You’re driving off the dealership lot and feel like your car was an absolute steal. But over time, you find out that it’s turning into a rust bucket that’s costing you more in maintenance than the price of the vehicle. And it drinks so much fuel that it may as well be a competitive eater.
It’s a driver’s tale that’s as old as time, and it’s one that we hope to help you avoid as we take a look at 10 of the most economical cars Canada offers to drivers.
The Numbers Behind Our Decisions
Let’s get technical for a moment and explain how we’ve figured out the numbers for the yearly costs that helped us get to the most economical cars Canada has to offer. First, we’ve researched figures for gas, diesel, and electric prices using the Ontario government website and the Ontario Electric Board site, which gives us the following:
- Gas – $1.485 per litre of regular unleaded
- Diesel – $1.49 per litre
- Electricity – $0.102 per kilowatt hour (kWh)
We’ll use those figures to work out how much it costs to drive 100 kilometres (km) with each car in the list, and then work out how much you’ll spend, assuming you drive 15,200 kilometres per year.
Car insurance and maintenance costs are based on the best estimates that we can find online for each car for the first year of ownership (bear in mind that both can increase as the car ages). As for the cost of the car itself, we divide the car’s starting cost against the average number of years a Canadian keeps their car (approximately nine years) to get a “yearly cost” of the car itself. With that said, let’s look at the 10 most economical cars in Canada.
2023 Mitsubishi Mirage
Let’s get the obvious out of the way – the Mitsubishi Mirage is absolutely not the car for you if you care about speed. With its tiny 78bhp, it’s just capable of getting up to speed on a highway, making this much better suited to those who need a little runaround car in the city or suburbs.
But it makes up for that lack of power in other ways, starting with a 10-year (or 160,000km) warranty that covers you against a host of manufacturing issues. It’s fuel efficient, too, managing to deliver 100km of driving from just 6.2 litres of gas. “Cheap” is the name of the game with this car, though just remember that the same level of cheapness that makes it so economical is also the level you’ll find in its engine and furnishings.
Starting Price: $14,298
|Starting Price / 9||$1,588.66|
|Energy Cost (to drive 15,200km)||$1,399.46|
|Estimated Annual Maintenance Cost||$379.08|
|Estimated Annual Car Insurance||$963.20|
|Estimated Annual Cost||$4,330.40|
2023 Hyundai Venue
Hyundai made its name by offering affordable Japanese-made cars (you’ll find another one of their models on this list) and the Venue is its entry into the SUV market. It’s a sleek little number, resembling a grown-up compact with just the right amount of bulk. As an SUV, it gives drivers and passengers plenty of room, though the cabin is more spacious than the rear, and its low starting price is tempting.
Fuel efficiency takes a hit due to the size, as you might expect, with the car managing 7.5 litres per 100km. We’d also like to see a little more power in the engine of a car of this size. As it stands, the Venue struggles to pass other cars when you’re on the highway, though that might not be an issue if you don’t fancy yourself as a speed demon.
Starting Price: $23,305.85
|Starting Price / 9||$2,589.54|
|Energy Cost (to drive 15,200km)||$1,692.90|
|Estimated Annual Maintenance Cost||$79.58|
|Estimated Annual Car Insurance||$937.45|
|Estimated Annual Cost||$5,299.47|
2023 Hyundai Elantra
The Elantra has pretty solid fuel economy, coming in at 6.4 litres per 100km, though you can expect to burn a little more than that if you’re driving in the city. It’s also a definite looker, wowing onlookers like an attractive date as it zooms by on the road. Room won’t be a problem, either in the cabin or the rear, and it’s got a cool infotainment center that doubles as extra eyes on the road when you need them.
Granted, the base engine isn’t particularly powerful (you’ll have to add a few thousand dollars to the starting price to get a better one). And the lack of a manual gearbox, which used to be a feature in previous Elantra models, is a kick in the teeth for those who don’t like automatics. But it’s a solid, if not spectacular, car.
Starting Price: $22,955.85
|Starting Price / 9||$2,550.65|
|Energy Cost (to drive 15,200km)||$1,444.61|
|Estimated Annual Maintenance Cost||$63.40|
|Estimated Annual Car Insurance||$1,172.15|
|Estimated Annual Cost||$5,230.81|
2023 Honda Civic
The trustworthy Honda Civic has been a favourite with stringent drivers for many years, so it’s no surprise to see it make its way onto this list. And with 180bhp, it packs a fair amount of power that makes it great for highway driving. It pairs its practicality with a level of flair that we didn’t previously see in Civics. We love the curves and appreciate how the car is designed to offer plenty of interior space.
The only real drawback, at least in terms of driveability, is that there isn’t a manual option. It’s automatic or bust with this car (though we’re sure most drivers can get over that fact). We’d like to see something better than the 6.9 litres per 100km the car gets, though, as that level of fuel consumption offsets the low starting price.
Starting Price: $28,249
|Starting Price / 9||$3,138.77|
|Energy Cost (to drive 15,200km)||$1,557.67|
|Estimated Annual Maintenance Cost||$91.72|
|Estimated Annual Car Insurance||$1,072.34|
|Estimated Annual Cost||$5,860.50|
2023 Kia Niro
Kia’s nifty little hybrid manages a superb 4.4 litres per 100km, making it one of the most fuel efficient cars on this list. That efficiency is enhanced further if you opt for the hybrid powertrain, though that bumps the price up considerably. It may be the best option for those who want a little more power, though, as the powertrain in the base model isn’t the best in the world.
The Niro makes up for that lack of power in other ways. It looks like something out of a near-future sci-fi film, and the forward collision detection system contains sensors that alert you to possible collisions before they occur.
Starting Price: $32,566
|Starting Price / 9||$3,617.66|
|Energy Cost (to drive 15,200km)||$993.17|
|Estimated Annual Maintenance Cost||$372.28|
|Estimated Annual Car Insurance||$1,060.20|
|Estimated Annual Cost||$6,043.31|
2023 Chevrolet Bolt
Electric vehicles make their reputation on being cheaper to run than traditional gas guzzlers, and there are few better than the Chevrolet Bolt. It offers a superb energy consumption rate of 18.3kWh per 100km, which is among the lowest in its class, and you get 397km of driving out of a single full charge.
Despite its compact nature, the Bolt is a surprisingly spacious car, especially in the cabin. It packs a fair amount of power into its single electric motor, too, as it’s capable of producing 200 brake horsepower (bhp), making it ideal for long highway drives. It’s not all good news, though, as the compact nature of the car means that its rear seats don’t recline. We’d also like to see a faster charging time, though that’s more of a nitpick.
Starting Price: $42,348
|Starting Price / 9||$4,705.33|
|Energy Cost (to drive 15,200km)||$282.72|
|Estimated Annual Maintenance Cost||$178.05|
|Estimated Annual Car Insurance||$1,201.83|
|Estimated Annual Cost||$6,367.93|
2023 Nissan LEAF
Nissan’s entry into the EV space isn’t quite as efficient as the Bolt (the other entry on our list) as it only manages to hit 21.2 kWh per 100km. But we can forgive that seeing as the car has a solid range of 342km, so you don’t have to worry about getting stranded because your engine dies.
But it’s performance problems that may steer you away from the LEAF, as it just isn’t as powerful as a modern EV needs to be. Couple that with the fact that it’s universally compatible with all charging stations and you have a car that, though efficient, isn’t as accessible as it could be.
Starting Price: $41,248
|Starting Price / 9||$4,583.11|
|Energy Cost (to drive 15,200km)||$328.68|
|Estimated Annual Maintenance Cost||$279.14|
|Estimated Annual Car Insurance||$1,274.33|
|Estimated Annual Cost||$6,465.26|
2023 Toyota Prius XLE
The Toyota Prius has managed to establish itself as one of the first names that come to mind when somebody says the word “hybrid.” There’s a good reason for that as the car manages a superb 4.75 litres per 100km, which is among the best in its class, and it combines that efficiency with a powerful 196bhp engine.
The 2023 model has enjoyed a glow-up, with sleek curves making the car as much of a joy to look at as it is to drive. That redesign comes at a cost though, as less cargo room, a lower roofline, and reduced rearward visibility make irritate taller or more safety-conscious drivers.
