The Worst Sports Car Under $40,000 Also Has the Worst Fuel Economy, According to Consumer Reports

If you’re buying a sports car like the Ford Mustang, you’re not particularly concerned about fuel economy. Thrill-seekers are often more than willing to sacrifice gas mileage for the overall experience of heightened performance and speed.

Still, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for the thirstiest sports car. While the Ford Mustang is a popular contender in its class, some critics think it’s the worst.

Some sporty cars actually get decent mileage

A gas pump, which the worst sports car might frequent due to it having the worst fuel economy.
Gas pump | Getty Images

According to Consumer Reports, the most affordable sports cars get the best fuel economy ratings. The Mazda MX-5 Miata was Consumer Reports’ favorite, and the base trim only costs $27,650.

The Mazda MX-5 Miata can earn up to 30 mpg combined with the automatic transmission. Consumer Reports also says this vehicle is a blast to drive, giving it a high overall score despite some wobbling on the highway.

Another fuel-efficient pick is the Honda Civic Si, which retails for as low as $27,500. The 200-hp turbo-four under its hood offers reasonable acceleration, quiet operations, and 31 mpg combined. It’s only available with a manual gearbox, but Consumer Reports says that just adds to the fun.

The Mini Cooper isn’t sporty in the conventional sense, but Consumer Reports found that even the base engine packs a punch. It makes 134 hp and earns 31 mpg combined. The Mini Cooper starts at $22,900.

The Mini Cooper S is nearly as efficient with 29 mpg combined with the automatic transmission. This one is faster thanks to its 189-hp engine and demands a $4,000 premium over the base model. Consumer Reports says that both trims exhibit excellent handling regardless of engine choice.

How the Ford Mustang compares

At best, the Ford Mustang can only earn up to 25 mpg combined. The base trim is cheaper than some of its rivals, starting at $27,205.

Edmunds data shows that the Mustang’s fuel economy drops to 24 mpg combined if you opt for the manual transmission. The base four-cylinder itself makes 310 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque.

Consumer Reports found this engine to be fast, but it’s slightly unrefined and makes unappealing noises. Still, Consumer Reports appreciated the Mustang’s secure handling and noted that the base model’s ride comfort was better than on higher trims.

The interior looks polished and aesthetically pleasing, though Consumer Reports wished for more padding in the cabin. Still, testers were fans of the supple leather seats and the abundance of visibility. 

Like most sports cars, you can still expect a lot of blind spots toward the rear. The Ford Mustang also rides low, so taller drivers will have to maneuver to get inside. Consumer Reports say that very few adults would fit comfortably in the back row.

The Ford Mustang’s fuel economy can get even worse

In terms of performance, Consumer Reports’ testers were more impressed with their Ford Mustang GT and its optional 5.0-liter V8. This one makes 450 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque, paired with a six-speed manual or ten-speed automatic gearbox. Testers loved the engine’s sound and upgraded agility.

However, Consumer Reports warn that performing sportier maneuvers might require some practice inside this Mustang. Its fuel economy declines steeply to 19 mpg combined and 18 mpg with the manual transmission.

According to Consumer Reports, the only other sports car with worse gas mileage is the Dodge Challenger. Its 5.7-liter Hemi is equally matched to the Mustang GT’s engine, earning 19 mpg combined. 

Think that’s bad? Say your heart is set on a Widebody model with the most powerful supercharged Hemi V8 and the manual transmission. In that scenario, the best you can hope for is 13 mpg combined.

Shockingly, Consumer Reports still recommends the Challenger over the Mustang. The Dodge Challenger is more reliable and has a functional backseat.

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