With rising gas prices, fuel efficiency is more important than ever when shopping for a new car. No one wants to constantly fill up at the pump, so finding a vehicle with excellent gas mileage should be a top priority. But what exactly is considered good gas mileage these days? And which cars truly achieve the highest MPG ratings?
What is Considered Good Gas Mileage?
The average gas mileage for new vehicles sold in the U.S. is around 25 miles per gallon (MPG). So anything above 25 MPG is generally considered good fuel efficiency. Here’s a quick breakdown of different MPG tiers:
- Average: 20-25 MPG
- Good: 25-35 MPG
- Great: 35-45 MPG
- Excellent: 45+ MPG
Within that “excellent” category, 50+ MPG is truly impressive. Only the most fuel-efficient hybrid and electric vehicles on the market today can achieve over 50 MPG.
What Are the Most Fuel Efficient Cars?
These days, you’ll generally find the highest MPG vehicles among hybrids and EVs (electric vehicles). Advancements in hybrid technology and battery ranges have allowed automakers to produce mass market cars that can travel over 400 miles on a single tank of gas or electric charge.
Here are some of the top contenders for the highest gas mileage for 2021 models:
The Prius has long been the poster child for high fuel efficiency. The 2021 Toyota Prius LE now boasts an EPA-estimated 58 MPG combined (54 MPG city/50 MPG highway). This compact hybrid runs on a 1.8 liter 4-cylinder engine coupled with two electric motors. Pricing starts around $25,000.
Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
Hyundai’s alternative to the Prius, the Ioniq Hybrid hatchback achieves up to 59 MPG per the EPA (57 MPG city/59 MPG highway). This is thanks to its efficient 1.6 liter 4-cylinder gas engine and 32 kW electric motor. The Ioniq Hybrid has a starting MSRP around $23,500.
Hyundai Kona Electric
For drivers who want to forego gas entirely, the Kona Electric is one of the most affordable EVs on the market. The 2022 Kona Electric gets 132 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) based on the EPA’s formula for electric vehicles. Prices start at $35,000 before federal tax credits.
Kia Niro Hybrid
Kia’s compact Niro Hybrid crossover SUV features a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder and electric motor. Front-wheel drive models earn up to 53 MPG per the EPA, while all-wheel drive versions can achieve 49 MPG combined. New prices are around $24,500.
The Honda Insight compact sedan utilizes the automaker’s two-motor hybrid system to earn 55 MPG city/49 MPG highway per the EPA. With seating for five and a 12.3 cubic-foot trunk, this $24,000 model offers excellent fuel economy in a practical package.
What Is the Highest MPG for Non-Hybrid Cars?
You don’t necessarily need a hybrid vehicle to crack that 50 MPG mark. A few traditional gas-powered cars also deliver elite fuel efficiency without hybrid tech:
Mitsubishi Mirage G4
This subcompact Mirage sedan achieves 36 MPG city/43 MPG highway according to the EPA, for a combined 39 MPG. With its tiny 1.2 liter 3-cylinder engine, the Mirage G4 is one of the most efficient non-hybrid options at just $16,000.
The compact Corolla is known for reliability and efficiency. The 2021 Corolla LE (1.8 liter 4-cylinder) nets 32 MPG city/40 MPG highway per the EPA. Adding the adaptive cruise control bumps those numbers up to 33 MPG city/42 MPG highway. Pricing starts at $20,500.
Redesigned for 2021, the new Elantra impresses with fuel economy numbers as high as 33 MPG city/43 MPG highway according to the EPA. That’s for the base model with an efficient 2.0 liter 4-cylinder and continuously variable automatic transmission. The Elantra starts around $20,000.
Kia’s Rio compact sedan squeezes 33 MPG city/41 MPG highway out of its 1.6 liter 4-cylinder per the EPA. For a budget-friendly model starting around $16,500, the Rio offers an appealing combination of price, practicality and efficiency.
The popular Civic compact car delivers 31 MPG city/40 MPG highway for its lower trim levels, according to Honda. Higher Touring and Sport Touring trim levels equipped with the turbocharged 1.5 liter engine achieve 33 MPG city/42 MPG highway. The 2021 Civic pricing starts around $22,000.
