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Choosing between best price and the best fuel economy isn't a simple decision. But once you factor in other influences such as seating capacity, safety features, crash test ratings and overall design, you're sure to come up with a short list from which a fuel miser can be a personal winner.



2005 Best Fuel Economy models for the frugal driver
By Bill Roebuck

2006 Hyundai Accent HatchbackFor those concerned more about fuel economy than looks or performance, you'd expect economically priced compacts and subcompacts to provide the best bang for the buck. Not only are they the favourites of Canadians -- more than half of us prefer small cars -- they're expected to be the leaders of the pack when it comes to saving gas.

As it turns out, that's not quite the case. While most cars in this class do get excellent fuel economy, generally a city/highway range of 9.3-5.9 L/100 km (30-48 mpg), the real gas savers may give you sticker shock.

If your focus is on saving fuel, diesel and hybrid engines should be at the forefront of your considerations. But these technologies add significantly to the cost of a vehicle -- anywhere from about $1,000 to $4,000 or much more for hybrids -- taking them off the list for frugal buyers.

In a recent survey of 20,000 CAA members from all across Canada, only 30% of respondents said they were somewhat or very likely to consider acquiring a vehicle that uses an alternative energy source (fuel cell, hybrid, electric, etc.).

If you want to be cheap and cheerful, you can still cut fuel costs by driving vehicles with regular gasoline engines. Typically, that means you'll choose a lightweight model with a manual transmission.

Next, turn to National Resources Canada's EnerGuide ratings.

The EnerGuide fuel consumption label affixed to all new light-duty vehicles is produced in cooperation with vehicle manufacturers, Natural Resources Canada and other federal departments. This information will assist you in comparing relative fuel consumption ratings among vehicles that meet your utility, performance and lifestyle needs.

The details are compiled in an annual Fuel Consumption Guide that is available free from licensing offices, auto dealerships, the CAA, online at www.vehicles.gc.ca, or by calling 1-800-387-2000.

The guide lists the annual estimates of fuel use, fuel cost and carbon dioxide emissions of new passenger cars and light-duty pickup trucks, vans and special-purpose vehicles sold in Canada. The fuel consumption ratings are presented according to vehicle make and model, engine size, type of transmission, vehicle class and fuel type.

Before checking the guide, we looked up the least expensive 2005 cars from each manufacturer that offers a model under $19,000. We sorted the list by price and added fuel economy ratings for reference.

The Hyundai Accent two-door hatchback, Kia Rio S four-door sedan and the two-door Toyota Echo Hatchback have the lowest list prices in Canada. The best fuel economy in this list is offered by the Echo and the Smart, a three-cylinder diesel.

Most Fuel Efficient 2005 models, listed by order of MSRP:

Hyundai Accent, $12,995, city 8.1 L/100 km (35 mpg), hwy. 6.5 L/100 km (43 mpg).

Kia Rio, $12,995, city 9.3 L/100 km (30 mpg), hwy. 6.9 L/100 km (41 mpg).

Toyota Echo, $12,995, city 6.7 L/100 km (42 mpg), hwy. 5.2 L/100 km (54 mpg).

Chevrolet Aveo, $13,595, city 8.8 L/100 km (32 mpg), hwy. 6.1 L/100 km (46 mpg).

Pontiac Wave, $13,595, city 8.8 L/100 km (32 mpg), hwy. 6.1 L/100 km (46 mpg).

Suzuki Swift+, $13,595, city 8.8 L/100 km (32 mpg), hwy. 6.1 L/100 km (46 mpg).

Saturn Ion, $14,935, city 9.5 L/100 km (30 mpg), hwy. 6.1 L/100 km (46 mpg).

Nissan Sentra 1.8, $15,598, city 8.3 L/100 km (34 mpg), hwy. 6.2 L/100 km (46 mpg).

Dodge SX 2.0, $15,605, city 8.0 L/100 km (35 mpg), hwy. 5.9 L/100 km (48 mpg).

Chrysler PT Cruiser, $15,998, city 9.8 L/100 km (29 mpg), hwy. 7.5 L/100 km (38 mpg).

Mitsubishi Lancer, $15,998, city 8.6 L/100 km (33 mpg), hwy. 6.3 L/100 km (45 mpg).

Honda Civic, $16,200, city 7.5 L/100 km (38 mpg), hwy. 5.7 L/100 km (50 mpg).

Mazda 3, $16,295, city 8.5 L/100 km (33 mpg), hwy. 6.2 L/100 km (46 mpg).

Ford Focus, $16,795, city 9.2 L/100 km (31 mpg), hwy. 6.2 L/100 km (46 mpg).

Smart Fortwo (diesel), $16,500, city 4.6 L/100 km (61 mpg), hwy. 3.8 L/100 km (74 mpg).

Volkswagen Golf, $18,530, city 9.6 L/100 km (29 mpg), hwy. 7.2 L/100 km (39 mpg).

You might also consider the winners of the annual EnerGuide Awards, administered by Natural Resources Canada's Office of Energy Efficiency. The awards are presented for the most fuel-efficient vehicles each year. Winning vehicles are determined by testing that simulates driving 20,000 km annually (55% city, 45% highway). Click here for a current list of EnerGuide winners.

The winners in several different classes are determined using the annual fuel consumption estimates for each vehicle. In this list of the 2005 EnerGuide winners, but you'll note that fuel-saving designs can be costly -- only two of these models are under $19,000.

Two-seater car: Honda Insight, $26,000, city 3.9 L/100 km (72 mpg), hwy. 3.3 L/100 km (86 mpg).

Subcompact car (diesel): Volkswagen New Beetle TDI, $25,690, city 6.2 L/100 km (46 mpg), hwy. 4.6 L/100 km (61 mpg).

Subcompact car (gasoline): Toyota Echo Hatchback, $12,995, city 6.7 L/100 km (42 mpg), hwy. 5.2 L/100 km (54 mpg).

Compact car: Honda Civic Hybrid, $28,500, city 4.9 L/100 km (58 mpg), hwy. 4.6 L/100 km (61 mpg).

Mid-size car: Toyota Prius, $30,530, city 4.0 L/100 km (71 mpg), hwy. 4.2 L/100 km (67 mpg).

Full-size car: Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, $26,495, city 10.5 L/100 km (27 mpg), hwy. 6.7 L/100 km (42 mpg).

Station wagon (diesel): Volkswagen Jetta TDI Wagon, $27,780, city 6.5 L/100 km (43 mpg), hwy. 4.6 L/100 km (61 mpg).

Station wagon (gasoline): co-winners Pontiac Vibe, $19,900, and Toyota Matrix $17,050, city 7.9 L/100 km (36 mpg), hwy. 5.9 L/100 km (48 mpg).

As you can see, choosing between best price and the best fuel economy isn't a simple decision. But once you factor in other influences such as seating capacity, safety features, crash test ratings and overall design, you're sure to come up with a short list from which a fuel miser can be a personal winner.

©2005 Bill Roebuck, CarTest.ca.