The Most Fuel-Efficient Cars of 2016




Is Having the Best Fuel Efficiency Important With Gas at $2 Per Gallon?

I have a love for fuel economy, and as with past years, have researched the top 10 most fuel efficient cars of 2016 sold in the U.S. mass market.

In also keep track of the cheapest new cars for many of the same reasons. And the technology and efficiency gains are fascinating to follow. However, only a few of the vehicles (i.e. Spark and iMiEV) that I will highlight would actually make economic sense to purchase today when you look at total cost of ownership – even with $7,500 federal tax credits still out there.

most fuel efficient cars of 20162016 saw minimal gains in improved fuel efficiency at the top end of the market – as all 10 vehicles also made last year’s most fuel efficient cars list (this compares to 3 totally new vehicles last year and 6 the year prior). The bigger focus for manufacturers has been to focus on increasing range for battery packs. I scanned for the best fuel economy across each type of powertrain – electric, plug-in hybrid, and gas-electric hybrids. As fate would have it, the 10 most efficient cars are all electric drive at this point.

While there has been year-over-year price drops among these vehicles, they haven’t been as notable as in recent years. This could be the sign of a mature market and battery technology getting closer to reaching markets of scale. It’s also a sign of changing customer purchasing habits.

In 2012, the auto industry and government came to a landmark agreement on a new U.S. fuel efficiency standard for fleets of 54.5 mpg by 2025 and these new vehicles are signs of progress towards those benchmarks. But the average sales-weighted fleet fuel efficiency, after reaching a high in 2014 of almost 26 mpg, has declined back to 25 mpg in recent months.

According to the most recent J.D. Power Avoider study, gas mileage is still the “most influential reason for selecting the vehicle they purchased”, making it #1 for the 4th straight year. However, that percentage is down over prior years (at 14%) and that sentiment is not resulting in consumers purchasing the highest efficiency vehicles as hybrid/EVs currently account for only 3.5% of new-vehicle sales, down from 3.8% two years ago, with more than 70 hybrid/EV models in the market.”

On that last point, if you’re an automaker, why focus on expensive technology and development for such a small piece of the market that is not growing? 4 years ago, there was a flurry of hybrid/electric vehicle development and excitement with gasoline prices hovering around $4 a gallon. At $2 a gallon – not so much. We’ve fallen for the low gas price trap set by OPEC, and I fear it will come back to bite us in the ass.

Mileage, Cost, & Other Metrics

For the specs listed below, fuel economy, CO2 emissions (in grams/mile), and annual fuel cost metrics were gathered from the EPA’s fueleconomy.gov site. Annual fuel costs listed are based on 45% highway, 55% city driving, 15,000 annual miles and $0.13 per kWh of electricity.




For MSRP, I have listed the price prior to any federal or state tax credits, which could greatly reduce cost. There is still a federal electric vehicle tax credit of up to $7,500 (depends on your tax situation) available for purchases on approved electric vehicles. Tax credits are phased out for an automaker when they have produced their 200,000th electric vehicle, but no automaker is there yet.

The Most Fuel Efficient Cars of 2016:

Here are the top 10 most fuel efficient cars of 2016, from least to most fuel efficient.

10. Tesla Model S (70 kW-hr battery pack)

  • 2016 Tesla Model SMSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $71,200
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 101
  • City MPG: 101
  • Highway MPG: 102
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $650
  • CO2 Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • EV Mode Range: 230 miles
  • Overview: The 2015 model is still being sold, with specs listed here. The obvious big selling point with Teslas are their long-range battery packs. The Model S has a range that is 2X+ any other non-Tesla EV’s on the market. This is also the reason why their price is so high.

9. Kia Soul Electric

  • 2016 Kia Soul ElectricMSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $31,950
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 105
  • City MPG: 120
  • Highway MPG: 92
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $600
  • CO2 Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • EV Mode Range: 93 miles
  • Overview: The electric model of the Soul was new last year, and 2016 brought a $1,700+ price break. The Soul Electric boasts an impressive 93 mile range and a 105 eMPG combined rating for its size.

