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.