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15 Most Efficient Hybrids and Diesels You Can Buy Today

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 10/14/2014 Kelly Pleskot

For many drivers, fuel economy is the most important factor when purchasing a new vehicle. But electric vehicles can't travel far on a single charge, and traditional combustion vehicles, while cheaper, simply can't compete in terms of fuel economy. Many buyers will find a great compromise in diesels and hybrids, which offer up to 50 mpg yet retain the convenience drivers expect.

We've split up our list to include the top five most efficient cars in three categories: plug-in hybrids, traditional hybrids, and diesels. While plug-ins will are rated by far the most efficient, our list is intended to give buyers a feel for a wide range of fuel-efficient options. Check out which models made our top Top 15 on the following pages.

Plug-In Hybrids

1) BMW i3 w/ Range Extender – 117 MPGe

2014 BMW i3 eDrive© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 BMW i3 eDrive This all-new model might look like something from the distant future, but its savings at the gas pump are tangible today. Yes, the BMW i3 city car is an all-electric vehicle, but buyers can opt for a range extender that doubles the miles they can travel. In these models, a tiny 0.6-liter, two-cylinder gas engine generates electricity for the lithium-ion battery, allowing for a total range of 150 miles. This little plug-in might not be for everyone, but buyers can save up to $7,750 in fuel costs over five years compared to the average new car, according to the EPA.

2) Honda Accord Plug-In – 115 MPGe

2014 honda accord plug in© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 honda accord plug in Among mainstream plug-in hybrids, the Honda Accord achieves the highest fuel economy. Thanks to a 2.0-liter I-4 that complements an electric motor, drivers are able to travel a total of 570 miles before filling or charging up. The Accord Hybrid features upscale standard features such as navigation, LED headlamps, 8-inch touchscreen, and heated seats. Unfortunately, it is currently only available in California and New York, and the price tag approaches $40,000.

3) Chevrolet Volt – 98 MPGe

2015 Chevrolet Volt© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Chevrolet Volt While it doesn't achieve the highest overall fuel economy in its class, a Chevy Volt offers distinct advantages. The Volt allows drivers to travel on pure electricity for 38 miles, more than any other plug-in hybrid on the market. And for those rare times drivers have to fill up with gas, the average cost of a tank is only $35, according to the EPA. Fuel economy when running on gas alone is 37 mpg combined city and highway driving.

4) Toyota Prius Plug-In – 95 MPGe

2013 Toyota Prius Plug in© Provided by MotorTrend 2013 Toyota Prius Plug in The Prius lineup is a no-brainer pick among those looking for a fuel-efficient vehicle, but what advantages does the plug-in version offer? The Plug-in Hybrid can travel 11 miles on electricity alone and 540 miles when the gas engine kicks in. When drivers don't have the time to plug-in at all, the car still achieves the same 50 mpg combined rating as the traditional Prius. Buyers can now get their hands on a Prius Plug-In for a little more than $30,000 when factoring in destination fees.

5) Ford Fusion Energi/C-Max Energi – 88 MPGe

2014 ford fusion energi© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 ford fusion energi Ford has made two very different cars out of one idea. The Fusion Energi midsize sedan not only comes in at an efficient 88 mpg, but it also delivers quick acceleration in its class. The C-Max city hatchback matches the Fusion Energi's ratings and achieves the same 550-mile range as its stylish sedan counterpart.

Hybrids

6) Toyota Prius C – 50 mpg

2013 Toyota Prius C© Provided by MotorTrend 2013 Toyota Prius C Toyota's baby hybrid is not only smaller and less expensive than the traditional Prius, but it also achieves better city fuel economy of 53 mpg. This bargain model might be a bit on the slow side in terms of acceleration, but young buyers will enjoy the car's high-tech interior. While base models feature only the essentials, other models bring features such a color information display, keyless entry, Entune infotainment, and available SofTex seats that make this car a great value for around $20,000.

7) Toyota Prius – 50 mpg

2014 Toyota Prius© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Toyota Prius The Prius has come a long way since its U.S. introduction in 2000. It led the way in fuel economy with a combined 41 mpg when it first arrived, but today the Prius achieves 9 mpg above this number. And the Prius' future only looks brighter. A next-gen model is expected to debut late next year with 10 percent better fuel economy than the current model.

