Some cars seem like fuel sippers, but they’re not. Like wolves in sheep’s clothing, cars can look like they go easy on the gas, but end up gulping it down like an SUV. If you’re after a car that doesn’t guzzle fuel, watch out for these secret gas hogs.
Guzzler: Volkswagen Beetle
The Volkswagen Beetle looks cute and innocent, but this petite car has a huge appetite. The Beetle slurps down $2,329 in fuel each year when it’s equipped with an automatic transmission. That price doesn’t improve with a manual transmission. You’ll only jump one mile-per-gallon on the highway, to give you a grand total of 20/29 mpg city/highway. Whoopee. Thank goodness it takes regular gasoline.
Sipper: Mini Cooper
If you love the Beetle for its retro looks, you’ll probably like the Mini Cooper. Sure, it starts at about $1,000 more than the Beetle, but the Cooper’s fuel savings will make up the price difference in just two years. Not only will you get better fuel economy ratings of 29/37 mpg city/highway with a manual transmission, but your annual fuel costs will be $1,789 – a $540 drop from the Beetle’s $2,329 annual fuel costs. And that’s with the Cooper’s premium fuel requirements.
As you hunt for a small car, you’ll probably check out the Mazda3 because it’s fun to drive and has sporty styling. If maximizing fuel economy is your priority, bypass this undercover guzzler. It maxes out at 25/33 mpg city/highway, and that number only decreases once you get an automatic transmission and a more powerful engine. These numbers aren’t the worst in the class, and they’re definitely better than the Beetle’s, but you can get a car with good performance, a fancy exterior and better fuel economy for less than the Mazda3’s $15,800 base price.
Sipper: Hyundai Elantra
The automotive industry is in love with the Hyundai Elantra, and they have every right to be. This affordable small car has what Hyundai calls “America’s Best Warranty,” a sub-$15,000 price tag, jazzy exterior styling, good performance, and most importantly, fuel economy ratings of 29/40 mpg city/highway. With annual fuel costs of $1,623, you can save $358 each year compared to the Mazda3, which has you pumping $1,981 into the tank when you get the base engine and an automatic transmission.
Guzzler: Nissan Altima Hybrid
Don’t be shocked that a hybrid made this list. Automakers don’t want to sacrifice performance for the sake of going green, and as a result, some hybrids – like the Altima – have lower fuel economy ratings compared to their competitors. The Altima Hybrid gets 33/33 mpg city/highway, a lot less than the Ford Fusion Hybrid’s 41/36 mph city/highway ratings. For the Altima Hybrid, those ratings translate to annual fuel costs of $1,623 – exactly what it costs to fill up the Hyundai Elantra, and that car isn’t even a hybrid.
Sipper: Toyota Prius
Averaging 51/48 mpg on the highway, there’s a good reason why the Toyota Prius is in demand whenever gas prices rise. It’s affordable, and among hybrids, it has the highest fuel economy ratings. With an annual fuel bill of $1,071 and a base price of $23,050, you’ll laugh all the way to the bank. That said, Prius supplies are dwindling in the U.S. – some dealers are already out. If you’re determined to buy one now and can’t be persuaded to wait, get one.
Guzzler: Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V is so popular that it’s not uncommon to see two or three in the pickup lane at daycare. Families like the CR-V for its conversation mirror that helps the driver keep kids in check and a fold out tray table that’s great for serving snacks. But, moving those utilitarian features around town is an engine that’s thirstier than competitors like the Chevrolet Equinox, which gets 32 mpg on the highway. The CR-V, however, averages 21/28 mpg city/highway on two-wheel drive models, and 21/27 mpg city/highway with all-wheel drive. That means that you’ll pay $2,233 per year to fuel up a two-wheel drive CR-V and $2,329 to fuel up one with four-wheel drive. If you want to pay less, start shopping for a crossover that’ll be kinder to your pocket book and carry your family.
Sipper: Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport’s aggressive front grill looks like it’s eating up the road, but don’t worry – this crossover won’t gobble up your cash. The Outlander sport gets 25/31 mpg city/highway with two wheel drive and 24/29 mpg city/highway with four-wheel drive. You’ll pay $1,981 to fuel the base 2WD model, and $2,062 for the 4WD model. With these ratings, not only will you save about $270 per year over the CR-V, but you’ll also have an SUV with an exterior that makes you stand out in the daycare parking lot.
To see more undercover guzzlers, check out our slide show.