8. Ford Focus Electric

  • 2016 Ford Focus ElectricMSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $29,170
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 105
  • City MPG: 110
  • Highway MPG: 99
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $600
  • CO2 Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • EV Mode Range: 76 miles
  • Overview: An $800+ price drop for 2016, but still a ways to go to make this vehicle price competitive with the Spark, iMiEV, and Leaf.

7. Smart ForTwo EV

  • 2016 Smart ForTwo EVMSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $25,000
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 107
  • City MPG: 122
  • Highway MPG: 93
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $600
  • CO2 Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • EV Mode Range: 68 miles
  • Overview: This newly designed vehicle comes in either a coupe or cabrio (convertible) top, both with the same EPA rating. As with the gas-powered Smart cars, much better deals for much bigger cars make it a tough sell. However, the Coupe version is currently leasing at $139/mo.

6. Mitsubishi i-MiEV

  • 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEVMSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $22,995
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 112
  • City MPG: 126
  • Highway MPG: 99
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $600
  • CO2 Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • EV Mode Range: 62 miles
  • Overview: The 2016 i-MiEV is the same car, same specs, and same price as last year. This is the most affordable electric vehicle on the market.

5. Fiat 500E

  • 2016 Fiat 500EMSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $32,300
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 112
  • City MPG: 121
  • Highway MPG: 103
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $600
  • CO2 Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • EV Mode Range: 84 miles
  • Overview: The 2016 Fiat 500E took a bit of a hit in its EPA rating and range distance over the previous two years and drops to the #4 spot for the most fuel efficienct vehicle.

4. Nissan Leaf S (24 kW-hr battery pack)

  • 2016 Nissan LeafMSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $29,010
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 114
  • City MPG: 126
  • Highway MPG: 101
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $600
  • CO2 Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • EV Mode Range: 84 miles
  • Overview: The Leaf has 30 kW-hr versions with an extended range (107 miles) and higher prices, but the best value and efficiency is with the base S model, which has a 24 kW-hr battery pack and 84 mile range. The Leaf typically has the best lease offers, which has helped make it the top selling electric vehicle – however, the Chevy Spark EV and Mitsubishi i-MiEV are a better value at this buy price.

3. VW e-Golf

  • 2016 Volkswagen e-GolfMSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $28,995
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 116
  • City MPG: 126
  • Highway MPG: 105
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $550
  • CO2 Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • EV Mode Range: 83 miles
  • Overview: The Volkswagen e-Golf has a new entry level model this year that comes in at a much more attractive price that is over $5,000 less than last year’s model. The only problem – is VW trustworthy enough to buy from after the “Dieselgate” scandal? I’d take my money elsewhere.

2. Chevy Spark EV

  • MSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $25,995
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 119
  • City MPG: 128
  • Highway MPG: 109
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $550
  • CO2 Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • EV Mode Range: 82 miles
  • Overview: The Chevy Spark EV comes with a $700 price drop. It did not receive the same redesign as the 2016 gas model. With the $7,500 tax credit applied, the 2016 Spark EV price drops to below $19,000, making it extremely attractive as a fuel-efficient city-going vehicle.

1. BMW i3 BEV

  • 2016 BMW i3 BEVMSRP (before tax credits or other incentives): $43,395
  • Engine: Electric Drive
  • Combined MPG: 124
  • City MPG: 137
  • Highway MPG: 111
  • Annual Fuel Cost: $550
  • CO2 Emissions: 0 grams/mile
  • EV Mode Range: 81 miles
  • Overview: The specs on the 2016 BMW i3 have not been released yet (last year’s model is highlighted here), but range improvements are expected in the new model, which will be released in the 2nd half of 2016. The i3 comes in two models – the EV highlighted here, and a Range Extender model, which is a plugin hybrid with 72 miles of electric range (similar to a full electric) before kicking over to a gas-powered 2 cylinder engine to power the electric drive (similar to the Chevy Volt). The electric eMPG is 117, while the gas is 39.

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