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Cars That Get 50 Mpg Non Hybrid
Pandemic year or not, gas prices run on supply and demand. Those simple rules have again pushed up prices at the pump, leading many more Americans to once again think about fuel efficiency.
Several unexpected things have driven the price hikes this time, including OPEC drama on the supply side, and a spike in demand due to a rapid recovery from the pandemic in the U.S. and elsewhere. Meanwhile, crude is at its highest price since 2014, creating quite the turnaround from the giveaway pricing just over a year ago.
The higher prices are here to stay for some time. On Tuesday, the AAA announced that it anticipated the pump price will rise another 10 to 20 cents a gallon by the end of the summer. The price of regular gasoline now stands at a national average of $3.12 a gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s about 3 cents more than a week ago and 94.5 cents more than a year ago. In California, where prices often lead the nation, a gallon of gas was at an average of nearly $4.19.
As we underscore often, fully electric cars offer both lower running costs and a green advantage, with lower carbon emissions that get stronger as the grid adds more renewable sources like wind and solar to the mix. But if plugging in isn’t yet a possibility, there are a number of widely available cars that achieve 50 mpg combined or more based on EPA ratings.
Probably the most pleasant surprise here is that they all sell for less than $30,000, well below today’s average new-vehicle price of about $41,000.
We’ve included the current mix of 2021 and 2022 models that you’ll encounter at dealerships, noting what’s different for 2022 if it matters.
Fuel economy and pricing are cited for the highest-mileage model from each lineup, with each model listed only once—although we’ve teased a few plug-in alternatives where relevant. Base prices are listed including mandatory destination fees.
2021 Hyundai Ioniq Blue
EPA city/highway/combined mpg: 58/60/59
Base price: $24,405
The Ioniq beats the Prius at its own game, and from what we’ve seen, Hyundai’s hybrid system will outperform the Prius for highway mileage, and it’s more relaxed on the highway. For those who think they can plug in, the Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid SE starts at $27,705, not counting $4,543 EV tax credit eligibility. It can go 29 miles on a charge and its combined rating is 52 mpg versus 59 mpg for the Ionig Blue. As we’ve found, though, the plug-in returns about the same mileage as the Ioniq hybrid without a charge.
2022 Toyota Prius Eco
EPA city/highway/combined mpg: 58/53/56
Base price: $25,570
The current generation Prius is a little weird-looking, But underneath the skin, Toyota made it a better car all around. It’s sportier than ever, and more efficient than anything else on the market in city driving. You can even get one with all-wheel drive and 50 mpg, or in plug-in Prime guise, with 25 all-electric miles and 54 mpg as a hybrid. The Prius maintains a strong reputation for longevity and reliability, though it’s lost some of its green-car luster as of late.
2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid Blue
EPA city/highway/combined mpg: 53/56/54
Base price: $24,555
The redesigned Elantra looks loud enough to be seen, in this year of social distancing, while Elantra Hybrid versions pack a retuned (think sharper-responding) version of the same hybrid system in the Ioniq. Earlier this year, we easily topped 50 mpg in varied driving in a top-of-the-line Elantra Hybrid Limited.
2022 Honda Insight
EPA city/highway/combined mpg: 55/49/52
Base price: $26,205
Honda’s Insight sedan is based on the Civic, but you might not know it as it’s trimmed in a level of detail more like a base-level model from Honda’s Acura premium brand. The 2022 Insight drops the base LX model and boosts the base price by about $2,000 this year, so it’s no longer quite the steal it was originally but we love its seamless, shiftless hybrid system and how perky it feels in stop-and-go driving.
2022 Toyota Corolla Hybrid
EPA city/highway/combined mpg: 53/52/52
Base price: $24,595
The Toyota Corolla Hybrid packs the same hybrid system as the current Prius, as well as many of the same tech features, into a car that looks simple and elegant. In a recent short drive, we had no problem achieving its 50+ mpg rating, and it lives up to the minimalist, affordable mantra that’s carried the Corolla all along.