The Most Fuel Efficient Cars
While there are a number of models that achieve excellent MPG — even without hybrid tech — the vehicles with the absolute highest gas mileage remain hybrids and EVs. Here are the top most fuel efficient cars available:
Tesla Model 3
No surprises here, as Tesla’s Model 3 is the reigning champ with up to 140 MPGe based on the EPA’s formula. This bestselling EV offers quick acceleration, sharp handling and cutting-edge tech in an affordable package (starting around $45,000). The Long Range version can cover over 300 miles per charge.
Toyota Prius Prime
The plug-in hybrid Prius Prime takes efficiency to new heights for the Prius nameplate. EPA-estimates put it at 133 MPGe in electric mode (55 MPG hybrid mode). With 25 miles of EV range before the gas engine kicks in, the Prius Prime lets you enjoy significant all-electric driving without range anxiety. MSRP is around $29,000.
Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Hyundai’s all-electric Ioniq hatchback achieves an admirable 136 MPGe per the EPA rating system. The single-charge driving range lands at 170 miles – not as high as a Tesla, but ample for daily commuting and errands. Pricing for the Ioniq Electric is around $34,000 prior to tax incentives.
As one of the pioneering affordable EVs, the Nissan Leaf delivers up to 118 MPGe. The standard Leaf Plus model travels 226 miles on a charge, while the top-end Leaf Plus clocks in at 215 miles. MSRP pricing ranges between $28,000-$43,000.
Kia Niro EV
Kia’s electric version of the Niro crossover achieves 112 MPGe based on EPA estimates. With 239 miles of range on a charge, the Niro EV supplies practicality, cutting-edge tech and 239 emissions-free miles. The Niro EV is priced around $40,000 before incentives.
Longest Range Electric Vehicles
For EV buyers, maximum driving range per charge is often priority number one. While the most fuel efficient EVs travel 200-300 miles on a single charge, some models can now push well over 300 miles:
|Make & Model
|Tesla Model S Long Range
|Lucid Air Dream Edition Range
|Tesla Model X Long Range
|Ford Mustang Mach-E (extended range)
As the table shows, Tesla currently dominates the long-range EV segment. But new entrants like Lucid and Mercedes are pushing the boundaries past 500 miles on a charge. For drivers who need to travel long distances without frequent charging, these new high-range EVs offer a compelling option.
The Future of Fuel Efficiency
Automakers are investing heavily in technologies to improve fuel economy across the board. Turbodiesel engines, streamlined designs, lightweight materials and transmissions with more gears all help boost MPG. And hybrid tech will continue spreading to more vehicle segments, including trucks and SUVs.
Further down the road, more rapid advancement of batteries will expand the role of EVs. Costs should decrease and charge times will shorten as infrastructure scales up. Solid state batteries are on the horizon too, allowing 2-3 times more range within the same battery footprint.
Fully autonomous “robotaxis” may also emerge as a super-efficient mobility solution, with passengers sharing rides in driverless vehicles. This would significantly reduce energy and emissions relative to private vehicle ownership.
As automakers optimize traditional engines and accelerate EV adoption, a continued upward climb in fuel economy seems guaranteed. Breaking the 100 MPG barrier could even become a reality before mid-century with enough focus on efficiency.
Key Takeaways on Fuel Efficiency
To summarize the highest gas mileage cars:
- Around 50 MPG is considered excellent fuel efficiency in today’s market. Only hybrids and EVs achieve this threshold.
- Leading hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Ioniq deliver 50-60 MPG combined.
- EVs boast 100+ MPGe based on the EPA’s miles per gallon equivalent formula.
- The Tesla Model 3 hits 140+ MPGe, making it the most efficient vehicle sold in the U.S.
- Long-range EVs from Tesla, Lucid and Mercedes now exceed 400 miles on a single charge.
- Automakers continue improving fuel economy through optimizing gas engines and increasing hybrid and EV models.
So if gas mileage ranks as your top priority, hybrids and EVs are clearly the way to go. The most efficient options offer two to three times the MPG of the average new gasoline vehicle. And they’ll pay dividends for years given rising gas prices and growing environmental concerns. Just be ready to pay a premium upfront given the higher cost of hybrid and EV technology.
Finding a car with excellent gas mileage makes more sense now than ever before. With efficient hybrids like the Prius achieving 50-60 MPG and EVs exceeding 100 MPGe, options for minimizing gas station trips are plentiful. Just be sure to assess your budget and driving needs before committing. Maintenance costs and driving range should factor in too. But for pure fuel efficiency, hybrids and EVs lead the way — with Tesla and other automakers pushing the limits even further in coming years.