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Super Cheap High MPG Cars: 1978-1981

Looking for a car that gets crazy great gas mileage but don’t want to spend a lot of cash? This list of knucklebusting (can we call them classic?) small cars from 1978 through 1981 haul down some impressive gas mileage figures and can be had for chump change … if you’re handy.

It’s not just that they’re cheap … these cars are past the magic 25 year point that may actually make them qualify as antique cars, dependent on state regulations. While the thought of a rusty old Dodge Omni or Plymouth Horizon with historic plates might lead to hysterics, the owner can take solace in those remarkably high gas mileage figures.

The possibilities run from wannabe exotics to the work-a-day. Imagine finding a Dodge De Tomaso, under a tarp in a barn … only to realize that it’s not only "the Italian sports car from Detroit," it’s worthy of a 50 mile per gallon highway rating. Need to haul around some stuff? How about a 1980 Chevy Luv pickup truck that pulls down 53 miles per gallon on the highway? We sure could use some of those small diesel pickup trucks today …

Fuel Efficient 1978-1981 Cars

Year Manufacturer Model Engine Disp Trans City Highway
1981 DODGE OMNI 4 M4 30 50
1981 PLYMOUTH HORIZON 4 M4 30 50
1981 DODGE 024/DE TOMASO 4 M4 30 50
1981 PLYMOUTH TC3/TURISMO 4 M4 30 50
1981 FORD ESCORT 4 1.6 M4 28 44
1981 LINCOLN-MERCURY LYNX 4 1.6 M4 28 44
1981 FORD ESCORT WAGON 4 1.6 M4 27 42
1981 HONDA CIVIC 4 1.3 M4 32 40
1981 HONDA CIVIC 4 1.3 M5 31 41
1981 HONDA CIVIC 4 1.5 M5 32 42
1981 HONDA CIVIC WAGON 4 1.5 M5 30 40
1981 ISUZU I-MARK 4 M5 27 40
1981 ISUZU I-MARK 4 M4 41 51
1981 ISUZU I-MARK 4 M5 37 49
1981 DATSUN 210 4 M5 31 44
1981 DATSUN 210 WAGON 4 M5 31 44
1981 B11 WAGON 310 4 M4 30 41
1981 B11 WAGON 310 4 M5 28 40
1981 B11 WAGON 510 4 M5 29 40
1981 RENAULT LE CAR 4 1.4 M4 29 40
1981 DODGE COLT 4 M4 34 45
1981 DODGE COLT 4 D4 32 41
1981 PLYMOUTH CHAMP 4 M4 34 45
1981 PLYMOUTH CHAMP 4 D4 32 41
1981 DODGE COLT 4 D4 31 41
1981 PLYMOUTH CHAMP 4 D4 31 41
1981 MAZDA GLC 4 1.5 M4 35 43
1981 MAZDA GLC 4 1.5 M5 35 45
1981 MAZDA GLC WAGON 4 1.5 M4 31 41
1981 MAZDA GLC WAGON 4 1.5 M5 31 43
1981 TOYOTA STARLET 4 M5 36 50
1981 VOLKSWAGEN JETTA 4 M5 25 40
1981 VOLKSWAGEN JETTA 4 M5 41 57
1981 DATSUN PICKUP 2WD 4 M4 37 47
1981 DATSUN PICKUP 2WD 4 M5 38 51
1981 AUDI 4000 4 M5 26 41
1981 SUBARU SUBARU 4 1.6 M4 32 43
1981 SUBARU SUBARU 4 1.6 M5 32 44
1981 SUBARU SUBARU 4 1.8 M5 28 40
1980 HONDA CIVIC 4 1.5 M4 32 41
1980 HONDA CIVIC 4 1.5 M5 32 45
1980 HONDA CIVIC 4 1.5 M4 32 41
1980 HONDA CIVIC 4 1.5 M5 32 45
1980 DATSUN 210 4 M5 29 41
1980 DATSUN 210 WAGON 4 M5 29 41
1980 DATSUN 310 4 M5 29 41
1980 DATSUN 510 4 M5 30 42
1980 DODGE COLT 4 D4 31 43
1980 PLYMOUTH CHAMP 4 D4 31 43
1980 DODGE COLT 4 D4 31 41
1980 PLYMOUTH ARROW 4 M5 27 40
1980 PLYMOUTH CHAMP 4 D4 31 41
1980 MAZDA GLC 4 1.4 M5 30 42
1980 MAZDA GLC WAGON 4 1.4 M5 30 42
1980 VOLKSWAGEN JETTA 4 M5 26 40
1980 DATSUN PICKUP 2WD 4 M4 39 48
1979 FORD FIESTA 4 1.6 M4 26 40
1979 HONDA CIVIC 4 1.5 M5 28 41
1979 DATSUN 210 4 M5 27 41
1979 DATSUN 310 4 M5 27 40
1979 DODGE COLT HATCH 4 D4 32 43
1979 DODGE COLT HATCH 4 M4 32 42
1979 MIRADA CHAMP 4 D4 32 43
1979 MIRADA CHAMP 4 M4 32 42
1979 DODGE COLT HATCH 4 D4 30 42
1979 MIRADA CHAMP 4 D4 30 42
1979 MAZDA GLC 4 M4 30 40
1979 MAZDA GLC 4 M5 30 42
1979 MAZDA GLC WAGON 4 M5 29 41
1978 FORD FIESTA 4 1.6 30 43
1978 CIVIC CIVIC 4 34 43
1978 ACCORD ACCORD 4 35 45
1978 CIVIC CIVIC 4 33 41
1978 ACCORD ACCORD 4 31 42
1978 DATSUN B-210 4 1.4 29 40

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#1 William Kampf on 10.15.07 at 3:35 pm

This is absolutely amazing information. I would love to find out where I could get detailed MPG information for the past 50 years. Any suggestions?

#2 Pkanalas on 10.15.07 at 11:17 pm

What? The Pinto isn’t listed… Well, at least car manufacturers have improved MPG over the last quarter century?!

#3 Canolli on 10.16.07 at 11:22 am

Ah yes, the late 70’s and early 80’s… when the Big-3 could lie through their teeth with impunity.

40 – 50 MPG hahahahaha…

#4 mpg-o-editor on 10.16.07 at 6:20 pm

I admit to having owned a Pinto at one point. Thank heavens that thing was light, because I had to push it home more than once. Luckily, I was just around the corner. :)

The highest-MPG Pintos of that timeframe didn’t quite make it to 40 MPG on the highway. There were two 1980s that claimed 38 MPG highway.

Fear not … I’ll be adding a Pinto page sooner or later.

#5 LarryLovesHondas! on 10.16.07 at 9:02 pm

I had a ’77 Accord that was just a super car – drove the wheels off if it before I sold it to my brother-in-law who drove the wheels off again! The one thing to remember about many of these cars…they ran on LEADED gas! You would have to buy additives today to make them run properly. :-) A great list

#6 Big Bob on 10.19.07 at 7:03 am

Good luck with Renault’s Le Car. You couldn’t keep that thing on the road when it was new, let alone in used condition!

#7 eris23 on 10.19.07 at 7:45 am

My Pinto with a C3 transmission got only 13 mpg. My folks had an Olds 98 which got 16. Go figure…

#8 mpg-o-editor on 10.19.07 at 11:53 am

Thanks, Larry … that was a fine vintage! Today’s Civics sure seem like they’ve grown larger than those early Accords.

