Expert Insights

Affordable Fuel-Efficient Cars

Laurance Yap
July 7, 2023
If you’re shopping for a car on a tight budget, and have a tight budget for gasoline, we’ve compiled a list of great choices starting at under $25,000, and with EPA highway ratings of over 40 MPG.
2022 Honda Civic

What Are Today's Most Affordable Fuel-Efficient Cars?

Just because you want to save money on your car and on fuel doesn’t necessarily mean you should have to give up features, safety or comfort. Fortunately, today’s crop of economy cars are the best ever, packed with safety features and technology, and with enough space and comfort for day-to-day use in the city and on longer trips.

If you’re shopping for a car on a tight budget, and have a tight budget for gasoline, we’ve compiled a list of five great choices. All of them start at under $25,000 MSRP, and all of them sip fuel and are rated by the EPA at over 40 MPG on the highway.

Woman standing beside a Mitsubishi Mirage LE

Mitsubishi Mirage

The subcompact Mirage hatchback is one of the least-expensive vehicles available on the U.S. market. Fortunately, it’s also one of the most economical to run, with its 1.2-liter engine capable of 43 MPG on the highway when equipped with the continuously-variable automatic transmission (a five-speed manual is standard). The Mirage’s hatchback body has plenty of room up front and a versatile cargo area that can be expanded by folding down the back seats, and it has a super-tight turning circle, making it a great car for the city. Even at its low base price, the Mirage comes standard with ABS brakes, stability control, and automatic braking with pedestrian detection – features which are optional on many more expensive cars. Seven airbags and a rear-view camera are also standard.

  • Starting MSRP: $16,245
  • EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 36/43
Kia Rio sedan parked in an urban area

Kia Rio

Kia’s entry-level subcompact Rio may be small on the outside, but it’s big on the inside, and actually has more interior space than the compact Toyota Corolla. It is very well-equipped too, with a standard 8-inch touchscreen color display, rear-view camera, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and rear-view camera. We really like the Rio’s sophisticated interior design, which has a European feel to it, and its seats are excellent. Standard safety features include ABS and stability control along with a strong crash structure and six airbags. Combined with a standard automatic transmission, the 1.6-liter, 120-hp engine produces more than enough zip around the city and for highway journeys, along with 41 miles per gallon on the highway.

  • Starting MSRP: $16,750
  • EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 33/41
Hyundai Accent parked in a downtown area

Hyundai Accent

The Accent may be Hyundai’s smallest and least expensive offering in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean you have to give up safety, value, or technology. Starting under $17,000, all Accents are equipped with standard automatic transmission, ABS brakes, vehicle stability control, rear-view camera, and six airbags. Inside, it’s packed with practical touches such as a six-way adjustable driver’s seat, power windows and door locks, and more. Hyundai has wisely avoided going overboard with screens and gadgets, instead providing a touch-screen portal to your smartphone through Android Auto or Apple CarPlay alongside nice physical controls for the heating and air conditioning.

  • Starting MSRP: $16,645
  • EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 33/41
Hyundai Elantra driving through a downtown city

Hyundai Elantra

The Elantra is a modern, spacious sedan with surprising features and luxury. We like its upscale interior, with features previously available only on high-end luxury cars. It comes with a large 8-inch touchscreen and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard. A wide range of safety systems keep you safe; forward collision assist with pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, lane keeping assist, blind spot assist, and more are all standard. The 147-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder delivers 42 highway MPG.

  • Starting MSRP: $20,650
  • EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 33/42
Volkswagen Jetta driving through a city area

Volkswagen Jetta

The Jetta is a compact sedan with almost as much room as a mid-size sedan. In fact, everything about it feels like it’s from a class above – from its spacious interior to its big, comfortable seats, to its superb ride quality and the quiet cabin. From the moment you turn the steering wheel, you can sense the Jetta’s autobahn breeding: it’s stable and comfortable at highway speeds with superb refinement for a car of its price. The 1.5-liter turbocharged engine produces a thrilling rush of speed while sipping gas; its 158 horsepower is nearly double the Mitsubishi Mirage’s, while delivering even better fuel economy. Standard tech includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, multiple USB ports, a back-up camera, and more.

  • Starting MSRP: $20,665
  • EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 29/43
2023 Honda Civic sedan driving down freeway

Honda Civic

Completely redesigned for 2022, the Civic has grown, with more than enough room for a family. We really love its superb interior, with excellent quality, great seats, and easy-to-use controls., with many functions still operated with physical knobs and buttons. We also really like the Civic’s driving experience, which has a sporty edge that is surprising in a vehicle of its price. The 2.0-liter engine produces 158 hp and gives you 40 highway MPG. Standard equipment includes blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, automatic pre-collision braking, and more.

  • Starting MSRP: $25,050
  • EPA Estimated City/Highway MPG: 31/40