2014 Scion iQ ・ Photo by Benjamin Hunting
It seems these days that the tide is turning against heavier cars. The use of weight-saving materials and high technology are giving us some of the lightest cars in modern history, especially in the entry-level segment. It's not just sports cars and big SUVs employing high strength steel, aluminum, and recycled materials: a number of subcompact and compact hatchbacks and sedans are getting in on the act, too. Lightweight designs guarantee better fuel mileage than their heavier counterparts, and with efficiency such an important factor in the buying decisions of most Americans, this trend shows no signs of reversing.
Let's take a look at the 10 lightest cars for sale in 2015.
The 2015 smart fortwo is quite naturally the vehicle you'd think would lead off a list of the lightest cars available in the United States. This tiny two-seat coupe is a barely-there car intended to satisfy those dealing with ultra-cramped urban driving conditions (it's so small that you can even park it facing traffic from the curb, as it measures under nine feet in length). The Smart Fortwo's 1,808 lbs are motivated by a 71 horsepower, 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine that's matched with a five-speed automated manual gearbox. Fuel mileage for the tiny Smart is listed at 34-mpg city and 38-mpg highway.
Photo by Daimler Media
The 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage is a much larger vehicle compared to the Smart Fortwo, but it keeps weight down by reducing features and equipment to the bare minimum. The Mitsubishi Mirage four-door subcompact sedan is the very definition of basic transportation when found in its entry-level model: power windows and door locks, automatic climate control, 14-inch steel wheels, and a CD player are the only luxuries to be found. A 1.2-liter, three-cylinder engine pushes the Mirage's 1,972 lbs forward, and in its lightest trim it is shifted via a five-speed manual transmission. Fuel efficiency figures for the Mitsubishi top those of the Fortwo, checking in at 34-mpg city and 42-mpg highway.
The 2015 Scion iQ is a quasi-three-passenger hatchback (Toyota calls it '3+1' seating) that is intended, like the Smart, to appeal to city dwellers. Larger inside and out than its German rival, the Scion iQ still only weighs in at a scant 2,127 lbs, and despite its economy car leanings it offers chassis tuning that is surprisingly willing to be tossed around. 94 horsepower roar from the iQ's 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine, and its continuously-variable automatic transmission helps the tiny hatch achieve 36-mpg in stop and go driving and 37-mpg on the highway.
Photo by Benjamin Hunting
The 2015 Toyota Yaris has long served as the Japanese brand's paean to simpler living, whether found in either two or four-door hatchback editions. Refreshed for the current model year, the Toyota Yaris is a little less spartan than it used to be, and somewhat more stylish on the outside. Its 2,295 lbs of curb weight come when the two-door model is ordered with its standard five-speed manual transmission, a gearbox that's yoked to a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that's good for 106 horsepower. You'll see 30-mpg around town and 37-mpg on the highway from the lightest edition of the Yaris.
Photo by Toyota
The 2014 Mazda Mazda2 is a subcompact hatchback in the same vein as the Yaris, but it manages to provide a few thrills along the way to offering efficient daily transportation. Credit goes to the Mazda Mazda2's chassis tuning, which is livelier than one would expect for such a modestly priced automobile. Only 11 lbs heavier than its Toyota rival, and still on sale in 2015 as a 2014 model, the Mazda2 comes bundled with a 100 horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission that allows it to post 20-mpg city and 35-mpg highway.
For a very long time General Motors could not claim a credible subcompact car in its line-up, but that all changed with the introduction of the Chevrolet Spark. At 2,269 lbs the 2015 Chevrolet Spark is the lightest car you can buy from GM, and the four-door hatchback relies on a 1.2-liter, four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission in base form. The Spark's 84 horsepower doesn't make it quick, but it does give it an efficiency edge: you'll be able to squeeze 31-mpg around town and 39-mpg on the highway out of the hatch's miniscule engine.
The 2015 Nissan Versa proves that small on the outside doesn't have to equal tiny on the inside. The Nissan Versa's tall roofline guarantees a roomy feel for passengers riding within the subcompact sedan, and with Bluetooth connectivity, a CD player, and a trip computer offered even with the cheapest model it's also reasonably well-equipped. Like many of the entries on our list of the lightest cars available for 2015, the Versa comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission, and its 109 horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is tasked with transporting 2,354 lbs of curb weight. Fuel mileage figures for the manual Nissan Versa are listed as 27-mpg city and 36-mpg highway.
The 2015 FIAT 500's small footprint doesn't do it many favors when ranking it amongst the 10 lightest cars on the U.S. market, as the subcompact hatchback's 2,363 lbs land it in eighth spot. Still, a little style goes a long way, and the Fiat 500's retro looks have drawn thousands of buyers into showrooms. Also satisfying: the 31-mpg in stop and go driving and 40-mpg on the highway delivered by the 500's 1.4-liter, 101 horsepower four-cylinder engine. It comes with a five-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, along with 15-inch wheels, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, and a CD player.
Photo by FCA Media
The 2015 Hyundai Accent (2,396 lbs) and 2015 Kia Rio (2,410) share an identical platform, and it didn't seem fair to split them up on our lightest cars list. The 14 pound different between the two models can probably be explained away by different standard equipment, because the two sedans are otherwise perfect twins. Each packs a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that delivers 138 horsepower, and a six-speed manual transmission helps both cars achieve 27-mpg in city driving and 38-mpg on the highway. It's really up to your personal style preference when choosing between these two equals.
The 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C is notable for being the only performance car making an appearance on the list of the 10 lightest cars for sale in the United States. A carbon fiber tub certainly helps the Alfa Romeo 4C check in underneath the also-petite Mazda MX-5 Miata (2,455 lbs versus 2,480 lbs), and there's a substantial dose of technology on offer from the coupe, too: a six-speed, dual-clutch automated manual transmission and a mid-mounted, 1.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine are included with the base model. 237 horsepower propels the 4C with respectable authority, and fuel mileage for the sports car is listed at 24-mpg city and 34-mpg highway.
Photo by Megan Green