Small But Not Green? Five Small Cars That Get Poor Gas Mileage

With many of today’s small cars hitting dealer lots with EPA ratings that rival those of hybrid cars, it’s easy to forget that not all small cars are green

We’ve written exhaustively on which small cars win the gas mileage race, but which small cars should you avoid if your principal concern is fuel economy? 

Here’s a pick of five cars you should avoid, including certain variants of cars known for their good gas mileage.

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X AWD (2.0-liter, Automatic)

City: 17 MPG

Highway: 22MPG

Combined 19 MPG

Like so many small car gas-mileage champions, the 2012 Mitsubishi Evo X has an all-aluminum, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine. 

But unlike the greenest small cars on the market today, the Evo’s 2.0-liter lump isn’t built with gas mileage in mind. Instead, it’s built with pure power. 

Producing 295 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, the 2012 Evo X is Mitsubishi’s tenth incarnation of the legendary world rally champion. 

it’s no surprise then, that the Evo X features a sophisticated all-wheel drive system, a dual-clutch, 6-speed automatic gearbox, and a drive system that offers ‘Normal’, ‘Sport’, or ‘Super Sport’. 

But while it is undeniably fun to drive, the Evo’s gas-guzzling days might be over, thanks to tightening gas mileage legislation. 

In fact, when the Evo X ends production next year, its successor, the Evo XI, will be powered by none other than a... gulp... diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain. 

2012 Subaru Impreza AWD (2.4-Liter, 6-Speed Manual)

City: 17 MPG

Highway: 23MPG

Combined: 19 MPG

Just like its fellow Japanese rival, the 2012 Subaru Impreza AWD, 2.4-liter 6-speed manual is unashamedly about performance first, and fuel economy last. 

With as much world rally heritage as the Evo, the 2012 Subaru Impreza AWD -- Scooby to its friends -- isn’t quite as primal to drive as its predecessors, but when specified with its 2.5-liter, flat-four, turbocharged engine mated to a six-speed gearbox, it’s hard to think about driving in an eco-minded way. 

The Impreza does have a saving grace however: specify it with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged flat four and continuously-variable transmission, and you’ll find it gets an impressive 36 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg city. That’s a surprising 30 mpg combined. 

For the record, that particular engine and transmission choice makes it the greenest all-wheel drive compact car on the market today. 

The best bit? Externally the two versions look the same, so you can continue to entertain your sporty side while secretly getting good gas mileage. 

2012 Mazda Speed 3, (2.3-liter, 6-speed manual)

City: 18 MPG

Highway: 25MPG

Combined: 18 MPG

Mazda might be working hard to promote the 2012 Mazda 3 with SkyActiv technology, but at the bottom of the gas mileage chart is its 2.3-liter sporty sibling which is anything but green. 

In Mazda’s own words, “We started with something very good, then made it very, very naughty.”

Unlike the goody-two-shoes, 40 MPG SkyActiv-G 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine available on the 2012 Mazda 3, the 2012 Mazda Speed 3’s 2.3-liter turbocharged, intercooled,  4-cylinder engine can push out 263 horsepower and develop an impressive 280 pound-feet of torque. 

To help it stay on the road, Mazda put the Speed 3 through extensive race-testing, including the famous Nürburgring in Germany, and of course, the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. 

It might buy you some extra seconds in the stop-light derby, but it won’t save you gas. Enough said. 

2012 Volkswagen Golf R

City: 19 MPG

Highway: 27 MPG

Combined 22 MPG

Volkswagen has been known for many years for its green-minded diesel VW Golf variants. 

But with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox, the 2012 Volkswagen Golf R is as far from eco-driving as the Golf brand gets. 

With all-wheel drive, this particular Golf is built with performance firmly put before anything else. 

That’s reflected with a 5.9-second 0-60 time, tightened handling and sportier wheels. 

Inside, it looks, and feels, like a regular Golf, giving it a real everyday appeal. 

While it features all of the usual kit you’d expect of a Golf however, its performance-oriented engine is shockingly thirsty. 

2012 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V (2.5-liter, 6-speed manual)

City: 21 MPG

Highway: 28 MPG

Combined; 24 MPG

In its 2.0-liter form, the humble Nissan Sentra can manage 30 mpg combined. 

Add a larger, 2.5-liter engine, give it some sporty tuning, and it struggles to better 24 mpg combined. 

Just like some of the other cars we’ve listed, the sporty 2012 Nissan Sentra SE-R-Spec V might give you quick acceleration times, but those come at the expense of gas mileage. 

We can’t think of anything else to say about the Sentra SE-R Spec V, only to note with amusement that while it has 60 more horsepower than the base-level 2012 Sentra, its 180 pound feet of torque is no match for the 207 pound feet produced by Nissan’s cleanest car, the 2012 Nissan Leaf. 

Your worst?

We’ve listed five small cars we think have below average gas mileage for their segment, but what are your nominations? 

Add them to the list using the Comments below. 

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(c) 2012, High Gear Media.

 
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