Bob – The Le Car was quite frightening. The B&B Department Store in Beach Haven, NJ has a Le Car hanging upside down from the ceiling as a decoration. Or something of the like … :)

#9 Gary J on 10.22.07 at 12:59 pm

We need to go back a bit further to the 1953 IZETA (by BMW). Top speed was about 50 and MPG was 55. It had a 275cc motor cycle engine. Personally I don’t travel on major highways where I need speed above 50. 90% of my driving would work perfectly with a small 2 seater like the IZETA.

#10 Gary J on 10.22.07 at 1:06 pm

Currently I’m in the process of considering buying an electric gulf cart with a hi-speed kit (22-25 MPH) and use it for many of my trips. In AZ they have very liberal laws about NEV (neighborhood Electric vehicles) and you can pick up a used one for $2,500 to $4,500. Costs about $.40 to completely charge (120VAC). Personally I think these carts can go faster i.e. 30 to 35MPH, which would be perfect. No GAS, NO OIL CHANGES, ZERO emissions. Plug them into your solar panels — NO FUEL COSTS.

#11 Dutch on 10.25.07 at 5:08 am

Wow these are some fantasy numbers. I’ve owned several of the vehicles listed and their actual mpg wasn’t anything near some of the claims when the vehicles were new, let alone if you tried to find one now.

#12 Mr Incredible on 10.28.07 at 5:22 pm

I bought an ’89 Honda Civic CRX two weeks ago. It isn’t much to look at but it’s basically sound even at 254k miles. I get 42 mpg on the highway and 39 in town. Every 1000 miles I drive it instead of my 10mpg V10 truck I save over $200. It will have paid for itself by March 08! It’s all gravy after that.

#13 mpg-o-editor on 10.28.07 at 7:56 pm

Wishing you the best with your new (old) CRX, Mr. Incredible! I was lucky enough to own a brand new CRX si, back in the day … I slapped a header and exhaust system on that ride way before so many of today’s Honda hot rodding kids were even born.

The good news is that Honda has a CR-Z waiting in the wings … and it’s a *hybrid* sports car, no less. It’s on display at the Tokyo Auto Show … check it out

#14 Ron on 11.08.07 at 10:09 am

this is great information, even if these ratings are off a few miles, it’s still good. these cars would be perfect candidates also to convert into electric cars.i am sick to death of catering to the big oil companys, so these cars that had been ignored in the past , are looking pretty good now.-Ron

#15 John on 11.17.07 at 11:40 am

This is interesting, but I couldn’t find the 3 cyc. Chev. Sprint or Metro’s. I had a Sprint that got nearly 50 mpg. on the highway. Wish I had it back now.


#16 Brian on 11.22.07 at 10:11 am

I am interested in which of these good mpg cars had a seat that would lay back flat for sleeping? Also the best longevity mechanically…anybody know?

#17 Greg on 11.25.07 at 2:40 pm

I have a friend who owned a Toyota Starlet and it would get 50mpg back in 1982. He’s trying to find one of these now. Anyway if they could get that kind of milage then, dont you think the car companies with all the computer controls we have now and technologies we should be getting 100 mpg’s. Some one is paying someone to hold back. Think about it.

#18 Rick on 12.05.07 at 12:10 am

To Greg,
Your last statement is why you are wasting your breath. Americans don’t think anymore.
Perhaps “emissions” was just an excuse for an overall decline in mpg in passenger cars, despite advanced plastics, carbon fiber, more reliable aluminum parts and of course, precisely computer-controlled engine management systems. We could and should be getting 100 mpg from a four cylinder today.
A relative who drove very conservatively owned one of those 1981 Isuzu I-mark diesels back in the day. Waiting for the glow plugs to warm (about twenty seconds) was something new. Those numbers aren’t fantasy!

#19 30 MPG Cars on 12.09.07 at 9:51 am

[…] 1979-1981 High MPG Cars […]

#20 Ted on 12.21.07 at 5:42 pm

I think you should include the Citroen 2cv, 3cv (ami 6) and Mehari. I had an ami 6 and definitely got at least 40 to 50 miles per gallon. I used it to commute from San Bernardino to West La on a daily basis in 1970-71 and never put more than 50 cents worth of gas on a 3 day basis.

#21 mpg-o-editor on 12.21.07 at 6:46 pm

Ted – many thanks for the heads up! I went looking for mileage specs on Citroens, but couldn’t find anything in the Fed data … it only goes as far back as 1979 …

#22 Bill on 12.25.07 at 3:22 am

In Aug. 06 I bought a Mazda 323 for $325 with 206,000 + miles on it. I put another $700 + into it. New studded snows, cvc joints, battery, front wheel bearings and a set of used bucket seats from a wrecking yard. I don’t check milage city and highway just at every fillup. Worst was 37.8 mpg, best was 42.6. I now has 218.663 miles on it. My wallet loves that ugly little thing. My wife hates it. I just bought a 1991 323 with a blown head gasket for $350. Wish me luck.

#23 Claude Rorabaugh on 12.30.07 at 10:51 am

In the late ’70’s I drove Datsuns. Our carborated ’78 B210 ran on regular leaded gas and got consistently over 45 mpg on long trips, high 30’s in town. Other than tires and oil changes I got several good years with that vehicle. We traded it in for a straight six 810, that got nearly 30 mpg when we started our family. We drove that for 10 years and got over 225,000 miles on her before selling it to a family member.

My new 07 Camry gets mid 30’s, but you need to be light on the gas pedal.

#24 hans on 01.03.08 at 9:25 pm

Ok i have a question…
i just got a 1980 vw jetta with automatic trans, one owner, yes sir, one owner, bought actually at the same dealership that i work for, in 1980 when it was zero miles,
anyways, i just got it from the p/o and i would like to know how many miles are estimated for this car?….
it is a really nice looking 2door…and smells like old lady tho….hahaha

#25 mpg-o-editor on 01.05.08 at 9:57 am

Hans –

Best of luck with your new vintage veedub! I just posted the Jetta mileage ratings … looks like it should pull down 22 city, 31 or 32 highway. Not sure what I’d recommend for the odorific situation other than a good carpet cleaning and airing out …

#26 75 Civic on 01.10.08 at 11:57 am

Re; Larry’s comment. Leaded gas is not required. All cars built from 1971 on will run on unleaded gas. In fact all cars with catalytic converters require it. My ’75 Honda Civic was one of the last cars built without a catalytic converter. It met US specs without one. I ran it on leaded or unleaded, whichever was cheaper. It was a 4 speed and avereged 32 MPG, mostly city driving.

#27 Jim on 01.11.08 at 5:20 pm

Hello, I have a 1984 buick century wagon with the 2.5 L engine and a 3spd automatic trans, what kind of gas mileage can I expect when I get this car on the road again, and would putting on a high flow cat increase my mileage a little more? I also have a 1990 pontiac grand am with the 2.3 L quad 4,with automatic trans, which car would be best to hold onto? Thanks.

#28 Justin on 01.14.08 at 9:23 pm

Where did these figures come from? I had a new 79 Scirocco and it never got these numbers listed.

#29 mpg-o-editor on 01.14.08 at 10:20 pm

Justin –

These are the official Fed figures. There are two things to keep in mind … first, the numbers varied in those early years … second, there were six models of the Scirocco listed, with the least fuel-efficient coming in at 22 city/31 highway. As always, YMMV. :)

#30 Kris on 02.24.08 at 3:32 pm

My Parents had a 84 Ford Escort Diesel, and that thing always did better than 45mpg in fact it would get 52 hwy when it had 250k when I started driving it in ’94 the only downfall is the rear suspension rusted out in ’98 with 325k on it. I was SO dissapointed with the NEW Taurus I bought the first time i filled up, I swore I’d never own a gasser again, had the Taurus 1 month and traded for a Jetta TurboDiesel. Which got slightly less than the escort but had WAY more power.
My 2 pennies

#31 john on 02.25.08 at 4:41 pm

had ford escort and tempo diesel. Very accurately measured and averaged, 37 mpg. really never much better, but never much worse. Included hwy at 75, and city driving mainly.

They have small pickups in other countries that get 40 mpg. The Lupo in Europe get 80 mpg or thereabouts. There is a car coming out in germany that get 155 mpg, nothing fancy, no hybrid crap and other auxilary stupid buzzword technology, just a “keep it simple stupid”.

If anything, get pissed at the politicians / beaurucrats who won’t let these safe, environmentally friendly and efficient vehicles be sold in the US. And they talk about giving us a few hundred dollars back this summer, a tax break.. How about thousands $$ by letting us buy something fuel efficient! At least they haven’t banned bicycles and walking yet, giving us the freedom to not have to drive and spend if we dont want to, although in many places its defacto since if you not in a car, youre going to get run over by soccer mom with cell phone in ear and “sun was in my eyes” excuse .. “it was just an accident”. Yeah right. 40,000 killed by and in vehicles per year in the US. “Just accidents” Where is the war on this terror ?

#32 Steve on 02.27.08 at 11:39 am

My 93 Geo metro got 51.5 MPG high way and I believe it was rated at 58 high way. I absolutely loved that car. I bought it new for $5,800 with out floor mats or radio. I wish I had bought a bunch of them back then and stacked them in my garage. It paid for itself in about 7 years compared to driving junkers at about 12 MPG.

#33 Lew on 03.10.08 at 4:06 pm

Had a ’72 Datsun 1200 that would give 40+ on hwy and later a rebuilt ’85 Rabbit diesel with 50+ on hwy. Both were driven somewhat above posted speed limits (75 – 80) on open road. Good little cars, but growing family made lager car necessary. Now considering new ’08 Jetta diesel when they come on the market.

#34 Dave on 03.13.08 at 11:44 pm

In 1976 a man from Huntsville, Al invented a Honeycomb carburator and was getting 120 M.P.G on a 500 Caddy Engine. He was on local news and in papers and he was going to sell them but suddenly faded from any promotion. I figure they either bought him off or killed him. Does anyone remember this?

#35 Billy on 03.16.08 at 9:56 pm

If I was to consider searching for an older car that got better gas mileage than today’s cars, what are some things that I should consider? I read that some or most ran on leaded gas should this be a concern?

#36 mpg-o-editor on 03.16.08 at 10:29 pm

@Billy – I wouldn’t worry so much about the leaded gas as I would about good old RUST. Keep an eye out for bad rust in the undercarriage and the front strut mounts (a common problem, it seems, for the vintage VW Rabbit diesels).

I’ve been considering a number of other vintage fuel-sippers as candidates for a pseudo-restoration. The Honda CRX HF turned in some remarkable numbers, but most of those have been snapped up by the new generation of hot rodders …

#37 Wayne on 03.29.08 at 2:21 pm

Thank you to whoever put this list and the website together. While I understand the claimed mpg figures may be off, at least it gives me a starting point for research.

I am considering getting a “collector vehicle” and here in WA they have to be 30 years old or older. Many years ago when my wife and I first met, she had a 76 pinto and I had a 78ish Datsun B210. I know people like to rank on the old pinto, but I must admit it never let us down, was super easy to work on, and since I am tall, it actually had some leg and headroom in it. Of course there is that whole exploding deal, but every car has drawbacks…. ;)

The B210 was also easy to work on and reliable. I rebuilt the engine on the tailgate of my dad’s pickup using hand-tools and a manual. I think I also painted it red from that awful bumble bee yellow factory job. The big drawback to the B210 was I did not fit in it very well. I had to put one of those small aftermarket steering wheels on it so my legs would clear and I could actually steer the thing.

So, did any of these cars on the list have a little more leg/head room than the others?


#38 Kevin on 04.08.08 at 12:15 am

I own a 1989 Honda Civic DX. I bought it 3 years ago for $800 plus some yard work. It had only 87,000 miles on it. Today it has over 156,000 miles and still gets 35+ mpg in the city, and 40+ mpg highway. With a light right foot and a decent tailwind I’ve seen 53 mpg on the Interstate, accurately measured. Unlike some of the older cars listed here (i.e. B210), my little Civic is quick and nimble.

I see nothing in the car dealerships that I would consider buying. Everything is overpowered and gets crappy gas mileage, or it’s an expensive hybrid.

#39 durham kid on 04.09.08 at 9:20 am

Your list missed the one I own: a 93 Honda Civic VX rated at 55 highway/48 city. I have 206K on it, doesn’t use oil, original clutch, only standard maintenance and I regularly get in 52 to 53 MPG on the highway. There is a January 1993 Motor Trend article that is very informative and tells you how Honda did it – very interesting. In the article they drove the car conservatively (55 to 60 MPG tops and slowing on hills) and averaged just under 65 MPG!)

Unfortunately, even these cars are hard to find now. I still cannot find many in the boneyard for parts and kids do snatch up these cars and hot road them all the time.

As far as the rumors about getting 120 MPG out of a 500 Caddy engine (Dave’s comment, #34), it’s just impossible – an urban legend. These stories persist and they defy the laws of physics (my field) , mostly because we all want to believe there is an easy solution.

If any of you wants to look at the mess we are headed for, do a google search on Peak Oil and you will have lots of information to contemplate.


ps. oh yeah, I also tow a small sailboat and a utility trailer with that 50+ MPG Civic. I plan to keep it for many years to come.

#40 Ed Cooley on 04.17.08 at 9:48 am

Folks say “I had a car that didn’t get x miles per gallon”
It may be about driving habits…

My sister had a Suburu Justy (1988?) – that was a 3-cyl, 5-speed. She upgraded to mom’s 88 Accord, and I got the Justy. I got 30-32 mpg with the vehicle, until I got a different vehicle. I was always impressed with its low-speed torque and acceleration.

We sold the car to a guy who drove to work nights, and didn’t use the AC. His better driving habits and his choice to not use the AC got him 45+ miles per gallon on this vehicle. Clearly, he didn’t experiment with the acceleration the vehicle was capable of.

There was an article in Readers Digest recently, about a guy who got high mileage, planned his routes around right-hand turns (right on red, etc), and did a variety of other things – he was getting 50-80% more on a GAS vehicle. In a testing scenario, he got over 150 mpg on a prius.

If someone claims to get good milage with their vehicle, and someone claims “no such thing” – it may be driving habits.

#41 Tombo on 04.20.08 at 10:59 am

Years ago I had a 1989 Pontiac Sunbird 2dr 5 speed.
I got 36mpg highway during every long trip I measured.
The car had adequate performance, though it really needed the 5spd…had to drop down a gear or two to pass on the highway. GM was capable of producing this kind of fuel economy 20 years ago, so why is it that today almost no cars they make can achieve these numbers, and those that do resemble tiny aluminum cans with wheels?

#42 Kat ~ on 04.24.08 at 2:53 am

Just a quick comment on getting more speed out of a Golf Cart…. Yes, their engines can be tweaked to get more speed, but….
At ‘higher speeds’, a Golf Cart rapidly becomes hazardous to your health. They are too easy to lose control of, flip, or just topple over.
I’ve got one, a Club Car, & love it. It’s my ‘Farm Cart’, never to see pristine Golf Greens again, it has a Lift Kit, & a Flip Kit in the back which serves me like a tiny Flat Bed on a truck.
After driving it for over a year now, I can see the Manufacturers reason for cautioning folks to slow down on ‘em.
It *does* get pretty good fuel mileage per hours driven. Yes, mine is gas powered.
If it were legal to take these things out on the road where I live, I’d have no qualms ’bout putzin’ into town in one, taking my time, enjoying the scenery.

#43 Sarah on 04.28.08 at 9:53 am

this may sound silly but i have a ’98 Neon and on road trips it actually got 39 mpg- it averaged 35 mpg rural and city driving combined. when i decided to move and go to college i left the car with my parents because i didnt need it.
my mom drives kind of ‘crazy.’ fast acceleration from stop lights/signs, quick braking, and constantly speeding. i was considerably confused when my parents told me they were only getting 29-30 mpg with the car and was worried there was something wrong with it. after graduation i took the car back gave it a tune up and am back to getting 35 mpg and it has 160,000+ miles.
i really do think driving habits help gas mileage!

#44 mpg-o-editor on 04.28.08 at 10:03 am

@Sarah – not silly at all! I know some crazy drivers …

Driving habits have a HUGE effect on gas mileage. What’s silly is that some folks just don’t (or don’t want to) get that. :) Driving thoughtfully saves gas.

Life isn’t a NASCAR race, but that having been said, you don’t have to drive like a slowpoke to benefit from a smart right foot …

#45 Ted on 04.29.08 at 9:45 pm

I recently GAVE AWAY two Ford Fiesta’s (one was still running when it left the yard!) Can you say STOOPID! I can try to blame my angry wife but it was my decision. I bought four over time and drove one for 14 years (thank you Castrol) by swapping parts (even raced it at local SCCA events for a time). I am sooo kicking myself now! As per milage, no accurate figures but you could pull up to the gas station and laugh ! I know I drove it once over 20 miles with nothing showing on the gauge. Also had a Datsun B-110 that you go to the pump, check the gas and fill it up with oil.

#46 K-DUB on 05.22.08 at 8:35 am

i bought a 1981 Honda Accord 5spd in april, for $200. it needed some work to get running (Carb.,timing belt) so i got it done and i pleased to say that even driving a lil crazy i got 27 mpg delivering pizza in the city! and highway was 30 going 65 before the engine was timed correctly. now that im getting the carb readjusted for the engine timing im expecting 40 mpg out of “Ol’ Sparky” sure people stare and wonder y i have duct tape covering the rusted body panels but the fact that i can drive 100 miles and use just 3 gallons is pretty awsome. i’ll take that honda over a SUV any day!

#47 Jo on 05.25.08 at 9:22 pm

I’m 100% with Ted up there. I owned a couple of Citroen 2CV6’s for years, drove the arse off them all over Europe and never got less than 50 m.p.g. (You tend to give up keeping an eye on consumption when you’re getting above 50 m.p.g. so couldn’t be more specific, sorry, lol.)
Also both mine had basic points ignition; there’s a bolt-on electronic ignition unit available which could surely only improve on those figures.
The only problem is that over the last 10 years or so they’ve graduated to “cherished/collectable vehicle” status, meaning I’m no longer prepared to buy one at the silly money for which they are advertised, a sad state of affairs!

#48 jopa on 06.04.08 at 6:59 pm

Just got a 1998 Suzuki Swift (aka Geo Metro) with 60K miles for $3400. It has the 1.3 liter 4 cylinder and TWO airbags.

Spent most of its life in Fla and Arizona so the body is in great shape. Averaging 35 mpg in city driving before any tune ups, new air or oil filters etc.

Sure beats my Chrysler Pacifica for in town driving, and I must admit the Swift is doing more time on the highway too…

#49 Richard on 06.05.08 at 3:21 am

I just bought a 1984 Honda Accord 5 Speed, It’s very light, no power locks, windows, doors, steering. It has air conditioning though, When i first got it i drove it very hard (6000-7500 RPM) in every gear (the red line is around 6800) on the city and highway, and it got an average of 36mpg,(i was actually surprised it would take the abuse i gave it) After that i started driving it nicely (revving to around 3000) and now it gets an average of 39 city, and 44 highway, not bad for a car that cost me $400, She Just has body rust (I’m replacing the front quarter panels, and sanding all the rust and paint off, then i am going to patch and fill the few small rust holes, sand the body, prime, then paint it. Estimated cost is around $200 CAD. Also fluid changes coming soon (switching to synthetic for all fluids) and a tune up.

#50 Eckard on 06.10.08 at 6:06 am

I use to have a 1981 VW Rabbit Diesel that got about 45 MPG on the highway. Drove it from Washington DC to Boston MA on one tank (10 gal). The only problem was that 18 Wheeler would pass me going up hills, but if you only have about 50 HP under the hood that’s normal.
Ahh the good ol’ 80’s.

#51 Eric So Dak on 06.10.08 at 2:19 pm

In reference to the old luvs and isuzus trucks (diesels). My friend drove one and at around 50 horse it would kill in first on super steep hills and you would have to back down. My son drives a 80 4wd luv (gas) and city mpg is great but hwy mpg isn’t too good (I live in the Black Hills and have to floor it to get anywhere). Gets about 24 mpg in town when driven nice.

#52 Dana on 06.15.08 at 12:18 am

I owned two Olds Cutlass Sierras, one an ’87 and one a ’91. They were both equipped with the 2500 engine, (4-cylinder), affectionately known as the ‘iron duke’ because of the cast iron heads and both of them consistently averaged 32 mpg wherever I drove. Unfortunately, that engine had nylon timing gears, and they tended to break at about 180,000 miles. Both of mine did that and at an estimate of $1200.00 to fix them, I just let them go. Try to find a Cutlass Sierra with that engine, today. They are few and far between.

#53 mike on 06.18.08 at 2:45 am

well i just can t say the same about my 1989 mazda b2200 with carburetor it gets“a very poor gas`mileage about 19mpg on hwy, is really a nice truck my father gave it to me very well taking care of it but it sucks on gas“i was wondering if i can find“a better carburetor that fix“to it for better gas mileage.

#54 Rick Lossner on 06.26.08 at 2:19 pm

I had a 79 Plymouth Champ.. it got 44mpg on the hwy all day long .. in the 30s in the city.. even squeezed 50mpg out of it a few times…

Now ..here we are … 30 yrs later… and you don’t see these types of numbers..

if the car were avail again, I’d buy it.. instead of these $10-$20k cares that brag about 30 mpg hwy.. what a joke…

what happened over the last 30 yrs?

#55 Jacque Damon on 06.26.08 at 9:23 pm

I owned a 1976 Ford Granada my Grandfather bought new and gave to me in highschool it was an inline 6 3 on the tree manual everything I got 28 mpg in town and 34 on the highway at 70mph and it wasn’t a light car by any means so why should I be impressed by a car made in 2008 getting 34 mpg ? it’s time we as a country demand more efficient car’s like the Mini Cooper D or the Opel D.