2021 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE
EPA city/highway/combined mpg: 51/53/52
Base price: $28,250
Toyota has been refining its hybrid systems for more than 20 years, and the Toyota Camry Hybrid is one of the strongest arguments that Toyota should make all of its internal combustion engine cars hybrids. In a drive last year of the upscale Camry Hybrid XLE, I averaged 50 mpg in total and more than 40 mpg no matter the traffic environment. 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
2022 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Blue
EPA city/highway/combined mpg: 50/54/52
Base price: $28,755
The Sonata Hybrid is one of the highest-mileage gasoline-fueled sedans ever, so it might come as a surprise just how roomy, plush-riding, and feature-packed it is. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited we drove last year—with an mpg-boosting rooftop solar panel—matched its 47-mpg combined rating in varied driving, but we had no problem topping 50 mpg in relaxed highway driving. The Sonata Hybrid’s uses a traditional 6-speed automatic transmission, which helps make it the pick for those with long highway commutes. 2021 Kia Niro
2022 Kia Niro FE
EPA city/highway/combined mpg: 53/48/50
Base price: $25,865
The Niro offers a lot of frugal flexibility for those who live in the city, with decent back-seat space or, if you flip the seat backs forward, enough space for smaller pieces of furniture or very big grocery stock-ups. A plug-in hybrid version is offered in small numbers, too. Kia upgraded the Niro’s interface and added a few more active-safety features for 2020, but a more extensive refresh could be coming in 2022. We should note that the Niro is the only car on this list with a more SUV-like crossover body style, so its real-world highway numbers can suffer, especially at some of the faster Interstate cruising speeds.
Cars That Get 50 Mpg Or Better
Photo Credit: General MotorsBy Charles Krome
Despite advances in technology, cars that get around 50 mpg in any facet of EPA testing are still exceedingly rare. Of course, that’s because many of today’s most efficient vehicles don’t run on “gallons” of anything—they use electricity and alternative fuels like compressed natural gas or hydrogen gas. Thus, Autobytel experts have not considered those vehicles for today’s rankings. Yet there is good news for customers who want to go green with traditional gasoline. (Hybrids do rely on an electrical boost from small battery packs of their own, but those get charged by onboard technologies like regenerative braking, not from outside sources of electricity.) Some of the current petroleum-powered cars not only get near 50 mpg, they actually surpass it.
2017 Toyota Prius Prime
The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is a plug-in hybrid, which means if you charge its 8.8 kWh battery pack from an outlet, you can enjoy up to 22 miles of all-electric, no-gasoline travel. It’s twice the range of the previous Prius plug-in, and the Prius Prime also is 26 percent more efficient than its predecessor in EV mode. None of which qualifies the vehicle as one of our cars that gets around 50 mpg. For that, the Prius Prime complements its EV range with traditional, gasoline-powered hybrid operation, which is still awaiting an official mpg rating. Per Toyota, that drive mode also serves up fuel-efficiency grades “equal or better than the Prius liftback”—a 50 mpg performer in its own right—and a total range of 600 miles.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2016 Toyota Prius
Now, about that 2016 Toyota Prius. The best-selling hybrid in the world is all-new for the 2016 model year, and this time around, the brand has bumped up the car’s fuel economy ratings considerably: The new model features an EPA line of 54 mpg city/50 mpg highway/52 mpg combined, which represents gains of 3 mpg/2 mpg/2 mpg over the 2015 Prius. Credit for some of that goes to the car’s new and more efficient hybrid propulsion system, but its fresh and aerodynamic design helps as well. In fact, by leveraging active grille shutters and other aero enhancements, the Prius has a coefficient of drag of 0.24 that’s among the lowest in the industry.
Photo Credit: Toyota
2016 Toyota Prius Eco
The new-generation 2016 Toyota Prius also ups the ante with a hyper-efficient Eco trim, designed specifically for owners who want the ultimate in unplugged Prius fuel economy. By reducing the weight of the Prius Eco yet a bit more, and fine-tuning its aerodynamics for an even sleeker appearance, Toyota engineers were able to deliver EPA ratings of 58 mpg city/53 mpg highway/56 mpg combined for this entry–for improvements of 7.5 percent/6 percent/7.7 percent versus the standard Prius. At the same time, that lost weight didn’t affect the car’s content much, as the Eco edition still comes standard with premium touches like a rearview camera and an Entune infotainment system.
