Relax: just because experts predict the price of gasoline to eclipse $5 a gallon in the next few years doesn’t mean you can’t have some enjoyment behind the wheel. In fact, there are a number of vehicles already on the market that offer some fuel-efficient fun. We’ve selected a few of our favorites for your consideration.
2011 Mazda MX-5
It’s no secret that we here at Automobile Magazine have developed a serious infatuation with Mazda’s MX-5 roadster over the past few decades. How could we not? The MX-5 is one of the most affordable roadsters currently on the market, and it also happens to be one of the most fun cars at any price point. Better yet, it’s also one of the most frugal when it comes to fill-ups.
Mazda’s little roadster starts at just $23,905; for that price, you have everything an automotive enthusiast on a budget truly needs, including three pedals and a precise manual shifter, a responsive four-cylinder engine, and one sharp chassis. It should be noted, however, that the entry-level MX-5 Sport models only come with a five-speed manual -- but fuel economy doesn’t suffer. In fact, its 22/28 mpg (city/highway) rating is one mpg better than MX-5s fitted with either the six-speed manual or automatic transmission (21/28 mpg).
Mazda may already be planning the next-generation MX-5, but the current car presents buyers with quite a balanced package. Ergonomics are top-notch despite a relatively compact cabin, and Mazda still manages to fit a proper trunk -- something that evaded MX-5 competitors from GM. We’re also smitten with the styling -- while slightly less feminine than prior models, the new car is an interesting mix of today’s Mazda design language and cues from the first-generation MX-5.
Another appealing addition to the MX-5 is a power retractable hard top, which is available on both the Touring and Grand Touring trims. We have no reservations about driving in brisk Michigan winters with the fabric roof, but those desiring something with a little extra cold-weather comfort may prefer the tin top. Springing for the option adds 75 pounds to the MX-5’s curb weight and $2000 to the window sticker.
Base price: $23,905 (Sport, includes destination)
Engine: 167-horsepower, 2.0-liter I-4
More of our five fun fuel-efficient picks: