Cheap High MPG Cars: 1984

1984 was a high-volume year for high-MPG cars in the USA, as the domestic and import manufacturers produced a range of cars that matched or exceeded the 40 MPG highway mark and met America’s thirst for fuel-thrifty vehicles.

General Motors was quite well represented among the domestic manufacturers. Buick offered the Skylark, Skyhawk, Regal, Century. Cadillac had the Cimmarron, while Chevrolet had the Chevette, Cavalier, Celebrity, and Citation, along with a 4-cylinder Camaro and S-10 Pickup. (GMC offered the S15 Pickup, as well.) Oldsmobile had the Cutlass Ciera, Firenza, Cutlass Supreme, and Omega. Pontiac was flush with high-MPG choices, including the 1000, 2000 Sunbird, two-seat Fiero, 6000 Wagon, and the four-cylinder Firebird.

Chrysler-Plymouth offered the Plymouth Colt, Colt Vista, Horizon, Reliant, and Turismo, along with the Dodge twins: Colt, Omni, Aries, Daytona, and Charger, and the tiny but unique Rampage Pickup. Ford’s 1984 highest MPG offerings consisted of the Escort, EXP, Laser and Tempo, along with the Lincoln-Mercury Lynx and Topaz.

The Japanese auto manufacturers sold boatloads of cars during 1984, with Honda’s Civic, Accord, and Prelude leading the way. Nissan hit its stride with the Pulsar, Sentra, 200SX, Stanza, and 2WD Pickups, while Toyota had the Starlet, Corolla, Tercel, Camry, and 2WD Pickup. Mitsubishi’s Precis (also sold as the Dodge and Plymouth Colt), Tredia, Cordia, and Pickup, met or exceeded 40 MPG highway, as did Mazda’s GLC, 626, and B2000/2200 Pickup. Subaru and Isuzu hit the mark, as well.

Among European manufacturers, Volkswagen was exceptionally prominent, with diesel models of the Rabbit, Quantum, and Jetta hitting or exceeding the 50 MPG mark. Knowing shoppers also found the Mercedes-Benz 190 in that same vaunted category.

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Cheap High MPG Cars: 1983

1983 was another banner year for high-MPG cars in America, with both import and domestic auto manufacturers well-represented among the ranks of cars that eclipsed a 40 MPG highway rating.

The high-MPG imports were lead by the Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel at 50 city / 67 highway, the Datsun (Nissan) Sentra at 48/62, and the Honda Civic at 46/59. The top of the charts included the Toyota Starlet, Renault Alliance, Isuzu I-Mark, and the Audi 4000 Coupe.

American auto manufacturers hit a high point with the Chevy Chevette and Pontiac 1000 oil burners at an amazing 43/60. Mopar put in some very respectable numbers with the Dodge Omni, Dodge Charger, and Plymouth Horizon, along with the Dodge and Plymouth Colts (which were rebadged Mitsubishi Precis). Ford lagged a bit behind GM and Mopar, but still managed to put a good number of Escorts and EXPs over the 40 MPG highway mark.

Amazingly, there were de-engined pony cars in the group, with four-cylinder versions of the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird landing mileage rankings of 26/42. Z-28s and Trans-Ams, they weren’t.

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Cheap High MPG Cars: 1986 – 1989

Looking to buy a truly inexpensive car that provides 40 to 50 miles per gallon (or more) on the highway? The 1986 through 1989 model years provide a range of small fuel efficient cars that can be had for a song and dance. If you need to get around on the least amount of money, one of these vehicles just might be the ticket. There’s little doubt that it pays to be a careful high-MPG car shopper. While the 86-89 ranks are full of both domestic and imported high MPG choices, some imports are certainly better left alone. Parts may be an issue for marquees like Daihatsu and Renault that no longer have a broad support system here in the States. (Perhaps the Charade wasn’t the best name for a car, after all?)

The GM-branded imports of this period – Chevy Sprint, Geo Metro, and Pontiac Firefly – are rebadged Suzukis, most notable for their remarkably small and fuel-efficient three-cylinder engines, in both standard and turbo form.

The 1986-1989 vintage is prime for small vehicles with diesel engines for those that want to experiment with either biodiesel or vegetable oil conversion kits without investing thousands upon thousands of dollars in a test vehicle.

While the Volkswagen Jetta and Golf diesels are certainly the most commonplace among the compact import diesels, keep an eye out for the rare Nissan Sentra diesel, and the Isuzu Pup diesel pickups. The domestic manufacturers flirted with small diesels during this timeframe as well, with the Chevy Chevette diesel, the Ford Tempo diesel, the Ford Escort diesel, the Lincoln-Mercury Topaz diesel, and the Lynx diesel.

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Chevy Corvette Gas Mileage: 1978-2009

From its debut in 1953, the Chevrolet Corvette has endured as America’s sports car. Unmatched by the competition, today’s Corvette delivers a legendary package that combines exhilarating acceleration, exuberant handling, iconic style, and most surprisingly, respectable highway gas mileage.

Although the classic Corvettes of the sixties and seventies were known to drink copious amounts of fuel (most notably the multi-carburated big-block beasts), today’s fuel-injected 6 liter Corvettes are downright miserly by comparison.

Owners of the highest horsepower modern 7.0 liter Corvettes pay a slight penalty in gas mileage for the extra performance, it’s hardly a drop in the bucket of petrol, and downright remarkable for the level of performance. The standard 6.0 liter Corvette is no slouch by any means, as it delivers highway mileage figures in the high twenties and can flirt with 30 miles per gallon on the open road when driven with a steady foot and a bit of restraint.

Okay, so if you’re thinking about buying a Corvette, gas mileage might just be the last thing on your mind. But it’s more fuel for the fire, so to speak, as you try to sell the acquisition to your significant other. “And gee honey, did you know that the Corvette is good for 28 miles per gallon on the highway? That’s 30% better than the SUV …”

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1982: A Banner Year for High MPG Cars

There’s no question that the gas crisis of the 1970s spurred the automakers into action, as the 1982 model year bustled with high mileage cars. Small cars that eclipsed 40 miles per gallon on the highway weren’t the exception in 1982 … they were the norm … with a good number of cars breaking the magic 50 miles per gallon mark.

The Japanese automakers lead the way, with the Isuzu I-Mark, Toyota Starlet, and Honda Civic all hitting the magic 50 MPG mark.

Mopar had more than its fair share of fuel-thrifty 50+ MPG vehicles in the 1982 model year, in stark contrast to today’s lineup. Dodge’s 1982 Omni and 024 got the groceries with a thimble full of gas, as did their 1982 Plymouth Horizon and TC3/Turismo stablemates.

While many of the General Motors economy cars built in this time period were truly forgettable, there was no end to the selection, with a host of GM vehicles beating 40 MPG highway, not just from Chevrolet, but from Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, and yes … even Cadillac.

The Cadillac Cimmeron is perhaps the most unlikely of the GM offerings … who could possibly recall that there was a Caddy that pulled down 40 MPG on the highway?

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