Top Ten Cheapest Cars that Get 40 MPG

In the past few years, 40 miles per gallon has emerged as the definitive benchmark number for fuel efficiency. Almost every mainstream small car hits this mark, and even some larger midsize sedans are reaching 40 mpg these days. But you don’t have to spend big to save big at the pump. We set out to find the cheapest cars for sale that achieve 40 mpg in EPA testing (which measures highway, city, and combined driving), and were surprised to find exactly ten 40-mpg cars that cost under $20,000. It’s worth noting that many of the cars below require a special powertrain combination or fuel economy package to hit 40 mpg, but each listed price includes destination charges and represents the exact configuration needed to achieve 40 mpg.

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage DE - $13,790

34 mpg city, 42 mpg highway, 37 mpg combined

The smallest Mitsubishi may not have many other saving graces, but the Mirage is undeniably efficient, with a 42-mpg EPA highway rating. The low starting price represents the base Mitsubishi Mirage DE, which is equipped with the standard five-speed manual transmission; outfitting this tiny, three-cylinder, 74-hp hatchback with the optional CVT raises the EPA rating to an even higher 44 mpg highway, but also raises the price by $1000.

2014 Nissan Versa Sedan S Plus - $14,600

31 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, 35 mpg combined

The Nissan Versa has been one of the cheapest cars in the U.S. market for years now, and you don’t have to add much to the base Versa S to achieve the vaunted 40-mpg mark. Stepping up from the base S with its five-speed manual and into the CVT-equipped S Plus model gets buyers a ticket into the 40-mpg club, even if the Versa sedan is still sparsely-equipped at this low price point. These ratings apply to the Nissan Versa Note hatchback as well, although that model starts at a slightly higher $16,050.

2014 Fiat 500 Pop - $16,995

31 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, 34 mpg combined

Fiat’s cute, European, and retro 500 hatchback can also be described as cheap and efficient, as this tiny Italian runabout achieves 40 mpg on the highway when equipped with the standard five-speed manual transmission. Sure, you’ll make some compromises in roominess and power (the 1.4-liter engine only produces 100 hp), but the 500 tries its best to make up for these shortcomings with its funky design inside and out. It’s even available as a 500c convertible model, although that car is more expensive at a starting price of $20,495 with destination.

2014 Chevrolet Sonic sedan LT - $17,205

29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, 33 mpg combined

When equipped with the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, the Chevrolet Sonic is a surprisingly fun urban runabout that also happens to get 40 mpg on the highway. To get this rating, buyers must avoid the optional six-speed automatic and stick with the six-speed manual transmission that comes standard when you upgrade to the turbo engine option ($700). The Sonic is available as a standard four-door sedan or a more versatile hatchback model that costs just $700 more.

2014 Ford Fiesta sedan SE EcoBoost - $17,400

32 mpg city, 45 mpg highway, 37 mpg combined

Ford’s smallest car in the States is now home to the company’s smallest engine on our shores as well. The Ford Fiesta EcoBoost is powered by a 1.0-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder that nets an impressive 45 mpg on the highway, higher than any other non-hybrid, gasoline-powered car on the market. We were impressed with this surprisingly sprightly little engine in our first drive. It costs just $995 extra on Fiesta SE models and pairs exclusively with a five-speed manual transmission.

2014 Mazda 3 i SV sedan - $17,740

29 mpg city, 41 mpg highway, 33 mpg combined

Mazda’s compact car doesn’t need any fancy extras to achieve impressive mpg numbers; in fact, the base model of the Mazda 3 sedan achieves the highest fuel economy numbers of any 3 configuration with its 41-mpg highway rating. This model is powered by a 155-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which makes use of Mazda’s Skyactiv technology that puts a priority on reducing weight and friction. This engine comes standard with a six-speed manual. Adding the six-speed automatic transmission ($1050) leaves the same highway rating unchanged, but results in a 1-mpg bump that brings the city rating up to 30 mpg.

2014 Nissan Sentra S FE+ CVT - $18,000

30 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, 34 mpg combined

Nissan’s compact sedan may be boring, but it’s undeniably efficient with its 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission. The Nissan Sentra, when equipped with the $400 FE+ package that adds aerodynamic tweaks and low-rolling-resistance tires, has EPA ratings of 30/40 mpg city/highway. That’s near the top of the compact class, and even matches its smaller Versa sibling on the highway.

