You don’t have to buy an electric car or a hybrid if you want to cut down on your monthly fuel bill. There are plenty of conventional petrol and diesel models that return impressive fuel economy and will help cut down on how often you have to visit the pumps. Read on for our most economical cars.
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[2018 update: The super-frugal Peugeot 208 clings on to first place on our list in 2018, ahead of the similarly efficient Renault Clio. The Honda Civic is a new entry in fifth place while the new VW Polo makes an appearance in eighth. If you’re looking for something a little more fun, the Ford Fiesta rounds of our top 10.]
Here are the most efficient cars on sale:
- Peugeot 208
- Renault Clio
- Vauxhall Astra
- Vauxhall Corsa
- Honda Civic
- Peugeot 308
- Nissan Micra
- Peugeot 2008
- VW Polo
- Ford Fiesta
1. Peugeot 208 – 94.2mpg
The Peugeot 208 is a small city car with smart looks and a stylish cabin. There are plenty of soft materials and its raised instruments and small steering wheel make it feel more special than the cabin in the more understated VW Polo. Adults won’t find the back seats too cramped, either, and the boot’s big enough for a large weekly shop.
It’s not particularly fun to drive, and other small cars are more comfortable, but the 208’s reasonably quiet at motorway speeds. As an added bonus, models with the 75hp 1.6-litre diesel engine return a claimed 94.2mpg.
2. Renault Clio – 88mpg
The Renault Clio is another compact French car that’s a doddle to drive and comes with a reasonably smart interior. The standard touchscreen infotainment system takes less getting used to than in some alternativess, and everything in the Clio’s simple, minimalist cabin is sensibly laid out and easy to use.
Sadly, the back seats are quite cramped and the Renault’s boot isn’t particularly practical – a large weekly shop will fit, but large bulky suitcases will be a squeeze. Pick a 1.5-litre diesel model with 90hp and the Clio claws back some points with an impressive claimed fuel economy of 88mpg.
3. Vauxhall Astra – 83mpg
The Vauxhall Astra is a comfortable small family car that comes with a relatively upmarket interior and lots of equipment as standard. Everything in its smart cabin is neatly laid out to make it as easy as possible to use and the Astra’s quieter than most alternatives at motorway speeds.
It doesn’t have quite as practical a boot as the likes of the VW Golf and very tall passengers might struggle for headroom in the back on long journeys. But, pick a 110hp 1.6-litre diesel model and the Astra will be very cheap to run – Vauxhall claims it’ll return 83mpg.
4. Honda Civic – 81mpg
If you’re looking for a practical family car that’s cheap to run and still relatively fun to drive, the Honda Civic’s definitely worth a look. It has a roomier boot than alternatives and its sporty suspension and precise steering make it surprisingly grin-inducing on a twisty country road.
Sadly, the frustrating infotainment system and slightly cheap-feeling materials mean it doesn’t feel particularly posh inside, and entry-level models don’t come with much standard equipment. Still, pick a 1.6-litre diesel model with 120hp and it’ll return a very impressive 81mpg, claims Honda.
5. Vauxhall Corsa – 81mpg
The Vauxhall Corsa is a small family car that’s easy to live with every day thanks to its smart, sensible cabin and decent levels of standard equipment. Even entry-level cars come with a seven-inch touchscreen with smartphone-mirroring features; and, five-door models are roomy enough inside to carry four adults for short distances without feeling too cramped.
The Corsa loses out to alternatives in terms of bootspace, however, and it isn’t quite as comfortable over rough roads as the likes of the VW Polo or as fun to drive as the Ford Fiesta. Pick a 1.3-litre diesel model with 95hp, though, and it’ll return a claimed 81mpg – that’s more than both these cars.
6. Peugeot 308 – 81mpg
The Peugeot 308 is a comfortable and stylish small family car that comes with a slick interior and a big boot. It has plenty of equipment as standard, including a 9.7-inch touchscreen with built-in sat-nav in all but entry-level models. The 308’s easy to drive, too, thanks to the light controls and large windows that give you a good view out.
Unfortunately, the Peugeot’s back seats aren’t as roomy as in a VW Golf and it isn’t as much fun to drive as a Vauxhall Astra, but it’s comfortable and quiet at motorway speeds and the frugal diesel engine will be very cheap to run. Peugeot claims this 131hp 1.5-litre diesel model will return 81mpg.
7. Nissan Micra – 81mpg
The Nissan Micra looks more futuristic than most small cars, both inside and out, thanks to its funky styling and sporty, minimalist interior. All Micras come with five doors, so passengers won’t have to climb into the back seats, and mid-range models get a reasonably intuitive seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with built-in satellite navigation.
Other cars are better if you regularly carry three passengers in the back seats, however, and the Micra is slightly more expensive than some alternative city cars. If you’re more interested in fuel economy than outright practicality, the 90hp 1.5-litre diesel Micra’s claimed 81mpg could be enough to swing it.
8. Peugeot 2008 – 76mpg
If you want a frugal new car and fancy a stylish SUV, you should consider the Peugeot 2008. It comes with a similar, minimalist cabin to the 208 and 308 models but it’s roomier, so adults won’t feel quite as cramped in the back.
The 2008’s odd small steering wheel and high-mounted instruments won’t be to everyone’s taste, however, and alternatives are better for carrying three passengers in the back and bulky luggage in the boot. But, if you choose a 75hp 1.6-litre diesel model, the 2008 will return a claimed 76mpg – that’s more than most other small SUVs.
9. VW Polo – 74mpg
The VW Polo is a very upmarket small car with a surprisingly spacious interior. There’s enough space in the back seats for adults to get comfortable and the boot is bigger than in some much larger cars. All Polos come with front and rear doors to make them easy to live with and they do a good job of softening bumps and potholes around town, too.
It isn’t quite as much fun to drive as some sportier small cars, however, and entry-level cars do without smartphone-mirroring on their eight-inch touchscreen. That said, SE models come with all the equipment you need. Pick a 1.6-litre diesel Polo with either 80hp or 95hp and, VW claims, it’ll return 74mpg.
10. Ford Fiesta – 74mpg
If you’re looking for a small, sporty car that’s easy to live with every day, the Ford Fiesta makes a good choice. It’s easy to drive around town and puts a big smile on your face on a twisty country road. There’s enough room in the back seats for adults – on short journeys at least – and its boot is easily big enough for a large weekly shop.
The Fiesta’s standard infotainment touchscreen isn’t as intuitive as what you get in a VW Polo, however, and the firm suspension that makes it feel sporty to drive doesn’t do a great job of ironing out bumps in the road. If fuel economy is more important to you than sporty handling, you’ll be pleased to hear 85hp 1.5-litre diesel models will return a claimed 74mpg.
Save money on your next car
If you’ve decided which frugal new car is your favourite, head over to our new car deals page to see how much you can save. Still not sure what car to buy? Read our lists of the 10 best small cars on sale and the 10 best family cars for a selection of alternatives.