According to the Environmental Protection Agency, at least half of the ten most efficient cars built since 1984 are small cars built before 2000. Better yet, they had manual transmissions! Progress? Ha! Take that hybrid beige-lovers!

The EPA released their list of the ten most fuel efficient cars built since 1984 yesterday and, while the new Toyota Prius is near the top of the list, there are just as many non-hybrids as hybrids and more cars with manual transmissions than those without. The numbers are based on the revised 2008 standards and show just three new cars (Prius, Insight Hybrid, Civic Hybrid) make the list. Better yet, in the case of the Honda Civic and Insight, older versions of the same cars got better fuel economy than newer ones.

EPA Ten Most Efficient Vehicles Since 1984 (City/Hwy/Cmb)

  • 2000 Honda Insight 5MT CVT (49/61/53)
  • 2010 Toyota Prius (51/48/50)
  • 1986 Chevrolet Sprint ER 5MT (44/53/48)
  • 1990-1994 Geo Metro XFI 5MT (43/52/47)
  • 1986-87 Honda Civic Coupe HF 5MT (42/51/46)
  • 1994-95 Honda Civic Hatchback VX 5MT (39/50/43)
  • 2006-2010 Honda Civic Hybrid CVT (40/45/42)
  • 2010 Honda Insight CVT (40/43/41)
  • 2001-2003 Toyota Prius CVT (42/41/40)
  • 1989 Chevrolet Sprint/Suzuki Swift 5MT (38/45/41)

Cars like the Geo Metro XFI and older Civic HF coupes managed great mileage through a combination of low weight, small efficient engines, and manual transmissions. They were also among the cheapest cars in the market. Automakers moved away from these types of vehicles in the mid-90s when gas was cheap and opted instead for larger, more expensive, heavier vehicles laden with safety equipment and electronics.


As the list shows, it's taken them a while to counteract the weight of these features with heavy batteries and electric motors, often with the side-effect of vehicles less enjoyable to drive than their smaller counterparts. And even then, the new Honda CR-Z gets 33 MPG combined compared to 46 MPG combined for the 1986 Civic CRX HF it's supposed to be improving upon.

So much for progress...

[Autosavant via TTAC]