2014 Honda Insight - $19,515

41 mpg city, 44 mpg highway, 42 mpg combined

With the second-generation Insight hybrid, Honda took a page out of the Toyota Prius’ playbook and created an aerodynamic, efficient, and relatively practical hybrid hatchback that gets great fuel economy. Although Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system isn’t nearly as advanced as the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive full hybrid system, the Honda Insight still achieves 44 mpg on the highway and is also the cheapest hybrid on the market.

2014 Toyota Prius C One - $19,890

53 mpg city, 46 mpg highway, 50 mpg combined

For only $375 more than the Honda Insight, the Toyota Prius C offers the highest city fuel economy of any hybrid in America, with its 53/46/50 mpg city/highway/combined rating. The Prius C is the smallest member of the Prius family, which also includes the standard Prius and the Prius V MPV. Although the equipment list for the base model Prius C One is a little sparse, this hybrid still includes features such as automatic climate control, keyless entry, and Bluetooth, not to mention the highest mpg ratings of any vehicle on this list.

2014 Toyota Corolla LE Eco - $19,905

30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway, 35 mpg combined

The redesigned 2014 Toyota Corolla this year gained a new Eco model, which features a version of the Corolla’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that’s equipped with Valvematic technology that improves engine airflow. This slightly more high-tech engine makes for 42 mpg on the highway when paired with the CVT and the Eco model’s low-rolling-resistance tires. Make sure to avoid the optional alloy wheels on the LE Eco model, though, because that option downgrades the LE Eco to a mere 40 mpg on the highway.

wayne rhode
We all want our cake and eat it too, the performance go's up and the mileage goes up with spirited driving with all brands of sub compacts. Dad retired at Ford, we all grew up in fords. I am a Ford enthusiast, I love the new Fiesta ST with the turbo and 6 speed stick. That three cylinder Eco boost 1.0 liter I3 cylinder is a kick up for a modest price increase. Made in Germany, the Germans know how to build fast cars. There engines are top notch to say the least. I'm holding out for the 2015 Fiesta with that new 230 BHP 1.6 liter engine. Taken from the road race rally cars. Then toned down some for with street manners. 2,741 pounds and  230 plus horsepower at your foot. 11.9 pounds per horsepower. The 305 HP v-6 mustang at 3500 pounds gets 11.4 pounds per horsepower. The 2015 Focus gets a power increase as well, 3253 pounds and 350 HP that's 9.29 pounds per horsepower. Will blow the doors off most street cars that run a whole lot more money.
Craig Stishenko
Noteworthy.... VW Jetta TDI - $21,295. 40mpg city, 43 highway. Over 200ft/lb of torque. Why compromise?
Chris Story
The 3 cylinder ecoboost is available in the US.. Where are u getting your info?
Arun de Maximilano
can any one say tht where i can learn abt automobile through video class
Steven Matthew Myers
That's awesome and all, but why did Ford have to uglify their cars with that God awful fish face?!
Babatunde Nasir
like matrz
@automobilemag @Honda And top ten homeliest.
@automobilemag @Honda an ordinary Japanese design :D
Mahendranath Reddy
What is the full form of MPG
Jeff Gilleran
Couldnt agree more. The old school civics in the 90s could easily get 45 Mpg. A lady friend of mine had a 93 Civic CX. She got 58 Mpg on a Hwy drive. Also saw that on the 1989 Civic CRX HF. Granted, todays cars are way safer built, and weigh more, but we have the technology to easily get even better mileage.
@automobilemag @chevrolet The #sonic RS is a darned nice car, and a lot of fun to drive. Sedan is pretty handsome too...
@automobilemag @chevrolet I would take a Sonic RS sedan with a 6-speed manual in a heartbeat.
@automobilemag @Ford Didnt get 40MPG when i drove one today....
Hayden Lorell
yea I would rather have the turbo 1 litre 3 cylinder europe gets that makes the same HP as my old civic but gets 65 MPG.... too bad we just get europe's scraps over here...sigh.

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