MPG: Smallest isn’t always better

Is smallest always better when it comes to car size and fuel efficiency? Maybe not, according to a CNN Money report.

The report looked at the miles per gallon for subcompacts and larger compact cars by the same maker and found in several cases the mpg is the same as it is for the larger vehicle.

Both the subcompact Hyundai Accent and the larger compact Hyundai Elantra, for example, get 33 mph combined in city and highway driving, CNN reported. Same is true for the subcompact Chevrolet Sonic and larger Chevy Cruz, both at 33 mph.

Among hybrids, the Prius C, which gets a combined mph of 50 mph, gets the same mileage as the larger Prius.

The report credits aerodynamics for most of the comparable fuel efficiency. Because the compacts are larger, automakers have more room to make them less wind resistant. Subcompacts, and especially mini-compacts, tend to be taller and boxier, making them less aerodynamic.

The biggest selling point for the subcompact, however, isn’t always fuel efficiency. Says CNN:

For one thing, subcompacts and minicars usually cost thousands of dollars less than larger cars and they are easier to maneuver and park on crowded city streets.

Giving the high cost of fuel, and prospect for prices on the horizon, where would you put your money?

12 comments Add your comment

Senior Citizen Kane

March 27th, 2012
1:27 pm

A Nissan GT-R. With over 500 HP, you won’t care how many MPG it gets.


March 27th, 2012
3:07 pm

Well, you’re probably an idiot if you’re looking at the size of the car rather than the engine for fuel efficiency in the first place if that’s what’s most important to you.

Rancid meat

March 27th, 2012
3:16 pm

2012 Corvette: 6.2 Liter 430-hp V8 engine… 26 MPG hwy


March 27th, 2012
4:02 pm

I’ve had my eye on a Daewoo Leganza. Beautiful lines and an engine that blows away BMW and Mercedes. (Doesn’t hurt with the ladies either.)


March 27th, 2012
4:20 pm

I don’t care what the gas prices are, I’m not giving up my truck. I feel safer, it has huge benefits for moving objects, seats 5 comfortably, and gives me a better and clearer line of sight in traffic. It might be a gas hog, but it’s comfortable. Try putting a 6′5″ guy in a compact car…I don’t like having my knees under my chin. And driving in a compact for more than 30 minutes proves impossible at my size. So for all of you who complain about my big truck…buy a compact…enjoy it…until you get into a minor car wreck and you’re killed because there isn’t enough metal around you to protect you. The SmartCar looks like a rolling death trap. $10 a gallon won’t prompt me to trade in my truck.


March 27th, 2012
4:27 pm

With no monthly payments on my paid-for Bronco II, I’ll pass on paying thousands of dollars for a rollerskate and get by on 19 miles per gallon. And besides, the Bronco II looks a lot cooler than a Prius.


March 27th, 2012
4:57 pm

Myth: Trucks and SUVs are safer than compacts.


March 27th, 2012
7:09 pm

shouldn’t be mpg not mph…..


March 27th, 2012
7:33 pm

Thought a crew cab F150 was safer than a Camry. My F150 rolled over at 40 mph. My brother walked away from a head on collusion in a 2002 Camry. There are no airbags on the roof of a F150. The F150 got 17 mpg on a good day. Not getting another truck.

White Trash Bill

March 28th, 2012
3:04 am

Man y’all need to get a man’s care like a Trans Am. Girls drive Camrys and stuff like that I bet you carry a man purse in your Toyoyo.


March 28th, 2012
1:22 pm

If you want to conserve gas, drive slower. The energy required to propel an automobile of given mass increases by an exponent of 3 of its given speed. Thus a car driven at 80mph uses 8 times the energy as that same car driven at 40mph. It is that largest factor, greater than engine efficiency, drag co-efficient, or transmission design, in controlling fuel usage.


March 28th, 2012
3:38 pm

These idealized MPG figures should consider what happens when the vehicle takes on additional load (more passengers or luggage) as well as terrain. Many people are shocked at how quickly MPG falls if they demand that their little underpowered car is pressed harder than ideal circumstances have depicted. And yes, safety is a material consideration. A 5,000 lb SUV will mangle a Prius in a head-on collision no matter how many airbags you have.