.

Finally, the smallest engine on our list belongs to the 1.0-Liter, three-cylinder engine that’s inside the smart fortwo. Here it makes a sweet 70hp, which is good for an EPA rated 34/38 mpg. The engine requires premium fuel, like a few other vehicles on this list, but its also worth mentioning that this is the only car on the list that is rear-engine and rear wheel drive. The smart fortwo isn’t as cheap as the Chevy Spark, and costs $12,490 for the extra fuel efficiency over the American micro-subcompact.

Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad

Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.

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  • TRON TRON on Jun 07, 2016

    Where is the Mitsubishi Mirage? It get's better gas mileage than any of these except the hybrids.

  • Indiucky Indiucky on Oct 08, 2022

    Nope. Geo Metro gas engine, the Suzuki G10 1.0-litre 3-cylinder. My '96 gets an average of 43 mpg combined city/highway mpg here in Kentucky; she got 54 mpg on Idaho's I-84 not exceeding 65 mph...and 63 mpg on Wyoming's I-80 not exceeding 65 mph. Some years ago, they got a de-electrified Prius and pitted against an old Metro...the Metro won. Metros are more fun, too.