In Part 2: Chevy, Dodge, GMC, and Buick
This post is the second in my series highlighting the best cars that get over 30 miles per gallon (combined city and highway). If you missed the first, check it out here.
To summarize the purpose of this blog series, Drover has a vested interest in sustainable technology and doing our part to protect the environment. The Paris Agreement, signed into force on November 4, 2016, calls for a worldwide decrease in fossil fuel dependency and emissions of greenhouse gasses that harm our atmosphere and contribute to global climate change. Cars are a major source of greenhouse gasses. Several models and manufacturers have developed fully electric, zero emission technology. However, the range to price ratio on these models is not great -- pure electric models with high range (like the Tesla Models) are prohibitively expensive for most people, while cheaper models have frustratingly short ranges.
Until pure electric technology improves, we can look to traditional cars with internal combustion engines with high fuel efficiency/economy as a temporary solution or at least movement in the right direction. This series features some of the most popular and affordable of these such cars. Part 1 covered Toyota's 30mpg+ models; this post will continue this discussion. Note that I will not be covering luxury models -- if models from BMW, Lexus, etc are in your price range, you should seriously consider purchasing a fully electric vehicle or at least a plug-in hybrid (yes, there will be a blog series on these models soon too :)...).
Chevrolet (Division of the General Motors Company)
The Chevy Spark is one of the least expensive, most compact cars available on the market. Factoring in inevitable taxes and dealership fees, you could probably walk off the lot with a brand new Spark for under $16,000 -- a feat nearly impossible for a brand new car in today's market.
MPG: 31 city / 41 highway --> 35.5 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 29,747 units
With modest sales figures, the Spark definitely serves a niche market -- those looking for a car that is cheap to start with and then also gets great gas mileage, keeping fuel costs low. The Spark gas tank only holds 9 gallons, so you will only be paying about $18-$22 each time you are at the pump... That would be a welcomed improvement from my sister and I's 2008 Corolla which is about $28/tank, or my mom's 2013 Mazda 6 which is about $40/tank. Unfortunately, however, the Spark only has 96hp, which would not suit my driving style :(
The Chevy Sonic is basically the Chevy Spark's slightly bigger sister, like the twin born 3 minutes earlier, or your older brother who thinks he lifts but isn't that big, or the difference between a Tall Starbucks Coffee and a Tall Starbucks Coffee plus the leftover bit they give you in a second cup because you are a regular.
MPG: 28 city / 38 highway --> 32.12 combined MPG
2016 YTD Sales: 45,798 units
The Sonic is a great alternative to the Spark for those put off by the later's incredibly compact size. Though the Sonic is still a compact car, it is noticeably more spacious. The Sonic engine is also considerably more powerful at 138hp. For such a small car, that is a decent amount of power. Also, the Sonic is available as both a sedan and a hatchback. As a sedan, its size is comparable to the Toyota Yaris.
The Chevy Cruze is the first Chevy model we have talked about so far that is 'fun' to drive in a technical sense... Though I have never personally test driven the Spark or the Sonic, I feel like they would just feel go-kart-ish to many drivers. I assume this thought explains their relatively low sales. The Cruze, on the other hand, is a wonderful, fun, peppy small sedan, comparable in size to the Toyota Corolla and the Nissan Versa.
MPG: 30 city / 40 highway --> 35.5 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 155,138 units
The Chevy Cruze delivers 153hp while still retaining a small form factor -- delivering an objectively enjoyable power-to-size experience. Also, given the larger consumer demand for the Cruze models, they have a greater range of luxury features that can be added in upgraded trims than the Spark and Sonic. You can even customize the Cruze to have Wi-Fi onboard! (Which, in general, FYI is one of Chevy's pet features for most of their models). If your price range can accommodate the Cruze, this is probably your best option between the Spark/Sonic and Cruze models.
To be honest, I was surprised to find through my research that the Malibu gets 30 combined miles per gallon... The Malibu is a mid-sized sedan, comparable to the Nissan Altima and the Toyota Camry. However, the non-hybrid Camry didn't make the cut. The sheer number of Chevy models of various shapes and sizes that make it into the 30+ MPG club demonstrates the manufacturer's dedication to reducing harmful emissions through increased efficiency.
MPG: 27 city / 36 highway --> 31.5 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 186,540 units
The Chevy Malibu is a beautiful car. As seen in the picture, its graceful curves, muscular front end, and gorgeous side panel styling truly set it apart from its class. With the Chevy Malibu, you don't have to make the space sacrifice of the previous three models covered. Moreover, this model sports a 178-250hp engine. This is the car you can comfortably take a family trip in and get some thrill when the traffic light turns green.
Chevy SUVs and Trucks
Chevy does a great job of catering to multiple markets and consumer profiles. They produce both some of the smallest cars one can own (eg the Spark) and also some of the largest cars one can own (eg the Chevy Suburban, like the biggest car ever). They produce both the top selling plug-in hybrid (the Volt) and some of the least fuel efficient, gas-guzzling trucks (the 2500 Silverado). Unfortunately, Chevy hasn't yet combined the efficient profile of their sedan engines with their priorities for truck and SUV design, as none of Chevy's trucks or SUVs get a combined 30mpg. With that said, a couple break 30mpg highway mileage:
[SUV] Chevy Trax: 25 city & 33 highway // [SUV] Chevy Equinox: 21 city & 31 highway // [Truck] Chevy Colorado: 22 city & 31 highway
Dodge is known (or at least tries to be known) for delivering a fast, sporty engine alongside comfortable but not luxurious features. Dodge's value added to the industry is undeniably speed and performance. The Dart is Dodge's only 'normal' consumer sedan. I'd argue that the Charger and the Challenger aren't really competing for Camry and Cruze customers. The Dart is a small sedan known for its affordable price and reliable-ish manufacturing.
MPG: 28 city / 41 highway --> 33.85 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 39,647 units
The Dart is the most sporty sedan I have discussed in this post or in this series so far... It comes engine power of 160-184hp... the same power bestowed upon the mid-sized Mazda 6. In this way, the Dart's engine to size ratio tips the scale to a fast, yet pragmatic car with great gas mileage. It is the perfect car for a young adult looking for an affordable first car with decent acceleration and features.
Dodge Trucks and SUVs
Following in the same vein as Chevy's SUV and Truck model, Dodge's larger vehicles are known for towing capacity, raw power, and performance -- not fuel economy. With that said, they make several models that average nearly 25mpg, which is decent considering their size and engine power.
[SUV] Dodge Journey: 19 city & 25 highway // [VAN] Dodge Grand Caravan: 17 city & 25 highway
Dodge's Truck line is also on its way to greater fuel efficiency. The RAM 1500 (considerably larger than the aforementioned Chevy Colorado... same size as the Chevy Silverado) gets 21 city & 29 highway, combined 24.6 MPG.
GMC & Buick
GMC specializes in SUVs and Trucks. Buick focuses on sedans.
None of Buick's 2016 fleet sedans make it into the 30mpg+ club. I think this is largely due to the companies focus on a generation of drivers who care little for fuel economy.
GMC's truck and SUV situation is the same as Chevy and Buicks -- no models that make it to 30 combined MPG. With that said, models of note are:
[Small Truck] GMC Canyon: 20 city & 27 highway // [SUV] GMC Terrain: 21 city & 31 highway
This concludes Part 2 of this series.
Patrizio Murdocca is Chief Web Architect at Drover Rideshare, a student at Vanderbilt University, and President of Interfaced Ministries.