#56 ajvenom on 07.07.08 at 12:20 pm

When asked why the chevy metro was discontinued..the reply from GM was that the sales volume was too low and not profitable. So it was consumer choice that brought about their demize. But they do continue to built high mileage cars all around the world. So why is it so hard to switch back to high mileage cars or detune the models they have now?

#57 K-DUB on 07.10.08 at 10:56 pm

i saw an ad on TV for a new V8 Toyota SUV… it sickens me that the are STILL churning out gas guzzlers in this time of CRISIS i still have my 81′ honda and its running better than ever. the future is worse than any of use could have predicted. forget turbo charged V-6 we need 70 hp not 250! we need 50+ mpg not 20! we had the technology 30 years ago, america has gotten worse after the 80’s america has become a fat child of its former self my little honda SHOULD be the way of the future but sadly the new accords are getting 6 mpg worse than my 1st gen accord. we need to fight for cars with 2.0ltr or less under the hood. laws need to be passed. bush needs to be fired. its horrifying to see $4.11/gal on the boards and 21mpg on the window sticker the 80’s was the best decade america was GOOD back then. the 90’s wasnt too bad either. 2000- now is ridiculous, turn around and ask yourself “wtf happened?” … if only we had doc browns DeLorean, id stay in the eighty’s forever

#58 greg machala on 07.17.08 at 1:32 pm

The problem with modern “fuel efficient” cars and yesterdays “fuel efficient” cars is that a modern car weights 500 to 700lbs or more than its older siblings did. Weight costs mileage more than engine size and power does. Why do cars weigh more? Blame gov’t and insurance lobbies and regulations for side impact, roll over, stiffer chassis and other safety gadgets. And the push (marketing BS) by automakers toward bigger “Accords” and “Camrys” and to make it appear there is progress in that. The 1981 “Accord” weighs from 2500 to 2800 lbs depending on options. Today’s accord weighs from 3300 to a whopping 3600+lbs depending on options. That is anywhere from 500 to 1000lbs more weight to haul around. That doesn’t factor in how much fatter the average American is now too. Family of 4 in 1980 500lbs today 800lbs?

#59 litesong on 07.24.08 at 1:24 am

Had a ’80 Plymouth Champ(Dodge Colt) 4 speed. It had 2 valves per cylinder plus a tiny third intake valve that actuated at low rpms to swirl incoming air-fuel mixture for more complete combustion. Sounded theoretical, but while feather footing, Champ AVERAGED 42MPG for 10+ years & hit 50+MPG on the road carrying 3 people, camping gear & presents. Passed many behemoth coughing vehicles above 12,000 feet. Fold-down seats for catnaps. Great visibility all around. I’ve heard 300,000 miles were obtained by numerous people. Mine banged up logging roads to mountain trailheads, went to National Parks & went exploring many National monuments people didn’t see from highways. After 22 years & 150,000 miles I sold mine. Still saw it running around town 2 years later.

My 1988 Ford Festiva is even better. I still drive it. I knew it was good & saved it for the $4+ per gallon gas that I knew was coming. Festiva averaged 45MPG for a decade & hit 53MPG packed with lots of camping & camera gear.

#60 RW on 08.03.08 at 3:47 pm

Well …
I think everyone will agree since we had the know how since the 80’s … Then we still have the know how in present times … To create a fuel efficient car for the masses …

You can not tell me we do not know how to make a lite car that is safe (we can easily use carbon fiber)
build in needed air bags and roll cages …
Then also use extremely efficient and clean air flow over said car … use a very fuel efficient 3 or 4 cylinder (made also of extreme lite weight materials and adding all we know of computer aided advances and regenitive braking) and use additives to further enhance combustion

If we use modern knowledge of lite weight materials then we can make a modern day VW Rabbit or Jetta and instead of 40 to 55 mpg of 25+ yrs ago but obtain at a minimum of 100 mpg and more then likely obtain 150 to 300 mpg (all while decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels and cleaning up the environment )

Today a freakin Corvette can see 30+ mpg
So a modern Rabbit should do at least 3 times the Vette.

If we truly were to go full speed ahead with electric cars and trucks, we would greatly decrease damage to the environment while also decreasing the expense of running our cars (both in fuel and maintenance) and would not have to worry about a slow car (in either acceleration or top speed or even in torque)

So why so few electric cars
car companies will make far far less
(this is in part why they instead push the dual fuel cars, so they have a combustion engine needing maintenance and can keep gas companies off their backs)

It is up to us
to force car companies to comply to the needs of the public.

if current car companies refuse to do so
then we need to do so on our own

I used to think i was smart back in the day driving a 74 Bricklin (since was a huge leap ahead in safety at the time)

We need to think of the Global Picture more and more
We need to be smarter and better (and we can)

#61 Michael on 08.11.08 at 6:43 am

I think we have problem here Houston. These figures are not accurate. I have owned many of the cars listed, worked on these cars, and can assure anyone the figures listed are in fact incorrect. Old mpg estimates were inaccurate of everyday driving. Check out any site comparing old to new EPA estimates. You are better off staying clear of these vehicles and saving your time and money. IN particular, I would strongly suggest to stay away from any American made (including VW’s made in America) vehicle. You’re better off to get a bicycle, then maybe you will get about 40-50 mpg (on milk or water). I was not going to post, but I really would hate to hear about someone buying one of these junkers to find out it would cost more to fix, than to just buy a newer used vehicle, take a second job to pay the difference and be happier for it.

#62 litesong on 08.24.08 at 9:24 pm

Talked highly of my ’88 Ford Festiva, tho I hinted its best MPG days were behind it. Recently changed sparkplug wires & timing belt & WOW…..MPG is back better than ever! While traveling through mountains, three tanks in a row averaged 51.8 MPG. The last tank(50.8MPG) had a total elevation gain & loss of 11,000 feet! I don’t think a Prius could run thru the mtns, keep its battery pack up & get that MPG. Sure I have to feather foot. But that just means a good feather footing driver is part of the high MPG package. Modern small cars can get over 10MPG over the EPA highway MPG, if you feather foot them. I drove my wife’s 2008 Hyundai Accent to 45MPG while going over a 1400 foot low mountain pass. One fellow averages 48MPG in his Honda Fit. Another person feather footed his Toyota Yaris to 60MPG traveling thru Yellowstone Nat’l Park. These are travel MPG, which normally are higher than everday driving MPG. But careful feather footing in everyday traffic should have you averaging the EPA highway MPG if you’re not always bogged down in stop & go traffic. So do it!

#63 Matt Tackett on 08.27.08 at 6:26 pm

It’s sad that there are cars all over the world that get better gas mileage than our American cars. I just read in Car and Driver, Sept 2008, that despite the woes that the U.S. car industry has Ford of Europe is making money. How? Sell cars people want. Simple, small, affordable and best of all get great gas mileage, not to mention much better built. The other markets get better vehicles. Period. U.S. safety standards are to blame for the weight of the vehicles in the U.S. Maybe if we just reduce the weight of the vehicles (quit building two and a half to three ton monstrosities (SUV’s)) and maybe 100 mpg really isn’t that far. It’s not the automakers fault. Americans seem to think that we need to have a huge vehicle to feel safe. It’s not true. Look at the carbon fiber race cars. I’d rather be in one of those in a wreak that an SUV. If the government quit looking at the engine and power source and focus on the obscene weight of the vehicles. Really 4100 lbs. for a new Challenger. A sports car? A GT? Hardly. Our desire for bigger is better is out of hand. I say a 10% reduction in ALL vehicle weight, not an average, ALL.

