Five Classic Cars With Modern-Day Gas Mileage

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Renee Zellweger's 1988 Honda CRX [via eBay Motors]

Renee Zellweger's 1988 Honda CRX [via eBay Motors]

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Ask most people to name a classic or vintage car, and they’ll probably give you a list of V8 powered muscle cars not known for their high gas mileage. 

But the quest for fuel efficiency isn’t a new concept. In fact, there is a fairly large number of classic cars which when properly maintained, provide a fuel economy on par with some of today’s fuel-efficient cars. 

Here’s just five classics you’ll want to look at if you want a retro-ride with modern-day economy. 

1988-1991 Honda CRX-HF

Of all of the world’s automakers, Honda has historically been consistent in producing cars with a high gas mileage. 

During the late 1980s, its most fuel-efficient car was the CRX sports hatchback. Offering seating for just two passengers, the regular CRX offered customers a choice between a 1.4 litre and 1.6 litre engine, married to either a 5 speed manual or 4 speed automatic gearbox. 

But while the standard manual 1.5 liter CRX gots an official, adjusted EPA rating of 32 mpg combined,  Honda decided to produce an even more efficient version, which it called the CRX-HF (or high efficiency).

With a 1.5 liter engine and a 5-speed manual transmission, the CRX-HF has an official EPA rating of 44 mpg combined, giving it a higher fuel efficiency rating than its newer descendant, the 2011 Honda CR-Z hybrid.

1959-1968 Morris Mini Minor

The original front-wheel drive pocket rocket, the ingeniously-designed Morris Mini Minor may be small enough to fit in the pickup bed of some of today’s larger pickup trucks, but the little British car gets a fuel economy that is hard to beat, even by today’s standards. 

Designed with economy in mind, the original Mini featured front-wheel drive and a transverse-mounted 0.85 liter engine which was capable of propelling it to 75 miles-per-hour while achieving just 33 MPG. Given that’s the same combined fuel economy as a 2011 Ford Fiesta, the Mini can still hold its own in the high-fuel economy states. 

But be aware -- like many older cars, the original A-series engine in a Mk I Mini may not be hardened to cope with unleaded gasoline -- so you should check before filling up. 

1988-2003 Geo Metro/Suzuki Swift

1997 Geo Metro

1997 Geo Metro

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Yes, we know the diminutive Geo Metro can’t hold a candle to the sportier stylings of the Honda CRX-HF or the British charms of the Mini Minor -- but it is a veritable champ when it comes to fuel economy. 

Designed by Suzuki as the Suzuki Swift and sold in the U.S. as both a Suzuki and a Geo Metro in partnership with General Motors, the tiny supermini hatchback remains one of the highest fuel economy classics available today, provided you can live with its “Plain Jane” looks.

With a 3-cylinder 1 liter engine, the Swift/Metro was pretty frugal on gasoline consumption -- but for the best fuel economy out there go for the Geo Metro XFI, which the EPA rates at an astonishingly good 47 mpg combined. 

For a lower gas mileage but a whole lot more fun, chose the 1988-2003 Suzuki Swift GT. With up to a 1.6 liter engine developing 100 brake horsepower, the sporty version of the benign hatchback isn’t the greatest for fuel economy -- but at 27 mpg it still isn’t shabby for a fun and drivable fuel-efficient classic.

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Comments (7)
  1. You forgot a good one, 1960 -1969 Chevrolet Corvair. 4 seats (6 with the bench), rear engine, air cooled, flat 6. Mine is terribly worn out, but I can still get 28mpg on the highway. The highest mileage I have heard for a Corvair is 33mpg.

  2. Nikki there is only one car from the past to consider and that is the original Honda Insight Hybrid introduced some twelve years ago.
    Here you had an all aluminium 839 kg aerodynamic(0.25 CD)two seat sports coupe capable of returning 84 MPG on the European cycle. All this while emitting only 80 g/km co2 with a performance of 0-60 mph in 10 sec and top end around 110 mph.
    To ad to their exclusiveness they were built on the same assembly line as Hondas supercar the NSX. They ceased production in 2006 after selling well in the USA,UK,and Japan although were never widely promoted.
    I ran one of these from 03 till 08 without a hitch and regularly returned 83 mpg per fill up with a best of 93 mpg over 163 miles of motorway driving.Phenomenal car.

  3. My 1981 Toyota Starlet routinely got over 40 mpg and was fun to drive. Good luck finding one, though!

  4. To this day I am still in awe over what my 1965 Triumph TR4 got doing 60 in overdrive on the freeway. 40mpg! If that heavy thing could get that, what the heck is wrong with the newer cars?

  5. in 1985 I bought a brand new chevy sprint, an amazing car it averaged around 55 mpg and on two trips I got over 65mpg I wish they would make something like that again, I bought a Yaris in 2007 it got 40 but I expected more

  6. My 2001 Corvette C-5 convertible, with a 345 hp V8 engine, gets 30 mpg on the highway at 75 mph. Can you say aerodynamics?

  7. There are alot of other cars to add to this list, here re some that I have personal experience with. My father still owns the car he drove in high school, a '51 Kasier Special that with its light construction, overdrive and 6 cylinder engine netted 30 mpg on the freeway. My first car was a 1988 Suburban with the 6.2L diesel engine that got 27mpg out of a full size truck. And my current daily driver is a 1969 Oldsmobile Delta 88, try 28mpg with a 7.5L motor in a land yacht.

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