The fuel economy results of our mileage drive are in, and by now you’ve already read which cars we tested, the mileage they achieved and our impressions of each compact car. It’s using those real-world results that we’ve calculated which of these frugal commuters offers the best fuel economy value, based on each car’s as-tested price compared to the mileage it returned.
The calculation was simple: To pinpoint a value based on fuel economy, we merely divided the MSRP by how many miles per gallon the car returned during our testing. Now, let us mention that you can always get a bare-bones, stripped version of car, improving its fuel economy value, but the following results are a reflection of the specific trim levels we tested, which mostly included niceties that made the drive easier.
The Toyota Corolla, at $485 per mpg, sits on top of the value chart, costing the least for the mileage it returned. Despite being the second-most expensive in the lineup, its 36.4 mpg observed fuel economy was good enough to best the less-expensive Pontiac G5 XFE and Ford Focus SES.
For comparison, the 2008 Toyota Prius we tested in a previous mileage challenge scores a $420 per mpg fuel economy value score, as it returned a 55.7 mpg average with a $23,375 as-tested price.
The least-expensive compact in our test was the Pontiac G5 XFE, which came in second in our value calculations at $513 per mpg, but it was also way off its 37 mpg highway estimate, averaging 33.1 mpg. The Ford Focus SES with a manual transmission also had potential to be a value leader with a 35 mpg rating and a low entry-level price, but it sits third because of its lackluster results, averaging 31 mpg.
While the Honda Civic returned decent fuel economy — 34.6 mpg — we tested an expensive leather-equipped EX-L trim level ($20,755) that was hands-down the nicest of the bunch, but it also sent the Honda to the back of the pack with a $623 per mpg score. An EX – the same trim without leather — at $19,205 would bring the per mpg score to $578, still the highest of the group.
2009 Toyota Corolla XLE w/four-speed automatic
- As-tested MSRP: $17,650
- EPA rating: 27/35 mpg city/highway
- Observed fuel economy: 36.4 mpg
- Fuel economy value: $485 per mpg
2009 Pontiac G5 XFE w/five-speed manual
- As-tested MSRP: $16,980
- EPA rating: 25/37 mpg city/highway
- Observed fuel economy: 33.1 mpg
- Fuel economy value: $513 per mpg
2008 Ford Focus SES w/five-speed manual
- As-tested MSRP: $16,925
- EPA rating: 24/35 mpg city/highway
- Observed fuel economy: 31.0 mpg
- Fuel economy value: $546 per mpg
2009 Honda Civic EX-L w/ five-speed auto
- As-tested MSRP: $21,555
- EPA rating: 25/36 mpg city/highway
- Observed fuel economy: 34.6 mpg
- Fuel economy value: $623 per mpg