#64 phillip m. on 11.10.08 at 9:07 am

talking about mileage how about a 1981 escort gl station wagon. it gets 35 in town an 43 on the rode. its no bolt of lightin but when gas in n.c. was4.00 a gal. i felt like a god. paid 400.00 an invested about 800.00 . complete tune up transmision inspection and cv joints.now gm chrysler an ford wants a bailout!they could build cars in the 80s with great mileage.they can do it now. greed is the root of all evil. phil

#65 Dennis Rowan on 11.10.08 at 1:04 pm

Hi, I’ve been driving the same 1978 Honda Accord for the last 30 years. I have always kept mileage records and the lifetime average mileage has been 33 MPG. I typically get mid to high 30’s on the freeway and high 20’s around town. Best ever was 47.3 MPG on a trip where I was very careful to keep my foot out of the throttle. It really makes you wonder why 30 year old technology (no computers, carb, points and condensor) still gets better mileage than most of the high tech autos today.

#66 murcuryvapor on 11.17.08 at 1:36 pm

These figures must be ********. Mileage is actually lower now than 30 years ago? Pure bunkum.

Here’s current:

Top 5 Most Fuel Efficient American Cars:

1. Ford Escape Hybrid – 36 mpg city / 31 mpg highway
2. Chevy Aveo – 26 mpg city / 35 mpg highway
3. Ford Focus – 26 mpg city / 34 mpg highway
4. Chevy Cobalt – 25 mpg city / 34 mpg highway
5. Ford Fusion – 24 mpg city / 32 mpg highway

Top 5 Most Fuel Efficient Japanese Cars:

1. Honda Insight – 60 mpg city / 66 mpg highway
2. Toyota Prius – 60 mpg city / 51 mpg highway
3. Honda Civic Hybrid – 49 mpg city / 51 highway
4. Toyota Corolla – 32 mpg city / 41 mpg highway
5. Toyota Matrix – 30 mpg city / 36 mpg highway

#67 mpg-o-editor on 11.20.08 at 9:41 pm

@murcuryvapor You’ll just have to suspend your disbelief. Mileage is lower for a number of reasons. A great many of the cars of that era were dramatically lighter then the current models. Less weight = better mileage.

That having been said, the EPA reporting procedures have been altered a number of times along the way (some of the earliest figures were said to be overly optimistic). The latest lowering included revisionist measures that lowered previously stated figures. We’re not in the business of rewriting history, so we display the data as originally published.

#68 MJM on 12.14.08 at 11:25 pm

I had a 1985 Volvo 760 GLE turbo diesel that got a best of 38 MPG on the road. It is relaxing in the back yard now as I quit driving it years ago. I recently thought about resurrecting it with a clutch, clutch cable, rear main seal, and a few other items but it is to much for me as the price of diesel went down. I do think it would make a great powerplant for elec./? though. If anyone has one and can share info on this year model, let me know.

#69 kmb on 12.25.08 at 1:11 am

I bought an 81 Starlet new – it had the 1.3L but scooted (well that’s relative, I guess) but it DID get incredible mileage. Think it was actually EPA rated at 39/54 by ’81 standards.

#70 Kevin on 01.20.09 at 4:04 pm

I just bought a 1979 Subaru FE which I had owned years ago. I got and get 54mpg! Interesting that all of these cars are 30 year old technology! What is wrong with this picture? If you want good gas mileage – junk the new one and restore an old one!

#71 Charlevoixboy on 03.06.09 at 10:34 pm

I owned a 1981 Datsun 210 (my first car – I bought from my father) and remember my road trip to Florida AVERAGING 45mpg (speed limit was 55 back then). I sold it with 178K miles – still running great – and now twenty some years later wish I had it back.

#72 James on 04.12.09 at 8:19 pm

My 79 Datsun 620 gets about 40-45 MPG on average.
It needs to be restored because of the rust (been sitting out in the weather) but the engine is still running strong.
It has 120,000 miles on it, and will probably go another 200,000 before the engine needs to be rebuilt. The engine is an L20B, 1952 cc (2 liter) 95 horsepower engine. =D

#73 joe blow on 04.12.09 at 11:07 pm

these numbers are WRONG. i recently watched an old GM dealer’s video from the 80’s showing their gas mileage ratings. the estimates were WAYYYYY off-target. we’ve all driven these cars and NONE have gotten as high as stated. i literally laughed when i saw the mpg’s listed on that video. how’d they get away with that B.S. ?!

#74 SandMan0069 on 08.20.09 at 7:21 am

The guy in Huntsville AL did make a Caddy get way high gas mileage by putting a stainless steel screen on the fuel line going into the carb and I know of ppl who have done this and got about 20+ more MPG. But you have to adjust a lot of things perfectly like airflow and other stuff and lose a little HP but not really noticed unless your a speed demon. And for what I was told Ford bought his patent and locked it up for future use 30 years ago. I lived in Huntsville at the time. Others have done other carb mods and got some big bucks from oil and car companies since. But I don’t think there’s anything left you can do without patent infringement.

#75 Lance Jones on 09.30.09 at 5:38 am

I don’t know what the folks who put together the MPG table have been smoking, but the mpg claims are fantastically silly.

I have had considerable experience with VWs of that era, having owned a 1978 Rabbit four-door, a 1980 Scirocco, a 1981 Rabbit two-door, and a 1982 Rabbit convertible. My day-in, day-out driving, when I was commuting 250 miles a week to and from work, was about 50-50 highway and suburban. I consistently got 27 mpg. In straight highway driving my mpg was in the low 30s. Both of those figures are consistent with the EPA ratings. I had several friends who also owned Rabbits. None of them ever claimed to get anywhere near 40 mpg. I also had friends who owned Omnis and Horizons. The claims that those cars got 50 mpg on the highway are just as silly (unless you’re talking about driving a steady 40 mph) – their mpg was comparable to what I got with my VWs.

#76 Steve on 09.30.09 at 11:09 am

The mileage is way too optimistic for the Dodge DeTomaso. I bought a 1980 new and drove it over 150,000 miles for over 21 years. 35 mpg was the absolute highest it was capable on the highway and it could not do that consistently.

#77 mpg-o-editor on 10.01.09 at 9:09 am

@Lance – Were you driving VW diesels or conventional gassers? The diesel-powered cars delivered much higher numbers than the conventional gas-powered versions.

#78 Rick on 10.05.09 at 8:36 pm

I have owned a 1983 Honda accord 5spd since May 08 and routinely get 36+ MPG in mixed driving. I am not a real conservative driver, so I could probably even get a bit better if I really tried. Compared to my 1990 Chevy 2500 work truck’s 13mpg, I have saved $$$$ over the last 1.5 years. Some of these numbers may be a bit inflated, but driving habits play a huge role in actual mileage. Just read some of the comments from peoples actual #s.
Recently we bought a 76 Datsun 620 pickup for my son. It is a 2.0L automatic and still needs some work before it is road worthy. Do you have any idea what kind of mileage #s we could expect once its tuned up and ready to go?

#79 Alan on 10.13.09 at 2:09 am

Agreed. The 70s and 80s economy cars could get away with high MPG because they were not saddled with emissions and safety gear. Legislated by our wonderful US government, mind you. If a new Corvette can get 30mpg highway, why does an Aveo get only 34? It is ridiculous.

