EPA Lists the Most Fuel-Efficient Cars of the Past 25 Years

It’s no surprise that over the past 25 years, cars have gotten less fuel efficient as safety equipment and weight have been added. Low gas prices kept innovation on the mileage front almost to a standstill as the horsepower wars heated up.

Today, we may have 305-hp, 31 mpg Ford Mustangs on the street bringing the best of both worlds, but that wasn’t always the case. In the past, it was uninspiring cars like the Geo Metro and Chevy Sprint leading the gas mileage race, making a 2010 Toyota Prius look like a luxury car in comparison.

The EPA’s fueleconomy.gov website compiled the top 10 most fuel-efficient cars of the past 25 years, which we present you below.

1. 2000 Honda Insight: 49/61/53 mpg city/highway/combined
2. 2010 Toyota Prius: 51/48/50 mpg city/highway/combined
3. 1986 Chevy Sprint: 44/53/48 mpg city/highway/combined
4. 1990-1994 Geo Metro: 43/52/47 mpg city/highway/combined
5. 1986-1987 Honda Civic CR-X: 42/51/46 mpg city/highway/combined
6. 1994-1995 Honda Civic HB: 39/50/43 mpg city/highway/combined
7. 2006-2010 Honda Civic Hybrid: 40/45/42 mpg city/highway/combined
8. 1985 Pontiac Firefly: 39/47/42 mpg city/highway/combined
9. 1985 Suzuki SA310: 39/47/42 mpg city/highway/combined
10. 2010 Honda Insight: 40/43/41 mpg city/highway/combined
By David Thomas | June 14, 2010 | Comments (20)



I averaged 56 MPG in my mom's '81 Rabbit Diesel on road trips.


Where's the Chevy Volt?


I used to get near 50mpg in my 1982 Dodge Omni 024 Miser. It wasn't a diesel but it did use a 1.7l VW engine with a very wide 3rd and 4th gear in a 4 speed manual transmission. It was a bit harry on the highway in the rain, it seemed like 99% of the weight was on the front wheels. You could pick up the back wheels off the ground by yourself if the gas tank was empty.

Ste (Original SG)

Are these the estimates of when they were introduced or have they been adjusted to todays standards?


Of course it's when they were introduced. Why the hell would someone bother converting mpg's on cars that are this old!?




It says you are wrong there.

Uwe Sattler

With my 2000 VW Jetta TDI I did get on average 42 to 44 mpg, and challenged myself frequently and often successfully to get at least 50 mpg when mostly highway driving.

Keith Arnoldy

The key is the older cars were a lot lighter due to lack of safty equipment and therefore got better gas milage.


The Older cars didn't meet the same emission standards either. It's easy to lean cruise and get great HWY FE, but at the same time spew Kg's of NOx out the tail pipe.

I used to get near 50mpg in my 1982 Dodge Omni 024 Miser. It wasn't a diesel but it did use a 1.7l VW engine with a very wide 3rd and 4th gear in a 4 speed manual transmission.

Paula Thompson

I have a 2001 KIA RIO. I average 37-38mpg. Except for poor paint, car holding up, 133K miles!!

Walt Morris

Interesting they showed the numbers for both versions of the Honda Insight, but only 1 version (the latest) of the Toyota Prius. It would be interesting to see the 3 generations of Prius compared in this list.


My 2000 Toyota Echo can break the 40 mpg barrier if I coast in 'N' to stops and slowly get to speed. But, this is not always the way I drive, @ 235,000 miles I'm impressed.

Jim H.

I've heard personal testimony of the Fiat 500 model getting 47 mpg city and 55-60 highway. Seats 5 and goes 0-60 in 11 seconds. Plus it meets all european stds. Can't wqait till it is available here!!


1994 honda civic cx got 55mpg


Many of the classic fuel misers of 30 years ago can't possibly reach the fuel economy potential they had then because of ethanol in today's gasoline and carburetors that can't be properly tuned to run on varying blends of ethanol. Diesel vehicles may be the exception but required higher and more frequent maintenance. Also, keep in mind, very few of miser vehicles of that era had cruise control, power steering or A/C and most were stick shift.


I had a 1983 Honda Civic 1300FE get 33 MPG city and 46 MPG highway. The optional higher fuel economy version featured a lean burning carburetor and higher transmission gears. I also had a 1987 Chevy Sprint, standard setup. I got about 33-40 with that. I alao had a 1988 Ford Festiva LX with the optional five speed. I got 30-37 when new and 29-36 in the later days with 200,000 miles on it. With ethanol in virtually all of today's gasoline and all three of these cars carbureted none of these vehicles will get the same fuel economy these days. My family has a 2010 Toyota Prius getting the same 33-46 as my '83 Honda Civic but weighs twice as much, has automatic, power steering and cruise control. It's still below the 51-48 quoted by the EPA but better than other real world fuel economy results. I can't wait to find out what kind of real world fuel economy the 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDi is really going to get. There's no ethanol in diesel fuel so results should be better and closer to EPA estimates.


I've read that it's very difficult to get less than 50 mpg in the city with the new Prius, but you're claiming only 33 mpg. Did I read your post wrong? Thanks.


I drive a 2002 Honda Insight that gets 58 mpg around town and bout 64 on the highway.
Its a fun car to drive and since only a few thousand were made the quality is excellent.

David Schor

I drive a 1994 Civic DX hatch, and while it may not get the same MPG as the HB version, it still consistently beats most new cars, even with 347,000 miles and counting.

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