News recently broke out that Biden’s EPA is going to push fuel efficiency in the coming years. The stipulation states every car must achieve at least 37 mpg by the year 2026. Powerful engines and good fuel efficiency seldom go hand-in-hand. These days, a hybrid powertrain is needed to gain any significant MPG advantage. If the complexity and expense of a hybrid car sound daunting, however, there are a few used options in the way of compromise. These won’t be the fastest used cars on the planet, but they make decent power and at least 37 mpg.
2016 Mazda 3 – 155 hp
The base model Mazda 3 from 2016 uses a 2.0-liter inline-four that produces 155 horsepower. While not a staggering amount of power, it’s enough to move the car with some haste. Automatic transmissions on average yield worse gas mileage than a manual transmission, but it comes down to driving style. Keeping RPMs low will help stave off rapid fuel consumption, which is more practically achieved in a manual car. A 2016 Mazda 3 iSport gets 41 mpg on the highway and sells for around $12,000. There’s also a hatchback option.
Dodge Dart Aero – 160 hp
The Dodge Dart Aero suffered from a reportedly crude driving experience at best. Nevertheless, it climbs higher than the Mazda in horsepower rankings. From its 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-four, the Aero sends 160 horsepower to the front wheels. Though it’s sluggish off the line, the car is nimble and decisive when the turbo spools. The mileage is hard to ignore, at 41 mpg on the highway. 2016 Dart Aeros can be difficult to find but sell for around $12,000. However, it’s not the best car from Dodge’s lineup, so it might be worthwhile to keep looking.
2017 Jaguar XF 20d Diesel – 180 hp
Those itching for action in the luxury car department need look no further than the Jaguar XF 20d diesel. Its diesel engine could be considered cheating, but it’s still a non-hybrid. The XF provides ample space, comfort, and solid maneuverability. Its 2.0-liter turbodiesel inline-four produces just 180 horsepower, but 318 lb-ft of torque. In a pinch, the RWD XF can jump off the line with relative ease, but its AWD configuration may slow it down. The 2017 XF 20d gets over 40 mpg on the highway, according to Motortrend, and sells for around $25,000.
2017 Honda Civic Si Sedan – 205 hp
Honda has the market cornered in almost every facet. Even new Civics border on low-tier luxury. The 2017 Civic Si is a prime example of the brand’s ability to make a well-balanced car. It’s comfortable, performs well, and is efficient. The Civic Si uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four that produces a staggering 205 horsepower, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. It’s lightweight at 2,900 pounds and gets 38 mpg on the highway. A Civic Si of this vintage goes for around $23,000.
If a simple, fuel-efficient car is all that’s needed, without the complexities of a hybrid powertrain, these used sedans are solid choices. Horsepower isn’t the end-all-be-all of the equation, as driving dynamics can make all the difference, but it helps to have passing power on the freeway while getting 37 mpg.