8) Honda Accord Hybrid – 47 mpg

2015 Honda Accord Hybrid© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid If you're not into the geek-chic styling of the Prius, the Honda Accord Hybrid is your next best bet when it comes to fuel economy. In EPA tests, the Accord Hybrid achieves 50/45 mpg city/highway, and annual fuel costs are estimated at $1,100. It also offers a different experience than its sibling. Compared to the Accord plug-in, the Hybrid weighs in 200 pounds lighter and offers more trunk space thanks to a lighter battery. Accord Hybrid buyers will enjoy a seamless driving experience, comfortable seats, and an easy-to-use infotainment system.

9) Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid – 45 mpg

2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid Those who opt for the Jetta Hybrid will enjoy peppy acceleration, a large back seat, and a healthy 42/48 mpg fuel economy rating. Touchy brakes might limit its appeal for many, but its engaging drive and nimble feel on the road will win over many skeptics. VW's small hybrid features a simple cabin design, but midlevel models come with extras such as LED taillights, keyless entry, reclining front seats, Car-Net telematics, a touchscreen, and satellite radio.

10) Honda Civic Hybrid – 45 mpg

2014 Honda Civic Hybrid© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Honda Civic Hybrid The Honda Civic Hybrid has come under fire for real-world fuel economy numbers in the past. But the Civic Hybrid still remains one of the more efficient hybrids on the market, besting the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid, and even the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. While not as fun to drive on the road as competitors such as the Fusion Hybrid, the Civic Hybrid features a comfortable ride and a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and electric motor good for 110 hp.

Diesels

11) BMW 328d – 37 mpg

2014 BMW 328d Sedan© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 BMW 328d Sedan Yes, it may be a European diesel wagon, but this isn't your mom's 1980s Volvo. Though not quite as efficient as a hybrid, the 328d impresses with high fuel economy and sprightly performance. The 328d is equipped with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder diesel engine with 180 horsepower and lots of low-end torque for quick starts at lights. It can hit 60 mph from a standstill in about 7 seconds, and the car loves corners and curves.

12) Volkswagen Jetta – 36 mpg

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI The Jetta Diesel has made significant fuel economy improvements for the 2015 model year. Buyers can now expect 31/45 mpg city/highway from models with automatic transmissions, thanks in part to aerodynamic updates under the car. Also responsible is a new 150-hp, 2.0-liter I-4 diesel engine that has been retuned for improved throttle response and lower emissions. Subtle visual changes mark another change for the 2015 model year car.

13) Audi A3 – 36 mpg

2015 Audi A3© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Audi A3 Audi went whole hog while rolling out its new entry-level luxury sedan to the U.S. this year, promising a slew of engines and body styles. One of the most significant models is the diesel version, which achieves significantly better fuel economy than the gas models in the lineup. At 31/43 mpg city/highway, the A3 certainly does well on its first try. Expect top-notch technology options, including an infotainment screen that pops up and retracts from the dashboard, Wi-Fi hotspot, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system.

14) Volkswagen Golf – 36 mpg

2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI Completely redesigned for 2015, the Golf features a more refined drive, a more spacious interior, and improved fuel economy. Opting for the diesel brings fuel economy to 30/45 mpg city/highway, up from 25/37 mpg in the regular version. Drivers will enjoy the car's firm yet livable suspension as well as its excellent handling around twisty roads. We think this is one of the models that will restart the hatchback craze here in the States.

15) Volkswagen Passat – 35 mpg

2015 Volkswagen Passat© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Volkswagen Passat While the Passat might not be one of the most fuel-efficient cars in the midsize sedan segment, opting for the diesel version brings up its numbers considerably. The base Passat with an automatic transmission usually yields 24/36 mpg city/highway, but the comparable diesel ups these numbers to 30/42 mpg. A high-quality interior, a spacious trunk, and plenty of space throughout the cabin add to the Passat's appeal.

2014 BMW i3 eDrive© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 BMW i3 eDrive
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