When it comes to automobiles, "fuel-efficient" is often a code word for "small." Car buyers tend to believe that the smaller the car, the greater the fuel economy rating. (It’s the only way they justify folding themselves into the driver’s seat every time they want to go somewhere.)
But that’s not necessarily the case. Some subcompact cars aren’t any more fuel-efficient than larger ones. Here is a closer look at the smallest cars on the market today — along with their fuel economy figures.
1. Tiny Car: Mini Cooper MPG: 32 (2012)
We’ll begin with one of the trendiest cars of the last few years: the Mini Cooper. It’s only 4 feet, 8 inches tall, but doesn’t deliver the gas mileage you’d expect from a subcompact. However, it does reportedly carry one of the lowest auto insurance rates among 2012 models.
2. Tiny car: Hyundai Accent MPG: 33 (2012)
At an inch over 5 1/2 feet in width, the Accent is great for getting into tight parking spaces. But for making tracks between fill-ups? Not so much. However, it is one of the few autos that’s available in apple green.
3. Tiny car: Fiat 500 MPG: 33 combined (2012)
Fiat’s attempt to make a splash in the American market fizzles when you look at the fuel economy ratings. But with a length of a few inches under 12 feet, you can probably parallel park it in places where you couldn’t squeeze many other cars.
4. Tiny Car: Chevy Spark MPG: 33
This new addition to the Chevrolet lineup for 2013 gets gas mileage that isn’t any better than the Accent, 500, or many others in its class. It is cheaper — the Spark’s MSRP starts at $12,995. But it also has a 1.2-liter engine that churns out a pedestrian 85 horsepower, which is less than some riding lawnmowers.
5. Tiny car: Scion iQ MPG: 36 (2012)
This car is just a hair over 10 feet long, or almost 20% shorter than the Fiat 500. Nevertheless, it features 16.7 cubic feet of storage in its hatchback (about 40% more than a Smart car) yet still yields 30 miles to the gallon. With stats like that, you’ll overlook the 0 to 60 acceleration of 11.8 seconds.
6. Tiny Car: Ford Ka MPG: 36.6 (2010)
It’s only when you start getting into cars which aren’t sold in the U.S. that you begin to see fuel economy numbers rise. The Ka, which is actually smaller than a Mini Cooper, gets 36.6 miles per gallon. You can buy one in Europe, and they’re especially prevalent in the United Kingdom.
7. Tiny car: Smart For Two MPG: 37 (2013)
At 37 mpg, this wins the title for best fuel economy among tiny cars sold in the U.S. Available for the 2013 model year, it measures only 8 feet, 10 inches from front to rear, which is almost 12% smaller than the already diminutive Scion iQ.
8. Tiny car: Daihatsu Copen MPG: 39 (2007)
Can you believe that you can get 39 mpg in a convertible? Not in the U.S., though — the Copen is only sold in Japan in Europe. In fact, Daihatsu pulled out of the American market back in 1992, and will do the same in Europe in 2013.
9. Tiny car: Peel P50 MPG: 83
Finally, there’s the three-wheeled Peel, which (unofficially) can go 83 miles on a single gallon of gas. The 1960s era car will reportedly return to production soon, but there’s no word if it will come with features not available on the original model — like a reverse gear. To back it up, users literally had to grab it by a handle on the rear and pull it.