By on June 9, 2010

  1. 2000 Honda Insight 5MT CVT (49/61/53)
  2. 2010 Toyota Prius (51/48/50)
  3. 1986 Chevrolet Sprint ER 5MT (44/53/48)
  4. 1990-1994 Geo Metro XFI 5MT (43/52/47)
  5. 1986-87 Honda Civic Coupe HF 5MT (42/51/46)
  6. 1994-95 Honda Civic Hatchback VX 5MT (39/50/43)
  7. 2006-2010 Honda Civic Hybrid CVT (40/45/42)
  8. 2010 Honda Insight CVT (40/43/41)
  9. 2001-2003 Toyota Prius CVT (42/41/40)
  10. 1989 Chevrolet Sprint/Suzuki Swift 5MT (38/45/41)

Keep in mind that this list [via our pals at Autosavant] is for EPA ratings, adjusted to the new post-2008 methodology (city/hwy/combined). Luckily, the EPA also accepts real-world mileage submissions from citizen-motorists to help illustrate the whole “your mileage may vary” thing. That list is after the jump.

  1. 2004-2006 Honda Insight 5MT (70.4/52)
  2. 2010 Honda Insight CVT (49.7/41)
  3. 1990-1994 Geo Metro XFI 5MT (49.4/46)
  4. 2010 Toyota Prius CVT (48.6/50)
  5. 1999 Chevrolet Metro 3 Cylinder 5MT (48.4/37)
  6. 2002-2003 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon TDI 5MT (48.2/39)
  7. 2003-2005 Honda Civic Hybrid 5MT (47.8/41)
  8. 1994-95 Honda Civic Hatchback VX 5MT (47.6/43)
  9. 2000-2003 Volkswagen Golf TDI 5MT (47.0/38)
  10. 1998-2003 Volkswagen New Beetle TDI 5MT (46.2/38)
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33 Comments on “The EPA’s Ten Most-Efficient Vehicles Since 1984...”


  • avatar
    educatordan

    Is that somebody rally racing an Insight?

    Back to the post at hand, notice that none of GMs “mild hybrids” cracked the top ten, although neither did the Fusion hybrid. Notice the only diesels to make either list were from VW. I understand the complexities and problems with diesel but I often wonder where we would be now if GM hadn’t given diesel such a half-assed effort back in the early 80s.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    Amazing how well that list correlates with the 10 ugliest vehicles since 1984.

  • avatar

    Educatordan, the lack of others Diesels is because nobody else has ever sold a small Diesel in the USA beyond VW. Benz only ever brought over their 3 liter sixes in big E-class and S-class cars in the past 20 years, though they always turned a respectable mid-30s MPG numbers. BMW just started their 335d recently, again a larger car than any of those listed above. No other Diesel cars have been available in the US market since 1990.

    Had this list been Euro-spec cars it would look very different,

    BTW, my real-world experience has my car at #3 in that list.

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry, Chuck, but a number of small normally aspirated diesels were offered by Toyota, Nissan, Ford, GM, Mazda, and others back in the 1980s.

      Alas, even the pathetic 51-horsepower Chevette diesel only managed ratings of 33/41, and this was typical of the bunch. These were extremely slow cars.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Most of the European diesels that can give the Prius a run for it’s (real-world) money are much smaller on the inside and/or much slower. There’s no free lunch.

      It will be interesting to see what transpires if Toyota goes ahead with plans for a Yaris- or Aygo/iQ-sized hybrid.

    • 0 avatar

      Au contraire, psarhjinian…
      According to this Auotblog report where a BMW 500 series diesel put paid to a Prius that was giving it everything it had in a trip from London to Zurich
      http://www.autoblog.com/2008/03/23/bmw-520d-beats-prius-in-gas-mileage/
      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/driving/used_car_reviews/article3552994.ece

      There’s reasons that diesels are something like half the new car sales in Europe…some of it is taxes, but it’s also the simplicity and economy.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, I remember having fun with Mercedes 190D drivers back in the day…try to get them to race with my innocent-looking Rover 2000, and then just drive away from them when I came to a hill, and any slight upgrade would qualify. I do think that the 190D, the ubiquitous German taxi of the day, would qualify as a small diesel.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      There’s reasons that diesels are something like half the new car sales in Europe…some of it is taxes, but it’s also the simplicity and economy.

      I actually commented on that Autoblog thread. There’s a few points to note:
      * That’s the old Prius, not the current one.
      * The 520d is very slow. It’s a very heavy car with a very small engine. To get a diesel that performs about on par with the current Prius would require you to step up a size class
      * That’s all extra-urban mileage, which is more than a little disingenuous a measure.
      * The 520d is not a cheap car, even in Europe.

