For a long time, I was not a fan of almost all the fuel-efficient cars on the market. Sure, the Prius did great on gas, but from my point of view that was overshadowed by a sticker price that made you pay for it and looks that could kill — in a bad way. Other than the Honda Civic and a used Geo Metro, I felt like the idea of buying one car over another for fuel efficiency was a waste of money, especially when compared to the overall cost of ownership of a vehicle.
The Real Cost of Gas:
My reasoning for not liking many cars which pride themselves on fuel efficiency is they lack many other traits, and I simply don’t find it worth the savings. My reasoning is this: According to the EPA, the average American drives 12,000 miles annually. However, this number is slightly inflated and most people will see that they drive a good amount less, but for the sake of this example, we’ll use it.
At that rate, fuel costs at $4/gallon are $3,200 if you get 15 MPG. If you were to buy a fuel-efficient car, like, say, the Toyota Prius, and got the claimed 49 MPG, you would only save around $2,200 a year, or $183 a month. While this may sound good, the number really is nothing compared to the full cost of owning a car. Also remember this is assuming you are getting a dreadful 15 MPG (something the car’s sticker price may reflect). If you average 30 MPG, like most cars do in the Prius’ class, the savings goes down to a measly $50/month. Foregoing a simple dealer-added option is enough to compensate for this in another car.
The Best Fuel Efficient Car:
Now that I’ve established my personal opinion on fuel-efficiency, you’re probably thinking I would see it only as a mild point of consideration when buying a car. However, with the release of the Audi A3, that all changed.
According to Audi, the A3 gets an estimated 30/42 MPG from its turbocharged diesel. Taking current gas prices into account from GasBuddy, this means it only costs $30/month more at the pump than the super-efficient Prius. Environmentalists will applaud as well, since the diesel engine is far cleaner than its gasoline counterpart.
The reason the A3 is the best of all fuel-efficient cars, however, is due to almost everything but its mileage. The inside is very Audi, which is a compliment. Soft leather and great ergonomics make the cabin a wonderful and quiet place to spend your time. Red-lit gauges and a lighting-quick dual-clutch transmission convey that the driver is behind a serious machine, not some tinny, wedge-shaped budget sedan. The car feels as though you paid for luxury, not mileage — something the Toyota and Honda hybrids have trouble doing.
The Audi’s performance trumps other fuel-efficient cars, as stated by CarAndDriver. Handling is in a class of its own, on par with cars people would buy for fun alone, such as the Golf TDI. Braking and acceleration are slightly shorter and over a second faster, respectively, and the A3 feels far better doing it too. The great pedal-feel in the A3 is something you still won’t find in a hybrid, since they all use regenerative braking.
Also, the low-revving diesel along with the twin-clutch transmission give you great low-rpm power, something other fuel-efficient cars seem to lack. The transmission in the A3 screams fun and sportiness, the opposite of the boring (and technically unshift-able) CVT in most-all fuel-efficient rides.
Overall, the A3 is my pick for the best fuel-efficient vehicle because it gets great gas mileage and shines where the competition fails: everything else. Its luxurious cabin is unmatched compared to any car marketed for its gas mileage. A fun to drive car, the A3 is also far more entertaining than most cars on the road, period, especially those getting over 30 MPG. The A3 TDI is really the first car which allows people to be green and efficient without changing their buying habits or driving something that screams “I’m Green!” like the Toyota Prius or Ford Fiesta. For these very important reasons, I believe the A3 is the best fuel-efficient car on the market.
“2010 Audi A3 TDI-Short Take Road Test” Car And Driver
“2010 Toyota Prius- Second Drive” Car And Driver
“a3” Audi of America
“Gas Prices” GasBuddy
“Emission Facts” EPA