Economical sports car
Best Fuel Efficient Sports Cars
It used be that the phrase “best fuel-efficient sports cars” was an automotive oxymoron, as a focus on fuel-economy usually ruled out much in the way of traditional road-going performance. But with the current race to meet the next round of EPA requirements already underway, automakers have turned to turbocharging and other powertrain technologies to deliver the best of both worlds. In fact, every high-performance pick selected below blends both true sports-car capabilities and surprisingly impressive EPA grades, with every pick earning at least 30 mpg but one, and that entry enables 29 mpg with a standard 455 hp.
Oh, and for the curious, the production run for the Porsche 918 plug-in hybrid—offering 887 hp and up to 67 MPGe under electric power—has sold out.
Alfa Romeo 4C
Okay, some of the most fuel-efficient sports cars on our list today represent hi-po variants of more mundane forms of transportation, but that’s not so for the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C. Drivers enjoy the real deal with the Alfa dog, from its Italian supercar-type styling to its matching approach to performance. Thanks to light-weight construction and an advanced 1.75-liter four-cylinder turbo, the 4C can fly from 0-60 in the mid 4-second range and reach a top cruising speed of 160 mph. At the same time, with that engine sending 237 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the EPA rates the 4C as capable of 24 mpg city/34 mpg highway/28 mpg combined.
A bit like a Bavarian Miata, the 2015 BMW Z4 is a dedicated roadster of the traditional type, and it also shares another notable characteristic with the all-new Mazda icon: It’s also one of the top fuel-efficient sports cars in the country. What helps the Z4 standout, however, are features like its sculpted sheet metal and stellar fuel-efficiency numbers. Indeed, in its “sDrive28i” configuration, the Z4 relies on a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, TwinPower turbocharged engine for a tale of the tape that includes 240 hp, 260 lb.-ft. of torque, 0-60 acceleration of 5.4 seconds, a 130-mph top speed and fuel-economy marks of 22 mpg city/34 mpg highway/26 mpg combined.
For many drivers looking for the best fuel-efficient sports cars means looking at hot hatches like the 2015 Volkswagen GTI. Building on the same sophisticated next-generation platform that underpins the rest of the award-winning Golf roster, the GTI dials up significantly more power but without sacrificing superior fuel economy. More to the point, the GTI can furnish fuel-efficiency grades of up to 25 mpg city/34 mpg highway/28 mpg, yet it also boasts a standard turbocharged engine that makes 210 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque, and the car can be further upgraded for even higher levels of performance. For example, VW offers both adaptive damping and a full performance package bringing bigger brakes, a torque-sensing limited-slip differential and revised engine tuning for an extra 10 hp.
Mazda Miata MX-5
The hotly anticipated 2016 Mazda Miata MX-5 has finally hit the street, and it’s already wowing reviewers with its sleek design, new infotainment and safety resources and, of course, nimble driving dynamics. But it’s worth pointing out that the same Skyactiv powertrain and chassis technologies that enable those zoomy dynamics additionally result in sky-high EPA scores. Thus, along with one of the industry’s most exciting open-air driving experiences, the next-gen Miata also can ring up fuel-economy ratings as high as 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway/30 mpg combined. And while that’s with the available six-speed automatic transmission, the standard DIY gearbox, also a six-speed unit, gets the exact same numbers in the city and for combined travel, but with 34 mpg in highway driving.
The 2016 Chevrolet Corvette is the outlier among our best fuel-efficient sports cars, topping out with of 17 mpg city/29 mpg highway/21 mpg combined with its standard seven-speed manual transmission. True, that performance is below the EPA-certified 24 mpg combined of the “average” new vehicle today, but the Corvette is hardly average in terms of performance. The Bowtie brand’s performance flagship, remember, returns those ratings with a standard 6.2-liter V8 engine that can supply 455 hp and 460 lb.-ft. of torque fresh from the factory—and benefit from an output bump of 5 hp and 5 lb.-ft. of torque with the car’s available performance exhaust system, which also reduces 0-60 acceleration to 3.8 seconds.
Backed by the kind of performance credentials that, in some specs, can give the 911 a run for its money, the 2015 Porsche Cayman is a blast to drive even in its entry setup. Which makes sense, since said setup includes a 2.7-liter flat-six engine that delivers 275 hp and 213 lb.-ft. of torque, the driver’s choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, Porsche Active Suspension Management with “Normal” and “Sport” modes, and available performance enhancers like ceramic-composite brakes, torque vectoring, all-wheel drive and three progressively more powerful powertrains. Meanwhile, to qualify as one of the best high-efficiency sports cars, the Cayman complements its track-friendly features with EPA marks of 22 mpg city/36 mpg highway/26 mpg combined.
Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ
These badge-engineered beauties are, for all intents and purposes, the same car beneath some very similar skin, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, it just means the 2015 Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ share the classic front-engine, rear-wheel-drive configuration of traditional sports cars, but then adds the advantage of modern-day fuel efficiency. It all comes together in their Subaru-sourced, four-cylinder boxer-style engines, each of which can provide 200 hp and 151 lb.-ft. of torque. That output is managed by either a six-speed manual transmission or a similarly cogged automatic, both leveraging a Torsen limited-slip differential and the latter unit aided by steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and dynamic rev matching. The bottom line here includes top fuel-efficiency marks of 25 mpg city/34 mpg highway/28 mpg combined.
At first glance, the fact that the EPA has certified the 2015 Audi TTS at 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway/26 mpg combined might not appear all that impressive in the company of these other great fuel-efficient sports cars. But what allows Audi’s entry to stand out from the crowd is that it nails down those EPA numbers when configured with standard “quattro” all-wheel drive for stellar handling. Moreover, those ratings are a perfect match for those of the standard Audi TT, even though the hi-po TTS adds Nappa leather seats, a “magnetic ride” adaptive suspension and 64 more horsepower to its output totals (of 265 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque).
The brand-new 2015 Ford Mustang is riding high on its recent redesign, relying on its fresh, yet instantly recognizable appearance as well as an invigorating jolt of Blue Oval innovation. Unsurprisingly, a particular highlight is the Mustang’s first EcoBoost engine, which transforms one of the most popular modern-day muscle cars into one of the nation’s best fuel-efficient sports cars. Drivers can count on that 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine for 310 hp and 320 lb.-ft. of torque, along with standard EPA ratings of 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway/26 mpg combined with a six-speed manual transmission. Opting for the six-speed SelectShift automatic results in ratings of 21 mpg city/32 mpg highway/25 mpg combined.