With the auto industry currently seeing high fuel costs and transaction prices alike, now’s a good time to showcase some of our favorite cheap fuel-efficient cars for 2013. They answer the call with prices at least 50 percent lower than today’s roughly $30,000 new-vehicle average, as well as top-notch EPA ratings and just enough content to be perfectly suitable for daily driving. Thus, all of our cheap fuel-efficient cars of 2013 feature MSRPs of under $15,000, combined EPA fuel ratings of over 30 mpg, and standard air conditioning.
The 2013 Toyota Yaris is the most expensive of Autobytel’s cheapest fuel-efficient cars of the year, but it still opens at just $14,370. As for the fuel-economy side of the equation, the EPA rates the Yaris as capable of 30 mpg city/37 mpg highway/33 mpg combined with its standard powertrain, which includes a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine—producing 106 hp and 103 lb.-ft. of torque—mated to a five-speed manual transmission.
Still, since Toyota is attempting to make up some ground against the competition in the subcompact segment, the company provides a relatively high level of standard features in the Yaris even though it is one of the cheapest fuel-efficient cars in the country. In fact, the 2013 Toyota Yaris includes Bluetooth technology for hands-free calling and audio streaming, a six-speaker sound system with USB port, nine airbags, halogen headlamps, and a number of particularly distinctive advantages:
Introducing a new face for the 2014 model year, the Ford Fiesta sedan joins the roster of cheap fuel-efficient cars with an MSRP of $14,000 and EPA ratings of 27 mpg city/38 mpg highway/31 mpg combined. At the same time, the Fiesta’s powertrain, pairing a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine and five-speed DIY transmission, also benefits from a relatively peppy 120 hp and 112 lb.-ft. of torque. There are plenty of benefits for drivers, too, with a cabin that features metallic trim, a front-center floor console, rear-seat heat ducts, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system and Ford’s SYNC with AppLink technology.
Yep, despite qualifying as one of our cheap fuel-efficient cars for 2013, the Ford Fiesta comes with a system that allows voice control of popular mobile apps and access to content from Pandora, iHeartRadio, Slacker, Stitcher Smart Radio and NPR.
The exterior of the Ford Fiesta sedan, along with boasting a refreshed design, also serves up advantages like the company’s Easy Fuel capless fuel-filler system and power-adjustable outside mirrors with integrated blind-spot mirrors.
The cheapest Nissan Versa didn’t make Autobytel’s list of cheapest fuel-efficient cars in America, but the model that did won’t put much of an extra burden on your wallet. Adding a continuously variable transmission to the Versa sedan does add $1,800 to the bottom line, but the net result is still an affordable $13,790, and that’s with a more than 16 percent jump in combined fuel economy. The tale of the tape with the CVT-equipped Nissan Versa sedan: 109 hp, 107 lb.-ft. of torque and EPA grades of 31 mpg city/40 mpg highway/35 mpg combined. (FYI: The manually transmissioned entry-level Nissan Versa Sedan is rated at 27/36/30.
And improved fuel economy isn’t all you get with that up-rated transmission. The cheap fuel-efficient car from Nissan also welcomes cruise control, silver steering-wheel accents, a four-speaker sound system, and numerous aerodynamic refinements, including a standard rear spoiler and rear-tire air deflectors.
Opening at $12,490, the Smart Pure Coupe consolidates its place on the cheap fuel-efficient cars team with an EPA line of 34 mpg city/38 mpg highway/36 mpg combined. Of course, the smallest selection here achieves that performance with the smallest powerplant, in this case a 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder unit that serves up 70 hp and 68 lb.-ft. of torque, with that power routed through a smartshift “five-speed automated manual transmission.”
Further helping the Smart car live up to its name is a notable focus on safety, backed by eight airbags, including knee-bolster airbags, as well as the brand's signature “tridion” cell construction.
There are also some surprises in the cabin, where a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob add a premium touch to one of the cheapest fuel-efficient cars in the country, as do the Pure Coupe’s standard audio system with built-in USB interface and available “smart drive 2” mobile app for navigation, digital-radio access and more.
There’s just one thing that stops the 2013 Chevy Spark from being the most affordable vehicle on this list of cheap fuel-efficient cars: The 2014 Chevy Spark. Due to reach dealerships in the very near the future, the 2014 model will receive a modest $15 price cut, to $12,170. Unchanged, however, will be the Spark’s fuel-economy ratings, which are expected to remain at 32 mpg city/38 mpg highway/34 mpg combined with its standard powertrain. Speaking of which, that setup includes a 1.2-liter 4-cylinder engine and five-speed DIY transmission, with a system output of 84 hp and 83 lb.-ft. of torque.
Capping off our 2013 honor roll of cheap fuel-efficient cars, the Spark itself is capped off by standard content like 10 airbags, halogen headlamps, a cabin air filter, a six-month trial subscription to GM’s OnStar service, a four-speaker audio system with auxiliary jack, a silver-accented steering wheel and a rear spoiler.