For driving enthusiasts, “fuel economy” might as well be a four-letter word. After all, we know what fuel economy improvements did to our favorite sports cars in the 1980s. The price of fuel has always driven people to economy cars, but most enthusiasts consider a plain-Jane Camry or Smart Fortwo a death sentence.
Still, better fuel economy and fewer emissions is something most of us can agree on, considering we all breathe the same air. Do you have to give up driving pleasure or a “cool car” for fuel economy? There are at least a few cars worth driving that get pretty good fuel economy. Here are 7 “fun” cars to drive that won’t suck your wallet dry or generate more emissions than necessary…
76 mpg-e BMW i8
“Exceptionally expensive fun” could describe the BMW i8, a plug-in hybrid sports car starting at around $140,000. It’s certainly unique and performs as good as some exotics. With a combination of electric motors and a turbocharged three-cylinder engine (from the Cooper), the BMW i8 launches to 60 mph in a scary 3.6 seconds, with up to 76 mpg-e.
38 mpg Mini Cooper
Strip the hybrid system from the i8 and put the turbocharged three-cylinder engine in a go-kart, the basis for a compelling ride. Will the Mini Cooper launch like the i8 or Challenger? No, but it’s arguably more fun “go-karting” city streets than worrying you’ll squish a taxi. Opt for the Mini Cooper S, even more nimble, and get up to 32 mpg.
34 mpg BMW Z4
The BMW Z4 Coupe has lots of legroom, sounds great, and is great fun to drive. For all its agility, it’s also comfortable and has great visibility, just as good for zipping around town as a weekend getaway. Even with the automatic transmission, the Z4 gets 34 mpg on the highway, the whole package starting under $50,000.
33 mpg Fiat 500 Abarth
Like the Cooper, the Fiat 500 Abarth could never be mistaken for a gas guzzler, and its “fun to drive” factor is its go-kart handling and a unique soundtrack – like a half-scale Ferrari. Launch power and high speed are not Abarth strengths, but where most people drive it’s the perfect fun companion.
31 mpg Chevrolet Camaro
The Chevrolet Camaro is an undeniable American classic sports car, and engine technology has come a long way since its introduction. Today, the Camaro SS V8 can deliver up to 28 mpg, unheard of back in the day – but we’re looking at the turbocharged four-cylinder, making 275 hp. The four will launch to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds, and get 31 mpg cruising.
30 mpg Porsche Cayman
Another European sports car, the Porsche Cayman starts over $50,000 – the manual-transmission model – but it’s worthwhile to note that handling the mid-engine layout is very different from any of the front-engine vehicles we’ve already covered. Topping out at 30 mpg, Porsche Cayman is style and performance you can enjoy for more miles.
30 mpg Dodge Challenger
We finish off our list with another classic American sports car, but one you’ll buy for looks, value, and comfort, maybe not so much for performance. Dodge Challenger Hellcat ticks all these boxes, but not fuel economy. The 305-hp Challenger SXT trades launch performance for fuel economy, but looks and feels great cruising at 30 mpg.
Of course, there are probably a few more vehicles we could add to this list, so do your research. If anything, this list goes to show that you don’t have to give up a huge chunk of your bank account, a fun driving experience, or a nice-looking ride to save a few bucks on fuel.