There are those who say that size matters when it comes to fuel efficiency. For many folks, “to get great gas mileage, you have to drive a small car,” is a prevailing mindset. But the big question is: how small is small? Will a compact or sub-compact car fit your needs? Do you really need something larger … or perhaps even smaller?
If you’re in an urban setting, with tight parking conditions, a tiny inexpensive car may be your best bet. There’s nothing like zipping through traffic and scoring those tight parking spaces with ease. But it’s a dramatically different story out on the open road. Would you be comfortable duking it out with double tractor trailers and dump trucks on the Interstate while driving a microcar like the Scion iQ or Smart car?
The chart below provides a list of compact, subcompact, and microcars available – or (possibly) soon to be available – in the American market. Compacts, subcompacts, and microcars are often referred to as C-, B-, and A-Segment cars, respectively.
Compact / Subcompact / Micro Cars (with reviews)
|Compact Cars (C-Segment)||Subcompact Cars (B-Segment)||Micro Cars (A-Segment)|
|Audi A3||Chevy Sonic||Chevy Spark|
|Audi A4||Fiat 500||Ford Ka|
|Buick Verano||Ford Fiesta||Mitsubishi i MiEV|
|Chevy Cruze||Honda Fit||Smart|
|Chevy Volt||Hyundai Accent||Scion iQ|
|Dodge Dart||Kia Rio|
|Ford Focus||Mini Cooper|
|Honda CR-Z||Nissan Cube|
|Honda Insight||Nissan Juke|
|Hyundai Elantra||Nissan Versa|
|Hyundai Veloster||Scion xA|
|Kia Forte||Scion xD|
|Kia Soul||Toyota Prius c|
|Mitsubishi Lancer||Volvo C30|
We’ve come a long way since the early seventies, when the American Motors Gremlin, Chevy Vega, and Ford Pinto were the first subcompacts built in America. Though some might hold a warm place in their hearts for the little beasts, these were among the most ghastly cars manufactured on the North American continent. For all the numbers that were produced, few exist today, as the little tin boxes quickly fell victim to rust and the rigors of the road.
Today’s world is entirely different. Small no longer equals cheap. Compact and subcompact cars offer a host of amenities and comforts that would’ve been unthinkable back in the day.
While downsizing can be one of the keys to slashing your fuel costs, the smallest cars aren’t necessarily the most efficient. Optimized compact sedans like the Mazda3 Skyactiv can deliver better gas mileage and more comfort than many subcompacts.
Once you’ve decided that a small car will meet your needs, you’ll need to determine what technology fits the bill. Although hybrid and diesel vehicles provide more MPGs, that efficiency comes at a cost. It’s up to you to make that determination. Plug your figures into our gas mileage calculator and you’ll see it in an instant.
The deciding factor between a less expensive (non-hybrid) Toyota Yaris and a comparable hybrid Prius c may come down to your typical driving cycle. If your mainly dealing with lots of stop-and-go low speed traffic, the Prius c could be the most cost-effective over the long run. But if you roll up most of your miles on open roads and highways with less congestion, the Yaris just might get the nod.
- by Daniel Gray
February 14th, 2012
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