With the cost of living spiralling, it’s no wonder more and more car buyers are making fuel economy their top priority. In the past, that meant choosing a diesel model, but with diesels now falling out of favour, many more buyers are opting for petrol instead.
The obvious question to ask, therefore, is: can one get an economical petrol car to avoid having to choose a diesel? The answer is yes – though even the most fuel-efficient petrol engines can’t quite match up to the best diesels. Mind you, you might be surprised just how close they can get.
You’ll see what we mean when you read this count-down of the top 10 most fuel-efficient pure petrol models on sale in the UK today. We’ve ranked them by their official WLTP combined fuel consumption figures; while these might not reflect what you’ll be actually able to get out of these cars on the road, they do at least allow for comparison, as they’re all obtained under the same test conditions.
We’ve also excluded plug-in hybrids, because while they boast impressive official figures, these are entirely dependent on how much charge they have and, therefore, how frequently they’re plugged in. We’ve left out full hybrids, too – look out for a similar article devoted specifically to these coming soon – but we’ve included mild hybrids, because this more basic hybrid technology is now standard on many petrol cars.
So if petrol is your fuel of choice, but you want to maximise your fuel efficiency, then settle back, grab a warm beverage, and allow us to count down the most economical petrol cars on sale today.
Most fuel-efficient petrol cars
10. Skoda Fabia
The Fabia is the definition of a sensible small car, with lots of space, a comfortable ride and a well-made interior. Granted, it lacks sparkle – the plastics inside are all rather dour, and the handling is neutral and crisp rather than involving – but the Fabia’s common-sense usability and practicality make it a brilliant way of getting around. What’s more, even in its most efficient form you get a gutsy little turbocharged engine that makes it a doddle to drive.
Most economical version: 1.0 TSI 95 SE Comfort
Fuel economy: 55.7mpg
List price: from £18,350
7=. Mazda 3 Saloon
It is to Mazda’s credit that the 3 makes this list. After all, every other car here is a small car with a little engine – yet the 3 is a smart, family-sized saloon with a comparatively vast power figure. That shows you just how clever its engine is, combining mild hybrid power and an electric supercharger to eke out incredible fuel economy. Interestingly, this body style is more efficient than the hatchback version, which falls just outside our Top 10, but no matter which model you choose, the 3 is beautifully finished inside, and it feels great to drive. The only downside is that that engine doesn’t actually feel all that powerful in use – you have to really rev it to get the best from it.
Most economical version: 2.0 e-Skyactiv X 186 SE-L Lux Saloon
Fuel economy: 56.5mpg
List price: from £26,265
7=. Hyundai i10
Hyundai’s tiddler is one of the most complete city cars on the market, with a smart cockpit, plenty of space, and a decent-sized boot. That it’s also really quite enjoyable to drive is the icing on the cake. This version even comes with a few basic necessities, and there’s a five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty thrown in. Granted, the 1.0-litre engine in its least powerful form is a bit of a slowcoach – but if you’re after a cheap and cheerful urban runaround, it’s hard to beat.
Most economical version: 1.0 MPI 67 SE
Fuel economy: 56.5mpg
List price: from £13,430
7=. Ford Fiesta
Ford’s mild hybrid technology pays dividends here, because not only is the Fiesta one of the most efficient small cars on sale in the UK today, but it’s the second most powerful in this list. That means you get all the benefit of its brilliantly punchy little turbocharged engine, while also keeping your fuel bills to a minimum. Add to that the Fiesta’s delightful handling and comfortable ride, and a generous equipment list, and this is easily one of the most satisfying ways there is to save money.
Most economical version: 1.0T Ecoboost 125 MHEV Titanium
Fuel economy: 56.5mpg
List price: from £22,015
6. Peugeot 208
The latest 208 is one of the most stylish small cars on sale today, both inside and out. Not only does it turn heads on the street with its neat profile and smart lighting, but when you climb aboard, you’re greeted with an upmarket-looking dashboard replete with neat design cues. Its 1.2-litre turbocharged engine is sweet, too, and with slick handling, it makes the 208 pretty good fun to drive, even if it isn’t ultimately as grin-inducing as the Fiesta.
Most economical version: 1.2 Puretech 100 Active Premium
Fuel economy: 56.7mpg
List price: from £19,080
5. Suzuki Ignis
There are few more extrovert city cars than the Suzuki Ignis. With quirky looks that reference both SUVs and the classic Suzuki SC100 ‘Whizzkid’, it stands out from the crowd of more ordinary town-bound tin boxes. But its odd profile isn’t purely superficial: the tall roofline creates plenty of space inside, while the sliding rear seat allows you to extend the boot space while retaining the ability to mount a child seat in the back. It’s fun, funky and practical, in other words – not to mention extremely frugal.
Most economical version: 1.2 Dualjet Mild Hybrid SZ3
Fuel economy: 58.0mpg
List price: from £14,749
4. Toyota Aygo X
Like the Ignis, the third-generation Toyota Aygo has a strong whiff of the SUV about it, and gains an ‘X’ after its name to underline that fact. But all the qualities that have made the Aygo so popular in the past remain: distinctive styling, a solid reliability record, a zippy engine and pert handling. What’s more, even this entry-level model gets air conditioning and automatic headlights, so it doesn’t feel too Spartan. And as with all Toyotas, if you keep it maintained at a main dealer, you can get the warranty extended to as much as 10 years.
Most economical version: 1.0 72 Pure
Fuel economy: 58.8mpg
List price: from £14,805
2=. Kia Picanto
This latest Picanto is starting to look a little long in the tooth, but the qualities that once made it our favourite small car remain: there’s a high-quality interior with a surprising amount of space, reassuringly crisp handling and a comfortable ride. OK, this weedy 1.0-litre engine is pretty gutless, and the entry-level spec is pared-back in terms of equipment, but it manages extraordinary fuel economy, and of course, the Picanto gets a seven-year warranty. So if dinky dimensions and penny-pinching fuel economy matter most, this is the one.
Most economical version: 1.0 DPI ISG 1
Fuel economy: 58.9mpg
List price: from £11,810
2=. Mazda 2
Mazda’s second entry into this list comes in the form of the smart little 2. It isn’t a particularly popular small car, but we can’t work out why – it’s handsome and well-built inside, and it’s good fun to drive. Perhaps buyers are put off by the cramped rear seats and the small boot. Mind you, if you can live with those downsides, the payoff is incredible fuel economy of the sort you’d be happy to see from a diesel, never mind a petrol. And you don’t need to live a life of penury, either, because the 2 is well equipped, with cruise control, climate control and sat-nav all standard even on this very reasonably-priced entry-level model.
Most economical version: 1.5 Skyactiv G 75 SE-L
Fuel economy: 58.9
List price: from £17,205
1. Suzuki Swift
Here it is, then: the most economical petrol car on sale in Britain today. The Swift is helped to this deeply impressive achievement by its mild hybrid engine, which features a small electric motor to help the petrol engine along. But this isn’t the automotive equivalent of a hair shirt; in fact, the Swift is smart to look at and pretty good fun to drive, with zippy handling and good throttle response. It isn’t the most spacious small car, and neither is it the highest quality – but if you want to drive a petrol car and need the most efficient there is, this is it.
Most economical version: 1.2 Dualjet Mild Hybrid SZ-L
Fuel economy: 59.7mpg
List price: from £15,499
This article has been updated with the latest information.
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