2016 Toyota Prius c
Because weight has such an impact on fuel economy, it’s mostly small cars that get around 50 mpg, including another one of the Prii: the 2016 Toyota Prius c. The most petite of the Prius models, the c is a mere 157.3 inches long, making it more than 20 inches shorter than the compact Prius liftback. On the other hand, nimble dimensions do help the Prius c achieve EPA fuel-efficiency ratings of 53 mpg city, 46 mpg highway, and 50 mpg combined. Additionally, the car’s smaller footprint, and higher city grades, make it ideal for urban drivers. Also helping in this regard is its interior versatility, highlighted by 17.1 cubic feet of storage even with all seats in use.
Photo Credit: Honda
2017 Honda Accord Hybrid
If you’re looking for family-friendly midsize cars that get around 50 mpg, the 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid will get just about as close as you can, thanks to projected EPA fuel efficiency marks of 49 mpg city, 47 mpg highway, and 48 mpg combined. This will be no stripped-down fuel-sipper, either. All hybrid models will boast the Honda Sensing safety bundle that includes collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and more. Meanwhile, on the infotainment front, the Accord Hybrid will offer the latest smartphone-integration capability with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It’s also worth noting that the car’s smaller, more efficient battery pack enables 13.5 cubic feet of trunk space—more than any other midsize hybrid sedan.
Photo Credit: General Motors
2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid
With a little rounding up, the Bowtie brand also breaks into our Top 10 list of cars that get about 50 mpg—and it’s another midsize sedan, the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid. Unlike Malibu Hybrids from past generations, this next-gen entry gets a full hybrid system, not just a “mild” setup, and the results are impressive. The 2016 version has raised its ratings to 47 mpg city, 46 mpg highway, and 46 mpg combined. That gives the Malibu the highest official EPA grades in the midsize hybrid segment as this story goes to press (the 2017 Accord hasn’t gone on sale yet). Notably, one of the keys to the Malibu’s standard efficiency comes from the 2016 Chevy Volt, which you’ll learn more about soon.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
2016 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
Fun-to-drive cars that get around 50 mpg are particularly rare in today’s automotive marketplace, but that’s what VW delivers with the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. Sure, it does get stellar EPA ratings of 42 mpg city, 48 mpg highway, and 44 mpg combined. Yet enthusiasts also are rewarded, since those numbers are delivered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine and a 1.1 kWh battery pack that work together to kick out 170 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft of torque. For extra athleticism, the Jetta is the first hybrid with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and its slick shifter supplies three driving modes: automatic; manual; and a dedicated “Sport” setting for crisp, confident gear changes during extreme driving maneuvers.
2015 Honda Civic Hybrid
The Honda Civic launched a brand-new general for the 2016 model year, and though the company didn’t renew the hybrid version, a limited and shrinking inventory does remain at some Honda dealerships. Moreover, who says you need to limit yourself to new vehicles when shopping for cars that get approximately 50 mpg? The 2015 Honda Civic Hybrid, for one, is rated at 44 mpg city, 47 mpg highway, and 45 mpg combined regardless of whether it’s bought new or used. And even if it’s not quite as technologically advanced as the 2016 Civics, the 2015 Hybrid does have standard features such as a 7-inch display audio system and rearview camera, along with available upgrades like satellite-linked navigation and Honda’s LaneWatch blind-spot system.
Photo Credit: Ford
2016 Chevrolet Volt
The 2016 Chevrolet Volt—which shares the same basic two-motor drive unit as the new Malibu Hybrid—is here primarily because so few new cars get around 50 mpg. Like the Prius Prime, the next-gen Volt can be plugged into the wall for a significant all-electric travel range, although the Chevy product can more than double the Toyota’s EV driving range, with 53 miles. But there’s an additional similarity, too: Both serve up hundreds more miles of gas-powered driving range, with hybrid levels of fuel economy. In the case of the Volt, that’s 42 mpg in combined driving; at this stage, neither Chevy nor the EPA has released city/highway ratings for the car.
Photo Credit: Hyundai
2017 Hyundai Ioniq
Toyota may dominate among the cars that get around 50 mpg right now, but that could be about to change with the debut of the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq. Coming to the United States starting late this year, with hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric powertrains, the Ioniq is a major step forward for Hyundai’s green efforts. It’s also expected to deliver superior levels of efficiency with all of those setups. Perhaps most relevant here: Even though the sleek and stylish compact sedan has yet to be test by the EPA, the fuel-economy ratings for standard Ioniq hybrid reach the equivalent of nearly 53 mpg in its home market of South Korea, where it’s already on sale