NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- The Environmental Protection Agency can estimate your car's mileage, but only you know how often you have to fill the tank.
When it comes time for "efficient" cars to prove themselves on U.S. roads, let's just say some are doing better than others. The revived Mitsubishi (MMTOF) Mirage and its 44 miles per gallon on the highway and combined 40.5 miles per gallon are a throwback to the fuel-sipping Geo Metro, the Hyundai (HYMLF) Excel, the Ford (F) Fiesta and the oldest incarnations of the Honda (HMC) Civic we once knew as “econoboxes.” Unfortunately for automakers, many of those econoboxes are still putting up better numbers than their modern counterparts.
When gas prices spiked beyond $4 a gallon in 2008, suddenly the Geo Metro and its ilk were in high demand despite their dearth of amenities. Find even a 26-year-old model from 1989 and you'd still have one of the most fuel-efficient gas-powered vehicles on the road at a combined 47 miles per gallon. It's a big reason some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the road that aren't all-electric are coming off of used car lots.
That's kind of unfortunate for buyers. Manheim Consulting's Used Vehicle Index finds that prices are up more than 2% from a year ago. In January, that index finished the year at its highest rate since 2012, when a combination of recession-driven cuts in rental fleet purchases and post-bankruptcy lease abandonment by General Motors (GM) and Chrysler dried up used car inventory and set prices soaring.
With help from the EPA's FuelEconomy.gov site and drivers surveyed by the EPA, we compiled a list of the most fuel-efficient gas-powered vehicles ever driven here. We consulted with Kelley Blue Book and AskPatty analysts and found that the idea of fuel efficiency is far older than automakers would lead you to believe: