Petrol cars are making a comeback against their diesel counterparts. They’re increasingly efficient, often smoother than diesels and usually a better choice if you do short journeys, lots of town driving or just like a sporty feeling engine. Read our in-depth ‘should I buy a petrol or diesel car‘ guide for more info, or read on for our favourite petrol cars of 2018, as rated by carwow’s car experts.
Ford has somehow managed to improve the already impressive Fiesta with this more luxurious new version. The old car’s dated, button-fest interior has been replaced with an easier-to-use dashboard, it’s quieter on a motorway schlep and the choice of engines. The 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine is a real zinger, kicking out a healthy 100hp and – if you go for the manual gearbox – offering up to 66mpg. It’s the best of both worlds, and is a great match for the Fiesta’s super-sweet fun handling.
Like the Fiesta, the Polo has been recently updated, and its combination of classy styling, a well-built cabin and grown-up driving experience makes it one of the best small cars out there. Out of the Polo’s petrol engines, the sweet spot is the 95hp 1.0-litre turbo – the lower-powered engines are adequate for town driving but start to struggle up hills or on motorways. The more powerful 115hp model is a bit too expensive to recommend and the extra power over the 95hp engine just isn’t really needed. At the time of writing, the 95hp model is also more than £2,000 cheaper than the 115hp version, and is frugal enough to reach 63mpg.
Kia’s first attempt at a small SUV may not be quite as polished as some alternatives, but it has a lot going for it. It’s handsome, if slightly less conspicuous than the Hyundai Kona or Nissan Juke, benefits from Kia’s unbeaten seven-year warranty, and is more spacious than the Rio that it’s based on. The Stonic is very easy to drive and comfortable, and the 118hp 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine is nippy enough while returning a claimed 57mpg.
The Tiguan is a great family SUV with smart looks, a well-built interior and a raised seating position that gives you a smug secure feeling. It comes with some great petrol engines too, including a 1.4-litre petrol engine with two power outputs and a 180hp 2.0-litre model that is only necessary if you are towing. Go for the 1.4-litre, 150hp front-wheel-drive manual model, and the Tiguan will manage up to 49mpg while being quiet and serene at a cruise. As a family SUV, it’s one of the best all-rounders on sale.
Skoda Octavia Estate
Besides doubling the headlight count, the facelifted Octavia Estate isn’t too different to the previous model. That’s not a bad thing at all, mind you, because the Octavia was already a polished and competent car that undercut the price of the VW Golf while offering much more space. The Octavia shares the Golf’s 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine, and 150hp is available should you need to use all of it. Promising up to 55mpg is one of the engine’s plus points, and it’s also a great cruiser and perky enough when you put your foot down.
A few years ago, 182hp would have been hot-hatch territory, but that’s how much the 1.5-litre turbo in the newest Honda Civic produces. It’s pretty quick, silky smooth and gets a claimed 50mpg. It helps cement the Civic’s position as a great family car with loads of boot space. Just make sure you pick a manual version – the CVT automatic gearbox is noisy when you accelerate and, to rub salt into the wound, rather expensive.
We named the Skoda Kodiaq one of our favourite cars of because Skoda’s first big SUV is a real gem. It’s a clever, practical and family-focused SUV that’s also well-built, handsome and comfortable. The pick of the engines is the 1.4-litre petrol that’s also in the Tiguan above, as well as cars including the Audi A1 and SEAT Leon – showing the real breadth of ability this engine has. It might sound underpowered in a large car like the Kodiaq, but it has plenty of oomph and is even quite efficient.
Audi A5 Sportback
If you’re after a luxurious feeling, smooth, refined car, the Audi A5 Sportback ticks all the boxes. More practical than the A5 coupe and sportier than the A4, the Sportback treads a happy medium and the 2.0-litre petrol is a good companion. If you’re doing lots of miles then you might still be better off with a diesel but the A5’s 2.0-litre petrol with 190hp and claimed 50mpg economy is a great choice if you don’t spend your whole life on the motorway.
Volvo XC90 T8
You might not expect that the car on this list that’s exempt from London’s Congestion Charge is a huge seven-seat SUV, but the XC90’s T8 hybrid engine offers both silky smooth petrol power and silent electric running. It is considerably pricier than the rest of the range, but then it does also deliver 407hp and 134.5mpg – those figures and free travel through London might make the extra purchase price worthwhile. Inside, you’ll be surrounded by a sumptuous, calming interior and lots of technology. It’s a welcome riposte to the notion that all SUVs need to be sporty and uncomfy over bumps.
Toyota’s slimline sports car may only have around 200hp, but it shows that you don’t need heaps of power to have fun. Sitting on the same skinny eco tyres Toyota uses for the Prius, the GT86 is a lot of fun at legal speeds – good for your licence as well as no-claims bonus. The engineers set it up to be the best possible driver’s car, and they’ve really pulled it off. It’s not too bad on fuel because it’s so light and, with a starting price of £26,855 it’s reasonably good value too.
You could argue that the Audi TT looks too similar to its predecessor, but get inside it and you just won’t care. The interior is sublime, with a great driving position and Audi’s fantastic Virtual Cockpit system that projects your vital navigation, media and driving information onto a screen right in front of you. Go for the 2.0-litre turbo and you’ll have an engine to match the interior. It offers a surprisingly rapid 230hp and can manage up to 46mpg if you’re careful, and there’s also a quattro model with four-wheel-drive for security in all weathers.
Most of the time, you won’t need a thirsty V8 engine, which makes the V6 engine in Jaguar’s svelte F-Type all the more appealing. It’s cheaper and more fuel efficient than the big V8, and you won’t be sacrificing any of the F-Type’s stunning looks, surprising practicality and incredible driving experience. While it may not have the same interior quality as cars such as the Porsche 911, you’ll be having too much fun to notice when you blitz through a back road. If you are after a sports car, the V6 F-Type should definitely be on your list. Did we mention that it’s drop-dead gorgeous?
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