Despite continuing advancements in hybrid and electric-car technology, the good old-fashioned internal-combustion engine is still kickin'. In fact, affordable, fuel-efficient, gasoline-powered cars still outnumber electric cars, and they have a lock on the under-$30,000 category—for now. For those who want to spend less on gasoline without forking over big money on a hybrid or electric vehicle, here are the most efficient gas-only models you can buy today.
Nissan Sentra: 33 mpg
The Nissan Sentra proves that affordable and efficient cars don't have to look dorky. It's powered by a 149-hp 2.0-liter inline-four and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). When gas prices soar, the Sentra's small 12.4-gallon fuel tank can make filling up less heartbreaking than larger cars with even bigger tanks.
- Base price: $21,045
- EPA combined/city/highway: 33/29/39 mpg
Acura Integra: 33 mpg
Like Integras past, the 2023 Acura Integra is essentially a glitzy Honda Civic. That's no bad thing, though, as Honda's compact sedan is among the best in its segment (and a 10Best winner). Whereas the Civic is available in both sedan and hatchback body styles, the Integra is a hatchback-only affair. If you want to snag the most fuel-efficient variant of this entry-level luxury car, then you'll need to stick to the base model and its smaller rolling stock. Though it may lack the racy bits of higher-end trims, the standard Integra retains those models' 200-hp turbocharged four-cylinder. Alas, the car's available six-speed manual is not offered in its entry-level guise.
- Base price: $32,495
- EPA combined/city/highway: 33/30/37 mpg
Kia Forte: 34 mpg
The Kia Forte sits between the smaller Rio and larger K5 in the Korean brand's lineup. It's front-wheel drive and is powered by a 147-hp inline-four. Though Kia offers a six-speed manual with the thirstier turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder of the GT trim, the brand equips all naturally aspirated Fortes with a sensible CVT. The Forte is far from the best or most exciting vehicle in its segment, but it does offer a long standard features list, reasonable pricing, and impressive fuel economy with its base powertrain.
- Base price: $20,815
- EPA combined/city/highway: 34/30/41 mpg
Volkswagen Jetta: 35 mpg
Known as "the Golf with a trunk," the Volkswagen Jetta is fun to drive and offers far more space than you might expect. The Jetta comes standard with a 158-hp turbo four-cylinder and a six-speed manual transmission. The optional eight-speed automatic, however, nets the best fuel efficiency from this compact sedan.
- Base price: $22,550
- EPA combined/city/highway: 35/31/41 mpg
Nissan Versa: 35 mpg
Every variant of the Nissan Versa relies on a 122-hp four-cylinder engine for motivation, but only models equipped with the optional CVT net an EPA combined fuel economy rating of 35 mpg. The Versa won't convince you it's a performance vehicle, but it does offer a lot of value courtesy of its ample interior space and robust standard features list.
- Base price: $18,495
- EPA combined/city/highway: 35/32/40 mpg
Toyota Corolla: 35 mpg
Toyota’s Corolla keeps the flame of affordability burning with its fuel-saving 2.0-liter engine and CVT. With an EPA-estimated combined figure of up to 35 mpg combined, the strictly gas-powered Corolla sedan and hatchback fall short of the Corolla hybrid—capable of up to 52 mpg combined. Going the gasoline-electric route, however, means forgoing the compact Toyota's versatile hatchback body style.
- Base price: $22,645
- EPA combined/city/highway: 35/32/41 mpg
Kia Rio: 36 mpg
The 120-hp 1.6-liter engine and CVT in the Kia Rio make this subcompact sedan a real fuel miser. Though it's not a particularly thrilling vehicle to drive, the Rio is a sensible option that offers plenty of sought-after features at an affordable price.
- Base price: $17,875
- EPA combined/city/highway: 36/32/41 mpg
Honda Civic: 36 mpg
It can be tough to find something that the Honda Civic doesn't do well; there’s a model for every need, from fuel sippers to track attackers. Plus it’s a frequent 10Best winner. When equipped with the 180-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four and a CVT, the Civic sedan is rated at an EPA combined 36 mpg. The more versatile hatchback, meanwhile, returns an EPA combined rating of up to 35 mpg, while sedans with the base 2.0-liter engine net a combined fuel economy rating of 33 mpg. Going the turbo route, however, requires dropping $27,545. That's $3000 more than the entry-level Civic LX sedan sells for.
- Base price: $27,545
- EPA combined/city/highway: 36/33/42 mpg
Hyundai Elantra: 37 mpg
The Hyundai Elantra uses a 147-hp inline-four and a CVT to achieve an EPA-estimated combined rating of up to 37 mpg. Those in need of even more fuel efficiency can always go for the compact sedan's available hybrid powertrain, however, going that route adds nearly $4000 to the Elantra's sticker. For a sharp-looking sedan that starts just north of $20,000, the Elantra is an attractive choice inside and out.
- Base price: $21,765
- EPA combined/city/highway: 37/33/42 mpg
Mitsubishi Mirage: 39 mpg
Sure, the Mitsubishi Mirage's little three-cylinder engine makes just 78 horses, but what the Mirage lacks in power it makes up for with its fuel efficiency. A CVT is the only gearbox offered, although Mitsubishi sells the model in hatchback and sedan forms, the latter of which bears the name Mirage G4. The G4 is the thirstier Mirage model, with an EPA combined rating of 37 mpg. Regardless of body style, don't plan on getting anywhere fast in Mitsubishi's subcompact car, as a Mirage G4 with a CVT we tested in 2018 needed 12.8 seconds to hit 60 mph.
- Base price: $17,450
- EPA combined/city/highway: 39/36/43 mpg
Yes, he's still working on the 1986 Nissan 300ZX Turbo project car he started in high school, and no, it’s not for sale yet. Austin Irwin was born and raised in Michigan, and, despite getting shelled by hockey pucks during a not-so-successful goaltending career through high school and college, still has all of his teeth. He loves cars from the 1980s and Bleu, his Great Pyrenees, and is an active member of the Buffalo Wild Wings community. When Austin isn’t working on his own cars, he’s likely on the side of the highway helping someone else fix theirs.
Every 2023 Full-Size SUV Ranked from Worst to Best
2023 Editors' Choice: Best New Cars, Trucks, SUVs
Best Hybrid Cars of 2023 and 2024
Best Convertibles of 2023 and 2024