Horsepower versus MPG: Motor Trend Lists Least Powerful U.S. Vehicles

By Joel Arellano | August 07, 2012
There's an age-old argument among car enthusiasts that you have to sacrifice horsepower to get higher miles-per-gallon and vice versa. While this may be true with powerful V-6 and V-8 engines, the equation blurs when you look into turbocharged four-cylinder engines, hybrid powertrains, electric motors, and "range extenders". To find out if there was any truth to the above adage, we looked at the fuel economy figures of the ten least powerful vehicles currently available in the U.S. courtesy of our associates over at Motor Trend. That's right: least powerful, as in horsepower, the lower the better. We figured if power was inverse to fuel economy, it would be found with these slow chariots. The results were interesting. The Nissan Leaf, which placed ten on the list as the most powerful car, had the second best fuel economy at 106 mpge city, 92 mpge highway, and 99 mpge combined. Mpge is "miles-per-gallon equivalent" or what the mileage would be if the vehicle ran using a pure gas engine. The winner is another pure electric car, the Mitsubishi i. Its tiny electric motor delivering a paltry 66 horsepower, the i keeps going and going with EPA-estimated figures of 126 mpg city, 99 mpge highway, and 112 mpge combined. Unfortunately, both vehicles were the most expensive on the list, priced nearly double that of models like the Toyota Yaris (starting price $14,115) and Mazda2 (starting price $14,530). All prices do not include destination and handling fee. The Yaris, which placed number nine, comes equipped with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder and gets 30 mpg city and 35-38 mpg highway. The Mazda2 placed seventh, and it gets 28-29 mpg city and 30-32 mpg highway from its 1.5-liter four banger. The other gasoline models -- Fiat 500 (#8), Scion (#4), Chevrolet Spark (#3), and the Smart fortwo (#2) -- had roughly equivalent fuel figures.
The standouts, not surprisingly, are the Toyota Prius c, which is new this year, and the Honda Insight. Both are hybrids. The Prius c, which starts at $19,900, gets 99 hp from its hybrid powertrain and fuel figures of 53 mpg city, 46 mpg highway, and 50 mpg combined. That's virtually identical as its bigger and more expensive Toyota Prius sibling. The Honda Insight's pricing starts at $18,500, and the hybrid gets 41 mpg city, 44 mpg highway and 42 mpg combined. Its four-banger generates 98 hp, a tad less than its Prius c rival. Conclusion? Americans want cars that are both powerful and fuel efficient. EVs and hybrids like the Toyota Prius c and the Honda Insight illustrated that yes: it is possible to have your cake and eat it, too. Source: Motor Trend