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Most Fuel-Efficient New ICE Vehicles for 2021

As fuel prices rise, these vehicles can save you plenty of money at the pumps.

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As pure-electric vehicles are being introduced with greater regularity, most new vehicles still use a gas-powered internal combustion engine (ICE). And now, with oil prices on the rise again, it only makes good financial sense to buy the most fuel-efficient ICE available, without the worry of needing to plug-in your next new vehicle. 

According to Natural Resources Canada (NR Can), based on 55% city and 45% highway driving, here are the most fuel-efficient ICE new vehicles across 13 segments.

 

Two-seater: Mazda MX-5 

The rear-wheel-drive (RWD) 2021 Mazda MX-5 is one of the few cars that still flies the flag for pure driving fun, with accessible power, affordable pricing, and excellent fuel-efficiency. A 2.0-litre 4-cylinder gas engine propels the 2-passenger roadster with 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. Via a standard 6-speed manual transmission (a 6-speed automatic is optional), the Mazda scores a combined city and highway NR Can estimate of 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres (L/100 km).

 

Mini-compact Car: Mini Cooper Convertible

A 3-cylinder gas engine might not seem inspiring in theory. But the 2021 Mini Cooper Convertible’s turbocharged 1.5-litre unit (also available in Hardtop 2 Door and Hardtop 4 Door body styles) produces a respectable 134 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque, motivating a small and relatively light car. And with a 7-speed automatic transmission, the 4-passenger, front-wheel-drive (FWD) Mini ragtop scores an impressive 7.5 L/100 km combined estimate.

 

Sub-compact Car: Chevrolet Spark

As the most affordable new vehicle in Canada, the FWD Chevrolet Spark is already a great buy. And if you want to keep saving money, the 5-passenger Chevy sub-compact hatchback is also incredibly fuel-efficient. The 2021 Spark uses a 1.4-litre 3-cylinder engine making 98 horsepower and 94 pound-feet of torque. When combined with the optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT)—a 5-speed manual is standard—the Spark’s combined fuel economy estimate is a miserly 7.0 L/100 km.

 

Compact Car: Toyota Corolla Hybrid

The humble Toyota Corolla compact sedan dips its toe in the gasoline-electric hybrid pool with a single, entry-level trim: the LE Hybrid. The Corolla Hybrid’s powertrain comprises a 1.8-litre 4-cylinder gas engine paired with two electric motors for a total of 121 horsepower, which powers the front wheels via a CVT only. And despite offering more passenger room than some of the smaller vehicles listed here, the roomy Corolla stills scores an impressive 4.5 L/100 km combined estimate.

 

Mid-size Car: Hyundai Elantra Hybrid 

The Hybrid version of the 5-passenger 2021 Hyundai Elantra compact sedan uses a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder gas engine with an electric motor for 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque with a 6-speed automatic transmission. That’s about the same thrust as the warmly sporty Elantra N Line, still scoring an impressive 4.4 L/100 km combined fuel economy estimate. Plus, the hybrid powertrain (also found in other Hyundai/Kia vehicles on this list) is incredibly smooth in how it transitions from gasoline to electric power and back. 

 

Full-size Car: Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

While a more powerful plug-in hybrid (with a greater electric-only range than the regular hybrid, thanks to a bigger battery) Ioniq is available, the 2021 Ioniq Hybrid trim is still a miser at the pumps. Using a similar powertrain as the Elantra Hybrid but making less combined power (139 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque), the FWD Ioniq Hybrid 5-passenger hatchback is estimated to use only 4.0 litres of gas for every 100 kilometres driven.

 

Station Wagon/Small: Kia Niro Hybrid

The 2021 Kia Niro Hybrid is one of three Niro variants, each with drivetrains dedicated to fuel economy. This one is a FWD 5-passenger gasoline/electric hybrid compact wagon, using the same powertrain as in the Elantra Hybrid. With this Niro, there’s nothing to plug in. Just fill up the tank (infrequently, it turns out) and enjoy the 2021 Niro Hybrid’s combined 4.6 L/100 km fuel economy estimate. 

 

Station Wagon/Mid-size: Mercedes-Benz E 450 4MATIC All-Terrain

If you need more room than the vehicles mentioned above and still want to save money at the pumps, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 4MATIC All-Terrain’s 9.6 L/100 km combined fuel economy estimate is the best in its segment. The 5-passenger mid-size Mercedes-Benz wagon uses a turbocharged 3.0-litre 6-cylinder gas engine, plus an integrated 48-volt mild-hybrid system adds an extra 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque for a total of 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. The V6—which we’ve praised for its smoothness, efficiency, and power—is teamed exclusively with all-wheel-drive.

 

Pickup Truck/Small: Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon

The 2021 Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon mid-size pickup truck twins offer a trio of engines. Choices span from a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder gas engine, a 3.6-litre V6, and a smooth and powerful (186 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque) 2.8-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Going diesel not only offers the best towing numbers (7,700 pounds/3,493 kilograms) but also delivers the best fuel economy at a city and highway combined estimate of 10.1 L/100 km in rear-wheel-drive (4WD is available) form.

 

Pickup Truck/Standard: Chevrolet Silverado 1500

The 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is available in a dizzying variety of configurations. Gas engines range from a turbocharged 4-cylinder to a rumbling 6.2-litre V8 to General Motors’s venerable 5.3-litre V8. A just-adequate V6 is also in the mix. The recent arrival of a 3.0-litre turbocharged 6-cylinder diesel engine (mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission) makes the Silverado even more tempting with a combined 8.8 L/100 km estimate in RWD form. While producing 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, the turbodiesel also offers a towing maximum of 9,500 pounds (4,309 kilograms).

 

SUV/Small: Ford Escape Hybrid

The 2021 FWD Ford Escape Hybrid uses a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder gas engine and an electric motor for a total output of 200 horsepower and 155 pound-feet of torque. Even with a mandatory CVT, the hybrid version of Ford's popular compact SUV never feels like it lacks power. The CVT does an excellent job of mimicking the gear ratios of a regular automatic transmission, and we're pleased that it lacks that rubber-band quality and droning sensation we get with other CVTs. The best part? The 5-passenger Escape Hybrid gets a very efficient 5.8 L/100 km combined estimate.

 

SUV/Standard: Toyota Highlander AWD Hybrid

With seating capacity for up to 8 passengers and AWD, the Highlander Hybrid mid-size 3-row SUV offers a pleasing blend of comfort, convenience, room, and excellent fuel economy. For the 2021 model year, Toyota downsized the Hybrid's gasoline engine from the previous generation, which used a V6. The new Hybrid counters that issue by delivering superior fuel economy (as little as 6.7 L/100 km) from a new 243-horsepower 2.5-litre 4-cylinder gas engine and a pair of electric motors that sends its power to all wheels via a CVT.

 

Minivan: Toyota Sienna Hybrid

If you want to haul up to 8 passengers AND their gear AND save at the pumps, the 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid should be on your list. Redesigned for 2021, the Sienna comes only as a hybrid, using a 4-cylinder gas engine mated to front-mounted or front-and-rear-mounted electric motors (depending on whether it’s equipped with FWD or AWD). The result is a minivan that combines smooth, effortless acceleration with jaw-dropping fuel economy of 6.5 L/100 km in FWD form.


 

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