Efficiency doesn't need to come at the cost of driver enjoyment.
Fun needn’t come at the cost of economy, and we loathe manufacturers that build their economobiles without some semblance of fun factor. After all, though cars may essentially be appliances, there’s no reason for them to be so boring they make you feel suicidal. So what can your hard earned dollars get you that strikes a chord between being both fun and economical? Well, it seems quite a few vehicles actually.
Though not all the vehicles listed below achieve more than 40MPG on a combined cycle, they can at least crack that figure for highways driving. Not all of them are hybrid either, and we’ve even included some EVs we've deemed fun to drive.
Every Porsche is a sports car first and foremost, and in the case of the Panamera, a sedan second. But when Porsche engineers turn the Panamera into the Turbo S E-Hybrid, they add a dose of electricity to the twin-turbocharged V8 to deliver 680 hp, enough to get the E-Hybrid from 0-62 mph in 3.2 seconds, with enough play in the chassis to enable numerous lap records around the world.
Though the EPA hasn’t actually rated the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, calculations show that the hybrid super-sedan eclipses the 40-mpg mark, proving you can have fun, economy, and outright performance all in the same breath.
Yes, the Lexus ES is actually a fun car. Whilst the ES is fundamentally a front-wheel drive vehicle aimed at luxury, the comfort on offer is offset with ample driver enjoyment. The suspension plays as well through a mountain pass as it does at being a rolling lounge. In the hybridized ES300h, Lexus has paired a 2.5-liter inline-4 gasoline engine with a high-output electric motor for a total system output of 215 horsepower, but can also be used in pure EV mode. However, it’s rated by the EPA as having a combined economy rating of 44 mpg, neatly straddling City and Highway ratings of 43 and 45 mpg respectively.
The Jaguar I-Pace is the brand’s first EV and it has committed wholly by sending it racing in a one-make electric racing series. Those aren’t purpose-built racecars though, as they share that same DNA with their road-going siblings. The I-Pace generates 394 hp and 512 lb-ft of torque sent to all corners, resulting in a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds. That sounds like fun already, but the promise of an engaging chassis makes the deal sweeter. The cherry on top is the combined mpg-equivalent of 76. While this might be lower than the Tesla Model X 75D’s 93 MPGe, the Jag offers much more fun.
Kia is rapidly establishing itself as a global automotive superpower, and it’s fast-tracking EV development as a top priority. In the meantime, its hard work is showing dividends in hybrid vehicles like the Kia Niro, a crossover that’s practical, comfortable, surprisingly fun to drive, and crucially, efficient.\
The Niro makes use of a 1.6-liter 4 cylinder gasoline engine and a Full Parallel Hybrid System for combined outputs of 139 hp and 195 lb-ft, while still achieving EPA-approved economy figures of 50 mpg combined, achieving 52 mpg in the city and 49 mpg on the highway.
Since the Dieselgate saga, few manufacturers still offer diesel-powered vehicles in the United States. Jaguar, however, offers its potent 2.0-liter diesel powerplant in numerous vehicles, including the Jaguar XE. But we’ve selected the Jaguar XF 20d here – as economical as the smaller XE, but in our opinion the more enjoyable vehicle between the two.
The XF feels like the car the XE was always meant to be, with a lithe chassis and a snappy 8-speed automatic gearbox. OK, so the diesel engine isn’t exactly the driver’s choice for pure enjoyment, but it offers EPA-rated economy of 42 mpg on the highway in rear-wheel drive guise, and the 317 lb-ft of torque is more than useful and enjoyable on the open road.
The BMW 328d offers another diesel alternative, combining a 180-hp diesel 4 cylinder with an engaging rear-wheel-drive platform for a recipe that ends in fun. Of course, the 280 lb-ft is the impressive figure you can really feel, but your wallet will also be rather pleased when it returns 43 mpg on the highway, though only 31 mpg in the city. Still, with a 0-60 mph sprint time of 7.4 seconds, the 328d is bound to be an enjoyable ride.
The Honda Civic Hatchback is the holy grail of fun on this list, combining one of the best front-wheel-drive chassis currently in production with a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine worth 174 hp and 162 lb-ft, and the option of a manual gearbox. The manual does drop highway consumption to 38 mpg, but it’s available and that’s what counts, though if you’re looking for outright economy the CVT transmission enables highway consumption of 40 mpg, barely putting into contention for a spot on this list.
Based on the same fundamental underpinnings as the Honda Civic, the Insight offers an engaging drive in stark contrast to the dull, slow suicidal thoughts induced by the Toyota Prius. Combined outputs of 129 hp and a healthy 197 lb-ft of torque are derived from the 1.5-liter engine and hybrid drive system, driving through a continuously variable transmission that aids it in achieving EPA rated figures of 55 mpg in the city, 49 mpg on the highway, and a combined 52 mpg overall. While there’s definite comfort and economy bias here, it doesn’t compromise on driver enjoyment – we salute you, Honda.
The Toyota Yaris iA is one of the smallest vehicles on sale in the United States. Formerly branded as a Scion, it’s actually a Mazda beneath the surface and shares large amounts of its underpinnings with the Mazda CX-3. Its 1.5-liter 4-cylinder is a rev-happy naturally aspirated powerplant that enjoys being revved to generate peak power of 106 hp – meager outputs, but plenty of fun.
A nimble, compact chassis is fun to throw about, though the automatic gearbox does dull the experience a little in pursuit of economy figures of 32 and 40 mpg in the city and on the highway. Even with the auto ‘box, the Yaris iA is still a blast to drive.
0-62 mph in 4.2 seconds, a mid-mounted gasoline engine, looks to die for, a carbon fiber chassis, and the choice of either a coupe or convertible – it’s hard to picture a car like that on this list, achieving more than 40 mpg. But here the BMW i8 sports car is, aided by a hybrid drive system that supplements the 1.5-liter turbo three-cylinder to produce 369 horsepower when both systems work together. Without that, the i8 achieves a combined economy figure of just 28 mpg, but thanks to electrification that figure is bumped up to 76 mpg, putting it well within the eligible range for inclusion here.