#80 Carl on 11.27.09 at 4:21 pm

I owned a Plymouth TC Horizon HF, a 1980. I bought it new and it was EPA RATED for 50 MPG Highway and it really got that kind of mileage in highway driving. The HF was a special designation where it only was available with a stick and fifth gear was different than the standard version of the car. I distinctly remember reading about it in Consumer Reports who commented that this increase in highway mileage was accomplished with “the magic of gear ratios”.

#81 MattRMagnum on 01.16.10 at 8:11 pm

Thank you for this list! I figure that, given the age of the estimates, they’re probably inaccurate, but I’m using them as a guideline for what to buy next. Thank you a bunch for putting this together! It’s a lot easier to view things like this than hunt through webpages and try to find any lists for mpg that exist for older cars.

#82 Polaris Kyo on 02.08.10 at 12:01 am

Very informative! I wish this list also covered many more of the European automobiles of the time. Kudos to VW, Renault, & Audi making the list! Peugeot? Volvo? Saab? Does anyone know of that link or list? +_+

#83 Herman Peeler on 03.08.10 at 7:51 pm

I will tell you that I owned a 1987 Lincoln Mark VII which weighs around 3700 pounds and it got 26 miles to the gallon. I could drive from Baton Rouge to Atlanta George on a tank and have 1/4 tank left. The distance is around 500 miles.

#84 Steve Kotleba on 08.03.10 at 3:23 pm

I had 1980 Plymouth Champ (paid premium on top of the dealer sticker, Iranian hostage incident and fuel shortage..).
My typical MPG was arond 42-48 normal driving. However, I tested the MPG one day on a trip from San Diego to Los Angeles, and got an amazing 54.7 MPG for the trip, driving at 55MPH. Where are these type of cars today?????

#85 Owen on 09.24.10 at 7:44 pm

i know this is a little newer, but i own a 1990 dodge spirit. i watched this site for a bit and was pleased with the mileage that you were getting, so i tried to get the best mileage i could get. after driving for a while, i averaged 30 mpg’s in the city and 45 on the highway. i only have a 3 speed auto so i have to be easy on the gas to get good mileage. i like my car because it has a total of 97 cubic feet on the inside and also a 14 cubic foot trunk. it also has a great ride to it. it does not take corners too fast, but in return, it absorbs a lot of the bumps on the city roads.

#86 james on 11.16.10 at 12:45 am

I have a 1997 Toyota Tercel with a manual tranny. Over the last three fill-ups I have averaged 42.5 miles per gallon. I am very impressed with this. I am with the other people on this board. We have cars that got over 40mpg in the 1980’s. Why is it such a new thing now to have a car that can get that much now. Yeah car companies have to be holding back . Let gas prices jump up to 4-5 bucks a gallon and I bet you will see some of that high mpg tech come back. That or people will be at the scrapyard trying to find some of those smaller cars that got good mpg. Right now I am on a quest to find the Toyota Starlet. 52mpg. you betcha. Carb’d engine not a damn hybrid and that car got that kind of mileage. Yeah we should have cars now that get into at least the 80’s in mpg. Where are they?

#87 jim on 11.29.10 at 10:29 pm

How come there is no mention of the chevette/t1000 diesels ? You listed the chevy luv 2.2D,which they both are engines built by Isuzu. I have a 1986 t1000 1.8L D and I drive all over the country in this car at 65/70mph and get 40 to 45 mpg and better in the city. I have two more to get road worthy. (1984 chevette diesel/1981 Isuzu I-mark diesel)

#88 mpg-o-editor on 11.30.10 at 8:57 am

@jim The diesel engine was introduced late in the Chevette’s 1981 model year … it’s listed on the ’82 & up Cheap High MPG pages.

#89 Richiemagoo on 01.12.11 at 2:32 pm

I just bought a 1983 Chevette w/ 4 speed last month. I LOVE it! It gets over 30 MPG in mixed driving..is simple (i.e. cheap & easy to fix if it ever breaks) and is a lot sturdier than the Jap cars (It’s built like a tank!)….for $500…has no rust and a new motor! I wouldn’t spit on these new cars- over-priced garbage!

#90 C. Angell on 01.18.11 at 1:35 pm

We need 70 hp not 250! we need 50+ mpg not 20! we had the technology 30 years ago, America has gotten worse after the 80′s America has become a fat child of its former self if only we had doc browns DeLorean, id stay in the eighty’s forever. WE don’t have to sacrifice power for mpg, the powers that be can be sent a strong message W/ your back pocket vote, that is but one means at our disposal. Fat stupid child pretty much sums why we’re being Screwed out much good in this life!

#91 C. Angell on 01.18.11 at 2:01 pm

bankspower.com/smokeys fiero http://www.bankspower.com/techarticles/show/22-Cool-Air-Equals-Power

#92 Calvin P. on 01.25.11 at 6:29 am

I have a 1986 Ford F-250 4×4 with a 460 I get 8 M.P.G. with it but driving it no faster then 35 I get 10.5 M.P.G. I had a 1976 ford Pinto with a 2.3L I got 25 to 30 M.P.G. One reason New cars today don’t get the M.P.G. that the old cars got is the car are heaver. If you put the new engines of today in the old cars you can get 50 to 60 M.P.G. Look at motor bikes some get over 100 M.G.P. they are light and have high flow engines.

#93 Calvin P. on 01.25.11 at 6:30 am

oh and I only drive the truck 4 or 5 times a year.

#94 Roscoelette on 04.03.11 at 4:18 pm

That’s right. I got amazing gas mileage in the 70’s and early 80’s. I had a Vega (bad block, though), VW Rabbit, and a Sunbird. All got much better mileage than today’s so-called fuel efficient cars. Wish I still had one of those. Can’t even find compact lightweight cars today. It’s a shame. The people who are supposedly serious about making fuel efficient cars and simply not serious at all. Can’t figure it out.

#95 Roscoelette on 04.03.11 at 4:19 pm

I forgot to mention my Chevette. It was fuel efficient to the max.

#96 Supertankerm60a3 on 05.23.11 at 9:23 pm

I owned a Sunbird and a Chevett, neither EVER got above 30 MPG ever with the radiator fan removed. I also owned a Civic 1300FE that got an average of 42 MPG. One of the biggest reasons that modern cars do not get better milage is that they must maintain perfect stoichiomtery whereas the older, carbureted Honda could run every lean. the mixtures for maximum efficiency, perfect stoichiomtery and maximum power are all very different. I was also very surprised to find that the most efficient mixture is not the leanest mixture that will ignite.

#97 Supertankerm60a3 on 05.23.11 at 9:25 pm

I meant to say neither ever got more than 30 MPG ever, EVEN with the radiator fan removed.

#98 dave on 10.29.11 at 12:06 am

my 81 VW scirocco gets 60 mpg on the highway as long as i keep my foot out of it 35- 40 if i dont, but i always run premium fuel, synthetic oil, and keep it tuned which is Very easy and cheap the only thing expensive so far was the fuel pump, and the clutch isnt cheap eithier . this car has it all! power,speed and fuel economy .not so great in the corners, but needs new struts in the rear! these cars are high dollar used because they are high quality, they last and last

#99 Guy on 10.30.11 at 6:48 pm

In 1978 Popular Science got 36 mpg at 55 in a Fiesta. In 1981 the same mag got 46 at 55 in a Escort. Look up the tests in Google Books. Just type in Popular Science. They are all on there.

