Automakers are no different than people at the gym in January: They want to lose weight. From the cheapest economy cars to the most expensive exotics, every car manufacturer is desperately trying to cut pounds from its vehicles. Reducing a car’s mass improves every aspect of its performance — acceleration, braking, and handling — not to mention ride quality and fuel efficiency. Most new cars, including everything from the Chevrolet Malibu and Audi Q7 to the Ford F-150 and Mazda MX-5 Miata, are thus considerably lighter than their predecessors, even as they add new safety and technology features.
Of course, big cars like a Malibu or F-150 will always be heavier than economy hatchbacks and roadsters, butthis list of the absolute skinniest new cars available now in the U.S. might still surprise you — especially when you see how many new cars are lighter than the stripped-out Alfa Romeo 4C.
2016 Toyota Prius C – 2,496 lb
Despite having a hefty battery pack and electric motor on board, the Prius C manages to not only be America’s lightest hybrid car, but one of its lightest cars altogether. The bite-size Prius is intended for urbanites who want impressive efficiency but don’t need the space or capability of the standard Prius. It’ll return 53 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway, and starts at just $20,395, making the Toyota Prius C just as light on the wallet as it is on the scales.
2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe – 2,465 lb
So pared back to basics that it lacks power steering or even carpeting, the Alfa Romeo 4C quickly secured a place in our hearts and a spot on our 2015 All-Stars list. In the vein of the no-longer-sold-here Lotus Elise, the 4C is about driving pleasure, responsive handling, and not much else. A turbocharged engine and a dual-clutch automatic transmission provide ample motivation, while sticky tires, grabby brakes, and that ultra-low curb weight contribute to exceptional handling. Convertibles are generally heavier than coupes due to the additional structural bracing required, but the new 4C Spider is also still a featherweight at just 2,487 lb — a paltry 22-lb gain over the coupe.
2016 Hyundai Accent SE Sedan manual – 2,480 lb
Hyundai’s smallest and most affordable car is also its lightest. While the sedan is the skinniest, even opting for the Accent hatchback doesn’t tip the scales too far. An economical choice, the Hyundai Accent can’t be optioned with too many of the high-end features you’ll get on other Hyundai models like, say, the Elantra compact sedan, and its 1.6-liter engine offers up just 137 hp. But thanks to its small stature and modest equipment levels, the Accent is one of the lightest cars you can buy.
2017 Fiat 124 Spider manual – 2,436 lb
Yes, the Fiat 124 Spider is “just” a rebranded version of the MX-5 Miata, but it wears unique sheetmetal, a redesigned interior, and it has its own engine. All those tweaks, which should make the 124 a little more luxurious than Mazda’s version of the roadster, add some poundage. The Fiat 124 Spider is still a featherweight, and we’re optimistic that its 1.4-liter turbo-four engine’s 160 hp and 184 lb-ft will still provide sprightly acceleration for the Japanese-Italian mashup.
2016 Nissan Versa Note S – 2,414 lb
A spacious hatchback counterpart to the regular Versa four-door sedan, the Nissan Versa Note is also a lightweight. While the S model has few options, even the fully loaded SL and SR trims only bring 2,521 and 2,523 lb, respectively, to the table. Thanks in part to its light weight, the Versa Note will even manage EPA ratings of 31/40 mpg (city/highway) with its continuously variable transmission. In a 2014 comparison, we found much to like about the Versa Note, but ultimately we preferred the slightly more mature Honda Fit.
2016 Scion iA manual – 2,385 lb
Based on the bones of the Mazda 2 — which won’t actually be sold here as a Mazda — the iA is a funky subcompact sedan that helps expand the Scion lineup. With a big list of equipment and a small price tag, it offers exceptional value for money to shoppers on a budget. Better yet, its light weight and Zoom-Zoom DNA make it more fun than most cars of its ilk. “So what we get is a car that drives like a Mazda (a good thing, in our experience), which is priced, sold, and serviced like a Scion (all very good things, in our experience),” we wrote when we drove the iA. “Really, you’d never guess that you were driving a sedan instead of some kind of hot hatchback.”
2016 Fiat 500 manual – 2,366 lb
The Fiat 500 was a fun addition to the U.S. market, but its popularity was short-lived and sales in 2015 fell by a quarter to just 25,084 cars all year long (Jeep regularly sells that many Cherokees per month). That lack of consumer interest is not for lack of a fun-loving personality, though. There’s a Fiat 500 for everyone, including convertible, Turbo, and Abarth variants. With its easy-to-park size, small engines, and relatively short options list, the 500 is one of the lightest city cars you can buy today.
2016 Nissan Versa S manual – 2,363 lb
Like many of the cars here, the Nissan Versa is at its skinniest when you pick the absolute base model. Buy the S manual trim, and you’ll have to put up with a four-speaker sound system, non-folding rear seats, steel wheels with plastic covers, manual door locks, and crank windows. But even moving up to better-equipped versions of the compact sedan won’t result in a behemoth of a car, as even the heaviest is only 2,498 lb. The Nissan Versa was heavily revised for the 2015 model year, with new colors and more standard equipment available on its various trim levels.
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata manual – 2,332 lb
Not only is the new, fourth-generation Miata lighter than its immediate predecessor, it’s almost as light and as small as the original Miata that debuted in 1989. The reduction in weight meant Mazda could use a more efficient, less powerful engine in the 2016 Miata than was offered in its immediate predecessor, while still improving acceleration. The skinny curb weight also pays dividends in how the car handles and stops; now as ever, the MX-5 Miata is the sort of car that encourages us to drive all day just for the fun of it. “It’s easy to find rhythm driving a car like this, perfectly sized for narrow stretches of two-lane road, just enough power to keep a big, goofy grin plastered on my face,” we said last year.
2016 Toyota Yaris manual – 2,315 lb
The Toyota Yaris was refreshed for the 2015 model year, but fortunately the addition of a new front fascia and a redesigned dashboard didn’t dramatically add weight — even though Toyota also added extra sound insulation to the affordable hatchback. Despite changes to the suspension to improve ride and handling, the Yaris still is not one of our favorite small cars. When we drove the refreshed 2015 model we concluded, “In the same way as backhanded compliments are flattering, driving the 2015 Toyota Yaris is fun.”
2016 Chevrolet Spark LS manual – 2,246 lb
With a longer wheelbase, a lower height, and a new face, the 2016 Chevrolet Spark looks a lot less dorky than its predecessor. It also has a more powerful 1.4-liter engine, and a new interior with a more stylish dashboard and an LCD instrument cluster.Even with all the changes, the Spark remains a featherweight in its base trim level with a manual transmission. Opting for the LT model with the continuously variable transmission will fatten your Spark to the tune of 2,312 lb.
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage ES manual – 2,018 lb
Revised with a new look and 4 more horsepower (no, that’s not a typo), the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage remains one of America’s lightest, most affordable new cars. The Mirage has never been our favorite small hatchback, given its rough ride and noisy engine, but it’s certainly a good deal for someone who needs a very affordable brand-new car. Upgrading from the five-speed manual to the optional continuously variable transmission increases weight to 2,073-2,117 lb, depending on trim, still making the cut as one of the lightest new cars you can find.
2016 Smart Fortwo manual – 1,984 lb
One of the smallest new cars around is also, unsurprisingly, the lightest. The updated 2016 Smart Fortwo has a fresh design, more power, a smarter interior, and more equipment. What hasn’t changed is its sub-2,000-lb curb weight. It’s a good thing there’s very little weight to push around, as the Smart packs a 0.9-liter turbo-three engine with just 89 hp.