      Diesel does well in Europe because it has enjoyed a huge tax advantage, partly to the benefit of the trucking industry and partly because the major diesel manufacturers (both OEMs and suppliers) just happen to be headquartered in those countries.

      As for simplicity: a modern turbodiesel is not a simple car. You’ve got a turbocharger, intercooler and associated plumbing, a complex and precise fuel injection system, a much more expensive block and, in many cases, a costly emissions control system. Considering that hybrids from Ford and Toyota are proving to be very reliable and inexpensive to own, I think we’re dealing with a bit of conservatism on the part of the enthusiast community.

      Seriously, this ain’t your granddad’s 1980 Mercedes 300D. “Simplicity” doesn’t apply.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      Chuck, I have to agree with you on the TDI thing. I owned an ’03 Golf TDI and got mid-40′s all day long. I’m now driving my wife’s old ’03 Jetta TDI and my last tank (which included a long highway trip) came out to 50 MPG. No funky hybrid, not a weirdly tuned model. Just a good ol’ TDI. I have a long commute and a TDI is the perfect tool for the job.

    • 0 avatar

      Michael, I hate to break this to you but the 1980s were more than 20 years ago. The cutoff for “the past 20 years” is 1990. I may be wrong but I think since ’90 only VW has sold Diesels under 2.5 liters in USA-market cars.

    • 0 avatar

      C’mon, psarhjinian…

      1) “The 520d is very slow. It’s a very heavy car with a very small engine. To get a diesel that performs about on par with the current Prius would require you to step up a size class.” So a better comparison would have been a VW Lupo, comparably sized, which would have beat the living crap out of the Prius mileage-wise. And you appear to be saying that the Prius is more a driver’s car than the BMW. Really? A Prius performs? I guess if you like driving a video game……
      Also, diesel are generally undersized compared to gas engines because their superior low-end torque obviates the need for a lot of HP and displacement: diesels do just fine with small engines.

      2) “That’s all extra-urban mileage, which is more than a little disingenuous a measure.” No, it was from the center of London to the center of Zurich. From the review: “To find out we set a challenge: to drive a Prius to Geneva using motorways and town driving. The direct route is 460 miles but we drove almost 100 miles further to give the Prius the advantage of running in urban conditions where its petrol-electric drivetrain comes into its own. “. Sure there were highways and hills. If the drive was nothing but city, the Prius would have clobbered the BMW…but an electric would clobber a Prius. It was a mixed real world test
      3) “The 520d is not a cheap car, even in Europe.” So what…the Lupo was cheaper than the Prius and would blow Prius mileage into the weeds. The Point Is: even a big fat luxury diesel beat the mileage of the Prius video game.
      4) Complexity: I suppose you could call a modern low-emissions diesel complex…but all that complexity is well understood. YOur hybrids have both hardware *and* software complexity, *and* it’s all new and when it fails or get flaky, it does so in *extremely* weird ways. The Blue Screen of Death isn’t just for computers any more.

      I’m a 20 year Unix system administrator; I know what computers can be expected to do well and consistently, and from long and bloody experience I know the virtues of K.I.S.S. The hybrids are wonders. That they work at all is a tribute to the unbelievable Japanese QC. I have to wonder how well they will work in the long run and when the battery has been replaced by the Toyota dealer’s mechanic. If they can’t do a clean job grinding down the accelerator pedal, how will they get that wondrous battery replaced?

      The guy in the BMW enjoyed himself, used the A/C, radio, etc. The guy in the Prius had all that shut off and sweating

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Interesting, the “champ” of fuel economy and “green” gets beat in the real world by its “cheap copy” and a decrepit econobox.

  • avatar

    TrueDelta also compiles real-world fuel economy stats. In addition to collecting information on driving style and driving conditions, in many cases we have larger sample sizes than the EPA.

    http://www.truedelta.com/fuel_economy.php

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    This really should hammer home how good the current Prius really is. Every other car on this list is compromised—sometimes significantly—in terms of power, safety, NVH, amenities or some combination of all four; the Prius, meanwhile, is a real car with with real space (ever seen a Civic Hybrid’s trunk?) and real crash survivability.

    And it’s not particularly expensive, either. A base Prius is only slightly more than a comparably-equipped Matrix, and is a nicer car by far.

  • avatar
    AJ

    Sure these are efficient in energy usage, but what about being efficient in energy in both the manufacturing and at the end in recycling? I’d like to see the EPA include that information.

    Back in 2007, CNW Marketing Research did a “Dust to Dust Energy Report” where they rated the Jeep Wrangler as the third most energy efficient vehicle over it’s lifetime at $0.60 per mile, whereas the Insite was rated at $2.94 per mile (based off of calculations on 2005 models). If CNW is at all correct in their report, then I’m more “green” driving my 14 mpg Wrangler then you hybrid owners.

    (See page 11 in the PDF link below)
    http://cnwmr.com/nss-folder/automotiveenergy/DUST%20PDF%20VERSION.pdf

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The CNW study started with one (to put it mildly) problematic premise: that the Hummer in question would be on the road for 300,000 miles while the Prius would only see 100,000.

      It only got better from there, what with some fascinating, and completely untrue, comments about Sudbury (eg, how the Prius is somehow solely responsible for all the nickel mined in Sudbury since 1908, or how Sudbury looks like Mars, except that it doesn’t and hasn’t since 1987).

      The point is reasonably true: there are higher costs and more energy inherent in the manufacture of a “denser” product like the Prius than, say, a Yaris. But CNW went a little overboard.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Your Jeep is not more “green” than a Prius. CNW and their “study” are complete jokes. It does not cost anyone $294,000 to drive a Prius 100,000 miles. Nobody is subsidizing that cost.

      Use actual cost to determine efficiency. If it’s cheaper to own and operate, it probably uses less energy and resources.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    My 2000 Civic HX cvt was great – bought it with 60k, put 50k trouble free miles on it. Got 37 mpg in my stop and go commute to Boston each day (32 with the ac on) What a great car.

  • avatar
    redrum

    Have you actually read the “dust to dust” report? It’s calculating cost per mile based on the “estimated lifetime miles” of a given vehicle model (a completely random and arbitrary number, as far as I can tell), which allows them to come up with bizarre results that have gained them a lot of attention across the ‘net. But it’s complete pseudo science.

  • avatar
    pauldun170

    2000 Honda Insight – Dork factor but cool with 5spd.
    2010 Toyota Prius – An actual car, but is a Toyota therefore bad souless
    1986 Chevrolet Sprint ER 5MT – shitbox
    1990-1994 Geo Metro XFI 5MT – shitbox (JA-JA-JA GEO! The shitbox that grows)
    1986-87 Honda Civic Coupe HF 5MT – Wait for it…it was a shitbox. A slow shitbox.
    1994-95 Honda Civic Hatchback VX 5MT – Slow tool that would last until it was stolen.
    2006-2010 Honda Civic Hybrid CVT – You paid how much for that?
    2010 Honda Insight CVT – Why didn’t you just get a Prius?
    2001-2003 Toyota Prius CVT – Wee lil box that sucks the life out of you as it sucks the juice out of its battery. However, respectible for what it is.
    1989 Chevrolet Sprint/Suzuki Swift 5MT – Is that a GTI? Yes = WIN!! No = Shitbox

    I am sad to see that no mention was made of the CorvetteCamaroFirebirdGTO that some owners claim gets a bazillion miles to the gallon on the highway.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Interestingly, this list will not correlate with pollution.

    I noticed recently that the new Hyundai Elantra “Blue” gets better fuel economy than the regular Elantra, but pollutes substantially more.

    Only the newest models on that list would pass today’s emission standards, and most of them were slow dogs.

  • avatar

    Fascinating stuff. And @Pauldun, hilarious!

  • avatar
    NickR

    I am amazed at the number of Insights I still see booting around Toronto. I know they aren’t the same care as each owner seems to have picked a different colour in the Honda palette or they have other distinguishing characteristics. I my day to day activities I see probably at least half a dozen around. Considering their sales were limited and they’ve been out of production for ten years, that’s pretty impressive.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    In the back of my mind, I have the idea that a 1st-gen SDI drivetrain in a 1st-gen Inisght body would be highway mileage Jesus.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the link love, Herr Niedermeyer!

  • avatar

    We are responsible for the Rally Honda Insight CVT in the picture.

    The car has won 2 Formula 1000 rally championships since 2005 and has won a fuel economy competition scoring 81.4 mpg and beating the second place car, a Renault Clio Diesel by 17mpg!!! Interesting that the CVT is much faster in a rally Insight than the 5MT.
    Using such a quirky hybrid eco-car to beat conventional rally cars is real fun and constantly amazes people but we have done some clever mods to the hybrid to get more power. ( and even better fuel economy)

    more info on http://www.oaktechybrid.co.uk


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