#100 Karl on 11.24.11 at 11:26 pm

I have owned alot of the cars mentioned. I have owned atleast 5 escorts with the 1.6 every single one of them got the same and it was a very consistant 28 mpg and in 86 and a 1/2 when the 1.9 came standard these got a full 36 mpgs. My 81 omni came factory with a vw engine and it did get 32 but no where near 50. Chevy luv gets 50 ? as if, well anyone that thinks a pinto got more than 23 mpg is crazy because I’ve owned 10 of them too. The 1.6 and 2 liters in the 70 to 74 pintos done some better than the 2.3 which was the smallest engine available in the 75 to 80 pintos. This site is filled with lies trying to say the old cars that got such great mpg’s. I can imagine the Japanese vehicle blew away the american ones even back then. Starlet and Civic I do believe but when I have owned so many of these others I can’t believe anything on this page. Don’t believe everything you read.

#101 mpg-o-editor on 11.25.11 at 9:06 am

@Karl – Thanks for your input! As far as this site being filled with it, hey we’re only conveying the official numbers. Many of these early government ratings were optimistic, little doubt about that. I owned a Pinto. Holy cow, it was the worst car I’ve owned, hands down. I could never calculate MPGs with it back then … either I couldn’t afford to fill the tank or it broke down. Thank heavens it was light, because I pushed that thing home a couple of times. It’s amazing that you owned ten of them. I hit my thumb with a hammer once. After that I learned. :)

#102 John on 12.05.11 at 8:51 am

@Karl: I drive a mostly stock Pinto now, with a 2.3 and a 4 speed. I get around 25 city and 28-29 highway. I got over 300 miles in the 11 gallon tank in a highway trip this summer. And this is with the car running a little rough.

And it’s been reliable as hell for a car that hadn’t been driven for years before I got it. I had some charging system issues early on, but now that those are resolved it doesn’t give me any problems. Aside from it marking its territory that is, haha.

#103 John on 12.05.11 at 8:54 am

I’ve got to say the Pinto is my favorite out of all of the vehicles I’ve had, it’s really fun to drive even though I’m stuck doing 55-60 on the highway when the speed limit here is 65.

I had a gas 87 Isuzu P’up about 2 years ago and I was getting about 35mpg highway. No muffler, and it backfired every time I threw it in 3rd and stomped the gas pedal. It’s a shame the frame was too rotted and I had to get rid of it.

#104 Wil on 12.31.11 at 2:38 am

Has anyone thought about the gas they are selling us today? It’s not the same as it was 30 years ago. Why allow consumers to go the ‘extra mile’ when it comes out of your (gas producers) pocketbook. They figured it out and fixed it. Those numbers do seem high though. I drove a 99 Saturn 1.8L and it was a great GREAT highway car. Topped out around 41mpg at 70mph. Faster it would only drop to 36mpg. At 46-52mph with a tail wind 48mpg.

#105 mpg-o-editor on 12.31.11 at 10:30 am

@Wil – You hit two key points …

1) Today’s gasoline is different, no doubt about that. An E10 (10%) Ethanol blend provides less fuel economy than “pure” gasoline. One of our goals in 2012 is to test “pure” gas vs E10 in a number of different vehicles.

2) Highway speed has a significant effect on fuel economy. The faster you drive, generally speaking, the lower your MPGs. There was a national speed limit thirty years ago …

#106 Ron on 01.19.12 at 12:30 am

You missed the best ones of all- the Mercedes diesels. My 61 190Db has a mileage chart in the drivers manual which shows 40 mpg at 60mph and 68MPG at 40- I have proven both. My 84 190D-2.2 has averaged 42MPG for the last 5 years in a mix of 75MPH Highway and city driving with an accurate documented best of 54MPG on a hot day with a tailwind on the highway. And all in comfort and style! My bit old 84 300SD only gets 30mpg (In a HUGE 4000lb luxo sedan). And they are all reliable as an anvil and easy to maintain.

#107 Dirk on 02.25.12 at 7:24 am

A VW Jetta is bigger than a VW Rabbit but gives more MPG using the same engine????? C’mon research dept..

#108 joe on 02.27.12 at 4:04 pm

I think the MPG’s in above table were from EPA data. Years ago the EPA estimates were way overrated. In past couple decades the EPA finally adjusted their system so estimates are much closer.

On the other hand, 1972 Datsun 620 pickup weighs about 2300 lb, 170 inches long, 98 HP carburetor motor. I used to easily get over 30MPG combined. The smallest pickup you can get today is the Tocoma, 190 inches, 60% more HP, weighs 900lbs more. I want a pickup to occasionally carry sofa, wheelbarrow, big table, push lawnmower, etc. Everyday use is to commute to work. Don’t need that HP, length, weight. It would suit me just fine that if I load it up with 500 lbs of lawn products on the weekend that I would have to accelerate slower.

#109 john on 03.01.12 at 4:29 pm

This summer I will pick up my grandmothers 1980 chevette. I have understood that these cars are UGLY but get good gas mileage and last forever (this one has 56k because it has been parked since 85). I drove it around and its a dog (no power at all) so I was wondering what mods can be made to pep up the power which wont hurt gas mileage? So far Ive been told to replace the carb to manifold gasket with a gasket without a screen, drill holes in the air cleaner housing to increase air getting to the filter, and disconnect the smog pump. Can you add anything?

#110 James on 10.19.12 at 9:24 pm

If I get one of these and replace the old engine with a newer injected four cyl, will it get even better mpg?

#111 joe on 01.07.13 at 6:54 am

the chevy luv does not get anywhere 53 mpg highway. i drive a 1980 chevy luv and i average 30mpg highway driving at 55mph, i have electronic ignition, and aftermarket more efficent carb and have never seen over 32mpg with it. do not expect anything over 28 combined mpg from one.

#112 mpg-o-editor on 01.07.13 at 8:14 am

@Joe – I’d reckon your Chevy Luv is a gasser, not a diesel?

#113 ron on 01.26.13 at 9:56 pm

I had a chevy vega actually liked it. But u had to check the gas and fill the oil when u stopped at a gas station.

#114 Dorians 210 Datsun on 07.27.14 at 3:54 am

Yes! You’ve read right folks. 7 years after this was published and I’m commenting to add that I recently picked up my 1981 Datsun 210 2 Dr sports coupe. Just a stock rebuilt A15(s) with a manual 4 speed. Can’t say much about it yet but Im a die hard jdm follower and I know what I have (; the body has 300k on it and the motor has about 1k on the rebuild( so I was told). But even so, she purrs like a kitten and I’m about $2,500 in after a rebuilt carb ($565).. Damn you carb. But anyways call me a fool if you like, but I’m loving my ride. 40+ mpg, rare, stylish, a freeway neckbreaker, and she gets loose haha what more ya need??? Anyways later guys I’m off to drift :P *Shakotan*

#115 mpg-o-editor on 08.16.14 at 7:26 pm

@Dorian – Cool! The 210 has always been a favorite of mine. Best of luck with the project! :)

#116 litesong on 12.08.14 at 2:07 pm

Considered many cars, along with the Datsun B210, back then. Almost bought a Volvo Sport at the time or Saab(good buy), but finally bought a Subaru.The only car of the bunch that was any good was the B210……oh, well.

#117 Doug on 08.30.15 at 10:16 pm

This list is totally inaccurate. I have owned many of the cars listed. If you take off at least a good 10 miles per gallon it would be somewhat accurate. Very misleading !

#118 mpg-o-editor on 09.01.15 at 6:52 pm

@Doug – The numbers on this list are straight from the original EPA ratings. Did they estimate high? Survey says: Yes. =)

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