Part 5 Includes: Mazda, Subaru, Kia, and Hyundai
This post is the fifth and final in my series highlighting the best cars that get over 30 miles per gallon (combined city and highway). If you missed them, click here for Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3 // Part 4
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; Part 2 covered Chevy, Dodge, GMC, and Buick; Part 3 covered Honda and Nissan; Part 4 covered Ford and VW; this post will conclude continue the discussion.
Let me preface any discussion of Mazda's lineup by saying that I love Mazda vehicles. My mom bought a Mazda 6 a couple of years ago and it is one of the best cars I have ever driven, and that list includes a Mustang 5.0. The Mazda 3 is Mazda's small sedan, competitive with the Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Chevy Cruze, Honda Civic, etc. Unlike the aforementioned models, it is available in a hatchback model, making it the only full-sized (or at least small-sedan sized and not compact or sub-compact sized) that we have looked at for.
MSRP: $17,845 (sedan) // $19,095 (hatchback)
MPG: 28 city / 37 highway --> 32 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 38,786 units
The Mazda 3 is truly a phenomenal car. I am personally beyond impressed by the 2016/17 body style's clean lines, polished edges, and stunning headlight design. Moreover, Mazda models, in general, have so many thoughtful features, such as a plastic saucer built directly into the dashboard for mounting GPS or phone stands -- so that you can stick an adhesive to the plastic saucer without damaging your dashboard by sticking an adhesive mount somewhere else.
I love the Mazda 6. Plain and simple. It is unquestionably my favorite car under $30,000. Having driven my mom's fairly consistently for the last 2 years, I can personally attest to the fact that the 6 is fast, comfortable, and great for both short drives and long trips (my family and I have driven ours from Florida to Toronto, Canada, and from Florida to Nashville, TN, and both were extremely enjoyable drives). In terms of dealership culture, our Mazda purchasing experience was wonderful, and I couldn't be happier with our family's car.
MPG: 26 city / 35 highway --> 30 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 38,786 units
On to more objective facts about the 6, even the base model comes with full rims and not hub caps. Additionally, it comes with a 184hp, 4cyl engine and can be upgraded to a sports model with a v6. As a mid-size sedan, the Mazda 6 is probably the least appreciated sedan in America, partially becuase Mazda used to be owned by Ford and the transition of ownership left Mazda with the question of where to put their spare cash -- advertising or research and development. Mazda chose development, and spent everything they had on building an amazing engine and a beautiful car.
Subaru's are renowned for their incredible build quality and safe, all-terrain-ready AWD models. Yes, all Subaru models are equipped with all-wheel drive. This makes for a more stable ride and acceleration experience, as well as a safer ride while driving up inclines and cruising in bad weather such as intense rain or snow. All that to say, if you live in Florida, you probably won't reap the benefits of AWD... if you live in Ithaca, NY, on the other hand, you are going to want a vehicle with AWD. The Impreza is a small sedan.
MPG: 28 city / 37 highway --> 32.3 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 75,830 units
Aside from Subaru's build quality and AWD feature, many people complain in general about Subaru models that the company prioritizes safety and drive technology over aesthetic beauty. I agree with this -- the new Impreza body style looks like the Honda Civic of 2008. That being said, I would rather the manufacturer of my automobile focus more on safety and reliability than appearance.
The Rio is Kia's subcompact sedan. Kia is known for their unparalleled 10 year / 100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty.
MPG: 27 city / 36 highway --> 31 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 25,991 units
The Rio has a fuel tank capacity of 11.6 gallons. The Rio, though a subcompact car, is larger than the Chevy Spark. It is also a sedan and not a hatchback, unlike the Chevy Spark and Ford Fiesta. My recommendation would be test drive and determine if you prefer the subcompact concept in a hatchback or sedan style and go from there -- if you enjoy the subcompact experience at all.
The Kia Forte is a small sedan (think Mazda 3, Corolla, Civic, Cruze, etc) offered at a lower-than-average price for its class. Kia's are known for their best in class warranties and affordable prices. I cannot personally attest to the drive or build quality of Kia's models as I have never driven one, however, people that own them seem happy from what I have seen.
MPG: 29 city / 38 highway --> 33 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 87,621 units
The best recommendation I can give if you are considering buying a Kia is test-drive one. They truly aren't known as a company for their reliability, safety, or anything really. However, though they lack the reputation of some of the other manufacturers we have discussed, you might be extremely happy with one.
The Kia Optima is a mid-size sedan (compare to Mazda 6, Toyota Camry, Accord, Malibu, etc) with incredible fuel economy -- nearly 40 highway mpg. Of all the Kia models, I have heard the most positive reviews of the Optima. My cousin drives one and finds it a sporty (enough) and reliable car for the right price. If memory serves, I actually road in it at some point last summer and it was a decent ride.
MPG: 28 city / 39 highway --> 33 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 99,301 units
There is also a hybrid Optima model, similar to
The Accent is Hyundai's subcompact car. In case you haven't noticed the pattern here, many manufacturers are entering the subcompact/compact car market. Unlike Kia and Nissan's subcompacts, the Accent is a hatchback, like the Fiesta and the Spark. Hyundai is also known for its great warranty, 5 years or 60,000 miles. Moreover, Hyundai is another one of those companies that is coming up in the world in terms of sales volume, quality, and technology. Given the opportunity, I think that Hyundai models will be serious contenders with Toyotas and Hondas.
MPG: 29 city / 38 highway --> 33 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 68,698 units
I will say, however, that the Accent is a really, really small car. Yet, its 137hp engine makes it quicker than the Spark, so this may sway you in the Hyundai's direction if this is important to you.
As you can see by the sales numbers, the Elantra is one of the best-selling cars in America. It is a small sedan known for its affordable price. Though I have never driven one, a good friend bought one a couple of months ago and she is extremely happy with it. She feels it is a comfortable drive, but most of all she is still happy with the deal she got -- a statement you rarely hear from someone walking out of a Toyota dealership.
MPG: 32 city / 40 highway --> 35.9 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 172,967 units
Also, I am very pleased with Hyundai's body styling. I think the curves on the side doors are very tasteful and that the newer models stand out when you seem them on the road.
The Sonata is Hyundai's mid-size sedan, competitive with the Camry, Accord, Malibu, Mazda 6, etc. The Sonata is essentially a larger Elantra. However, as is typical with mid-size sedans, even the base model comes with a few nicer features than the Elantra. Also, the Sonata features the beautiful exterior Hyundai has become known for in recent years.
MPG: 28 city / 36 highway --> 31.9 combined MPG
2016 YTD US Sales: 170,251 units
The Sonata is also available in a hybrid model.
Patrizio Murdocca is Chief Web Architect at Drover Rideshare, a student at Vanderbilt University, and President of Interfaced Ministries.