Lots of factors come into a car’s cost – purchase price, the amount of road tax you pay, the amount of fuel you use and wear-and-tear. The price of petrol might seem to only go one way but, with the development of ever-more efficient technology, there are lots of cars that use a fraction of what cars did a few decades ago.
Here are the best cars that won’t make you wince at the pumps or, in some cases, don’t use a pump at all. Unsurprisingly, a lot of them are lightweight city cars with fuel-sipping engines but, with hybrid and electric power, some bigger cars also feature here.
Fancy cutting your running costs? Our car configurator will get you the best prices, direct from leading dealers.
The Toyota Aygo is a real head turner, especially if you opt for one of the eye-grabbing colours. Although room is limited in the rear, there’s more than enough space for two in the front to travel in comfort – even the most basic models come with a generous specification and the dashboard is just as funky as the body.
Its 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine means up to 69mpg is achievable. You won’t be paying any road tax either, thanks to the engine producing less than 100g/km of CO2. It’s small, but has just enough punch to nip through gaps in traffic – critics describe the engine as “willing”.
If you want a thrifty purchase price that matches its running costs, our Toyota Aygo configurator will save you money, direct from the UK’s best Toyota dealers.
The SEAT Ibiza is cheaper than its sister car the Volkswagen Polo but is just as well made and offers the same efficient engines. Although it isn’t the roomiest supermini, you won’t be wanting for kit – the infotainment system is one of the best on the market. The latest facelift adds to its appeal and the ride is among the best in class both on motorways and around town.
Fitted with SEAT’s 1.4-litre EcoMotive diesel engine, it’s one of the most efficient and frugal cars on this list. It’s not what you’d call fast, but it manages to return an astonishing 83mpg so you could cover more than 800 miles on a single fill-up – quite a feat for a supermini. With these figures, it’s easy to forget about tax, but you’ll be glad to know that there’s nothing to pay there, either.
If you think it’s for you, use our SEAT Ibiza configurator and let carwow get you the best price on a new one – users have saved on average £1,500 off their new Ibizas.
The Dacia Sandero has the accolade of being the cheapest new car currently on sale in the UK. With prices from just £5,995, it’s plain to see why it’s become a popular choice. The 1.2-litre petrol will achieve over 50mpg and you’ll pay just £30 in tax. Combined with the low purchase price, it’s a very cheap way to get on the road in a new car.
The 1.5-litre diesel is even more efficient – fuel economy is just under 75mpg, and it produces less than 100g/km of CO2 meaning there’ll be no tax to pay. If you pick it, you have to step up to the next trim level which adds over £2,000 to the list price. Whether the extra efficiency and equipment warrants the extra price is down to you, but either option won’t leave you out of pocket.
Use our Dacia Sandero configurator to get the best deals straight from leading Dacia dealers.
For those that want tiny running costs but are less concerned with the purchase price, look no further than the BMW i8. This pioneering hybrid is BMW’s latest sports car and it’s just as, if not more capable than the thoroughbred M3. It takes just 4.4 seconds to reach 60mph from rest and hits an electronically-limited 155mph. This is thanks to a 1.5-litre petrol engine that works alongside a 140hp pair of electric motors.
It has supercar-like performance figures, but the running costs are anything but – 134mpg is claimed to be achievable and you won’t pay any road tax. Don’t forget, the Government’s electric car grant will see you get a further £5,000 off the list price. That said, it’ll still come at a hefty £99,000.
The Hyundai i10 is one of the comfiest city cars you can buy – something models this size sometimes struggle with. Its relatively roomy interior, five-year warranty and respectable refinement make it easy to drive for long periods and, while it’s not as engaging as some rivals, its tranquil approach to motoring makes it very easy to live with.
Its 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol produces 66hp and claims to return 65mpg. For those that do more motorway miles, the 87hp 1.2-litre takes a lot less time to get up to speed, while achieving almost the same fuel economy.
Use our Hyundai i10 configurator to get the best deals from our top-rated dealers.
The Vauxhall Corsa has seen four generations of development, and it shows in the latest model. The interior has a distinctly built-to-last feel and is now on par with the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta. Equipment has improved too – you’ll find a fantastic infotainment system on most models, along with Vauxhall’s pioneering OnStar system.
The best economy comes from the 1.3-litre diesel engine. It’ll manage a whopping 88mpg if you drive with care but, with 114hp, it’ll be a better choice than some rivals on the motorway. Like most on the list, it qualifies for free road tax, too.
Use our Vauxhall Corsa configurator to see how much you could save off a new one, straight from trusted Vauxhall dealers.
It’s no surprise to find the well-known Toyota Prius on this list – it’s fantastically frugal thanks to its well-developed hybrid system. In addition, it gets lots of equipment and a very relaxed, comfortable driving experience.
It uses a 1.8-litre petrol engine in conjunction with an electric motor to return up to 130mpg on plug-in hybrid models. Even the non-plug-in version can average more than 70mpg.
Our Toyota Prius configurator will help you find you the best deals, straight from leading Toyota dealers.
The Fiat 500 is a car that combines cute retro looks with modern efficiency. From all angles, there’s no mistaking this for any other car on the road. Its recent facelift has brought both exterior and interior upgrades.
The 0.9-litre turbo petrol is available with either 85hp or 105hp and both feel spritely enough to be at home on the motorway. The former though, will see fuel economy hit 74mpg and is free to tax. Thanks to its two-cylinder thrum, it’s a fun little thing to drive.
Use our Fiat 500 configurator to see savings on a new one, straight from the UK’s best Fiat dealers.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a well-built SUV with a difference. Alongside its well equipped interior and good looks it’s also the cheapest SUV to run thanks to the use of hybrid technology. A recent mid-life update has resulted in a more dynamic and pleasant driving experience thanks to beefed-up front suspension and tweaks to the steering.
For economy though, the PHEV is in a class of its own. Around town you’ll find it runs silently and smoothly using its electric motor, while the 2.0-litre petrol unit is used to give impressive acceleration and performance when necessary. It’ll use a mixture of the two most of the time, resulting in a theoretical 130mpg. It also offers four-wheel drive meaning you get the all-weather performance of its rivals. You also get £5,000 off a PHEV when you buy one thanks to the Government electric car grant.
To save even more, use our Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV configurator to get the best offers from dealers across the country.
The Nissan Leaf is incredibly cheap to run thanks to its all-electric drivetrain. Being completely reliant on electric power hasn’t resulted in a loss of practicality, however – there’s room for five inside the capacious interior. It’s well-equipped too, coming with features such as an infotainment system, air conditioning and sat nav on all models.
The latest Leafs are now capable of 155 miles between charges. If it’s range that’s putting you off an electric car, our guide will help put your mind at ease. It’ll take a few hours to charge up at home, but there’s an ever-growing network of fast charging points. Use one of these and you’ll be fully charged in under an hour. For those that don’t undertake mammoth motorway slogs, the Nissan Leaf will be one of the most practical and cheap cars you can run.
Use our Nissan Leaf configurator to see savings, straight from the UK’s best Nissan dealers.
If you’re interested in any of the above cars, put them in our car configurator to see the best deals. If you want to learn more about a specific car, head to our reviews section. Struggling to pick one? Our car chooser can help narrow down your choice.