What are the most economical cars?
When we talk about fuel efficiency, we’re talking about the good old MPG – or, miles per gallon, in full. It measures how far can you get in a car on just a single gallon of fuel (that’s around 4.5 litres). This can be anywhere from just 11 miles to, well, that’d give the game of this article away.
Most petrol-engine cars have to play second fiddle to diesel cars when it comes to economy, because diesels are the best at sipping fuel. But since most British buyers prefer petrol cars these days, below, we'll run through the best cars out there from both worlds, starting with petrols.
Before we get going, we should probably explain that a car’s fuel economy will vary depending on who’s behind the steering wheel, because we all have different driving styles. However, for fairness, the following cars are all listed by their official average fuel economy rating, which is now measured using the Worldwide harmonised light-duty vehicles test procedure (WLTP):
The most fuel-efficient petrol cars on sale
1. BMW 330e – 217.3mpg330e – 217.3mpg
Here’s proof that economical cars don’t have to be boring - the 330e uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine and an electric motor that give it powerful acceleration and impressive economy – it can cover 37 miles on electric power but you’ll need to plug it in regularly for that to happen. As with the rest of the BMW 3 Series range, the interior is high quality and is filled with tech.
2. Toyota Prius– 67.0mpg– 67.0mpg
Toyota offers both self-charging and plug-in hybrid versions of its Prius, with the latter providing the better official economy of 235.4mpg, so long as you can keep the battery topped up. The self charging Prius, which doesn’t use a plug, is cheaper as a used buy and returns close to 70mpg – and you should be able to get close to that in the real world. The plug-in Prius can run for up to short distances on electric power alone and it has a roomy, well equipped interior.
3. Suzuki Swift – 64.0mpg – 64.0mpg
Every version of the current Swift supermini uses Suzuki's ‘Boosterjet’ hybrid engine. In this case it’s a mild hybrid, which helps to take some of the electrical strain off the petrol engine. Since its electric power is 'mild', the car can’t run on pure electric power alone, but you still get better economy over a standard petrol engine with the added shove.
4. Toyota Corolla Touring Sports 1.8 Hybrid – 63.8mpg Touring Sports 1.8 Hybrid – 63.8mpg
The Corolla disappeared from the UK for a few years, but now it’s back and better than ever. This is the estate version and both it and the hatchback are good to drive, with nicely-judged suspension and handling. Every version is well equipped, there’s a choice of two petrol-hybrid engines, and it makes a cracking used buy.
5. Hyundai IONIQ – 60.0mpg – 60.0mpg
As with the Toyota Prius, there’s a self-charging hybrid version of the IONIQ, but the plug-in hybrid version is better value as a used buy. It also has lots of standard equipment, has a larger boot than the Prius, and official economy is still good, even if not quite as good as the Toyota’s.
The most fuel-efficient diesel cars on sale
1. Mercedes-Benz E300 de – 217.3mpg E300 de – 217.3mpg
No, we haven’t made a mistake – this is a plug-in hybrid diesel with a frankly astonishing official economy figure. You’ll need to keep the car’s battery topped up to achieve it. Do that and you’ll be able to run on electric power for 33 miles, according to Mercedes.
2. Peugeot 208 1.5 Blue HDi – 71.4mpg1.5 Blue HDi – 71.4mpg
Launched in 2019, this is one of the sharper-looking superminis out there, with 5 doors, fancy LED lights and a 1.5-litre diesel engine that’ll return more than 70mpg, officially. The baby Peugeot’s interior is equally interesting, with a very slickly executed dashboard, including instruments that you view over the steering wheel, rather than through it.
3. Vauxhall Corsa 1.5 Turbo D – 70.6mpg1.5 Turbo D – 70.6mpg
It’s no coincidence that the 2019 Corsa shares its good looks with the Peugeot – both brands fall under the Stellantis umbrella. The Corsa also shares the Peugeot’s engine and other oily bits, which explains why its economy figure is so similar.
4. Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI SE – 68.9mpg 2.0 TDI SE – 68.9mpg
Just about any version of the Octavia is a cracking family car, thanks to masses of interior space (including a huge boot, especially on the Estate model), but this version also adds terrific economy to its repertoire. It’s not the most powerful engine but it has a lot of torque, which means you’ll be able to leave it in top gear on the motorway and cruise without having to change down much.
5. Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI – 68.9mpg2.0 TDI – 68.9mpg
A bit like the Peugeot and Vauxhall, above, the Skoda and VW share many parts. This version of the Mk8 Golf has the same 115bhp diesel engine and six-speed manual gearbox. It’s not as roomy as the Octavia inside, but it feels more premium, with digital instruments on most versions and a large infotainment screen.
More cinch content