Starting Price: $39,864.50
|Starting Price / 9||$4,429.38|
|Energy Cost (to drive 15,200km)||$1,072.17|
|Estimated Annual Maintenance Cost||$94.42|
|Estimated Annual Car Insurance||$1,110.10|
|Estimated Annual Cost||$6,706.07|
2023 Ford Escape
As an SUV, the Ford Escape is at an obvious disadvantage compared to many of the cars on this list. It has some size to it, which means more gas is needed, but that size comes with the obvious benefit of more room. It’s also pretty (at least on the outside), and has an 8-inch infotainment centre that showcases the driver assistance features that come with the car.
Fuel efficiency takes a hit compared to smaller vehicles. The gas model (which is the one we’re looking at here) manages 8.1 litres per 100km. That’s decent enough for an SUV, but those extra litres add up on your fuel bill over time. It’s also something of a reverse ugly duckling (or a pretty duckling if you will) as the attractive exterior isn’t matched by the cheaper interior.
Starting Price: $32,849
|Starting Price / 9||$3,649.88|
|Energy Cost (to drive 15,200km)||$1,828.33|
|Estimated Annual Maintenance Cost||$310.24|
|Estimated Annual Car Insurance||$987.36|
|Estimated Annual Cost||$6,775.81|
2023 Mazda MX-5 Miata
A sleek little roadster is the perfect car for those who like to let the top down and let the wind run through their hair. You’ll feel like Burt Reynolds in the convertible MX-5 – or at least a shorter Burt Reynolds because this car isn’t the best suited for tall drivers who need space for long legs.
Assuming you fit the cabin (literally), the MX-5 delivers a solid fuel consumption of 7 litres per 100km in highway driving. That’s not the best on this list, by some distance, but it’s solid enough for a nippy little car that packs decent power in its engine. We do miss having a glove box, though.
Starting Price: $36,245
|Starting Price / 9||$4027.22|
|Energy Cost (to drive 15,200km)||$1,580.04|
|Estimated Annual Maintenance Cost||$312.93|
|Estimated Annual Car Insurance||$949.59|
|Estimated Annual Cost||$6,869.78|
Be Smart When Buying Your Car
In some respects, our investigation into the most economical cars Canada offers threw up some surprises. EVs, though amazingly fuel efficient, are brought down by their high starting prices and surprisingly heavy car insurance costs. In fact, some SUVs ended up being more economical than the EVs in this list, which is food for thought for those who aren’t especially environmentally conscious.
However, there were also some familiar names near the top of the list – Hyundai and Honda – though it’s Mitsubishi that takes the top prize economically speaking. Whether the sacrifice in power you have to make for that car is worth it is another question. Finally, remember that using a car loan is an option if you want to buy one of the more expensive cars on this list, though these loans come with interest that bumps up the price you pay.
FAQs about the most economical cars in Canada
An economical car is any car that combines a low cost for the vehicle with low costs for fuel, car insurance, and maintenance. Think of “economy” in this sense as the collection of costs, adding together to form a whole. In some cases, a car that is an absolute steal in terms of how much you pay at the dealership can sting you with ongoing costs that make it uneconomical.
According to our research, the Mitsubishi Mirage is the most economical car in Canada in 2023.
The 2023 Chevrolet Bolt is likely Canada’s most economical electric car. It has a reasonable starting price of $26,500 and manages 18.3 kWh per 100km, meaning you pay $1.86 (and change) for every 100km of driving if we use the figures described in the article.
Electric cars are usually more fuel efficient than gas-powered cars for the simple fact that you’ll spend less money to drive further with an electric car. If we refer to our figures from the article and apply them to the kWh per 100km of the Chevrolet Bolt, you only pay $1.86 to drive 100km. Even the most fuel-efficient gas-powered cars can only manage in the region of 6 litres per 100km, with a litre of regular unleaded costing $1.485. Unfortunately, that fuel efficiency often comes at the cost of a higher price, though you can mitigate this somewhat with a car lease.
This really comes down to the car because diesel and gas cost almost the same, at least in Ontario where diesel costs $1.49 per litre and gas is $1.485. You must consider every other aspect of the vehicle, from its sale price to your maintenance costs, to figure out which is better for your bank balance.
It all depends on which hybrids you stack up against which electric cars. In this list, we see a pair of EVs that are more economical than the Toyota Prius. But the Kia Niro is more economical than either of the EVs. Let’s call this one a draw.
You’ll usually spend less to run a hybrid car than you will a purely gas-powered car. However, those lower running costs may be outweighed by the hybrid’s higher overall cost.
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