Economical cars

Trying to find the most economical cars? Our experts have put together lists of cars below that all come with impressive fuel economy built in. They achieve great miles per gallon thanks to a combination of their modern engines, lightweight materials and aerodynamic shape. Here, our experts bring together a selection of the best economical cars on the market.

Who doesn't like getting more miles per gallon? The best economical cars on the list below are practical, comfortable and great at what they are designed to do. Pick the right engine and you should see excellent fuel economy too.

1
Skoda

The Skoda Citigo is a little city car that provides big value for money, as well as a lot more space than you might expect. There are two petrol engines to choose from and both are cheap to run.

2
Ford

The Focus is superb to drive, has a decent amount of space for its size and comes with the latest driving tech. Pick either the 125hp 1.0-litre petrol petrol or 120hp 1.5-litre diesel and you should manage excellent fuel economy too.

3
Volvo

The Volvo XC40 is a small SUV that has funky styling and is comfortable to drive while inside, it’s smart looking and spacious. It can be an economical SUV too, if you choose either and the T3 petrol or D3 diesel.

4
Skoda

The seven-seat Skoda Kodiaq might be a surprising addition to a list of economical cars, but if you need a big car, the Kodiaq is pretty good on fuel, especially if you go for the 150hp 1.4 petrol or 190hp 2.0-litre diesel.

5
Volkswagen

Comfortable, practical and with a distinctly upmarket feel, the Volkswagen Polo has all the ingredients to make a great small car. Opt for a car with the 95hp 1.0-litre engine and you can expect pretty decent fuel economy too.

Buying an economical car means buying something small and undesirable, right? Well, no – and these are the cars to prove it. Every one of the cars below officially returns at least 50mpg in their most frugal forms. But, you still have your pick of everything from the expected city car to fun family hatchback and a large SUV with space for seven people onboard.

1
Peugeot
208

Average mpg: 67.3

The new Peugeot 208 shows a keenly priced cheap-to-run car doesn't need to be as dull as ditchwater. It's striking on the outside and stylish on the inside, and if you go for the 100hp petrol you get a combination of peppy performance and great fuel economy that's hard to argue with.

2
Toyota

Average mpg: 57.7

Remember the old Toyota Auris? Nope, didn't think you would. This new Corolla, though, it's a different proposition. It has space-age looks that hint at its high-tech 1.8-litre petrol-electric drivetrain, which will easily get more than 50mpg even in town. The good things about the old Auris have been carried over, though, including its bombproof build quality.

3
Ford

Average mpg: 80.7

It might not look like it but this is indeed the all-new, ever-so-slightly-more striking, Ford Focus. Compared to the old model it gets vastly improved infotainment and more interior space. Go for a 1.5-litre diesel and you'll also get fuel economy of more than 60mpg without even trying. The best thing, though, is that the `Focus is as great to drive as it's always been.

4
Skoda

Average mpg: 52.3

If there was a blueprint for designing a great family car the Skoda Kodiaq would get close to matching it. It's handsomely styled on the outside and hugely practical on the inside, plus you get infotainment that's a doddle to use. Light controls and decent visibility mean the Skoda's an easy car to drive and it's also a comfortable motorway cruiser. Choose the 150hp diesel and you can expect to get close to 50mpg fuel economy – impressive for such a large car.

5
BMW

Average mpg: 138

The BMW 3 Series is about as close to perfection as you can get. You do pay a premium price, but on the inside, the BMW feels like a premium car with a smart design, expensive feel and excellent infotainment. There's also plenty of room for four and a big boot. Choose the PHEV model and you get a car capable of returning spectacular fuel economy – so long as you have somewhere to charge it – yet it's still great to drive, just like every other 3 Series.

6
Volkswagen

Average mpg:61.4

The Volkswagen Polo has a long list of all-round abilities that make a decathlete look one dimensional: it's reasonably priced but solidly built; small, yet surprisingly spacious inside; eager in corners, but also very comfortable for a small car. To complement it best, choose the 95hp 1.0-litre petrol engine which provides nippy performance but plus-50mpg fuel economy.

7
Peugeot

Average mpg:55.4

The Peugeot 3008 combines SUV practicality with eye-popping styling. Even the interior looks great thanks to a combination of huge infotainment screens and tweed-style fabric trims, while the square body shape translates into a spacious cabin. For a relaxing drive choose the 130hp diesel mated to Peugeot's eight-speed automatic gearbox – a combination that'll return fuel economy of more than 60mpg.

8
Skoda

Average mpg: 56.5

The Skoda Scala does what Skoda does best – offering you a car that's cheaper to buy and has more space inside than any of its direct alternatives. It offers rear legroom that makes other car's this size go red-faced, has a bewildering number of smaller storage areas scattered around the cabin and a large, square boot. It even feels well built and has an infotainment system that is logical to use. The Scala isn't a barrel of laughs to drive but it is comfortable and the 115hp petrol engine gives 50mpg and nippy performance.

9
Volkswagen

Average mpg: 58.9

Who said cheap-to-run cars need to be slow and boring? Well, it certainly wasn't the VW Up GTI. It looks like a hot hatch that's shrunk in a 60-degree wash thanks to its dinky body kit, alloy wheels and red decals. And there are nice touches inside, too, like its tartan seat upholstery. You'll even squeeze four adults in there. The Up's 1.0-litre petrol engine might only have 115hp but in a car this small it's plenty and the VW corners like a terrier chasing a squirrel. Of course, the small engine's also cheap to run with 50mpg readily achievable.

10
Toyota

Average mpg: 83.1

The Toyota Prius was the world's first mass-produced hybrid and the expertise Toyota's built up over the years shows in this latest model. It'll happily crack 80mpg even in town, which is very impressive, and its comfort means it is a car you could happily drive all day – just as well because there are plenty of Uber drivers who do just that. The space-age looks of the outside carry on inside and the Prius has room for four adults and a boot that'll carry a fortnight's worth of luggage.

FAQs

Despite cars getting ever-more economical, getting good fuel economy is still one of the top concerns for drivers today.

Taking into account that some journeys are always going to be worse for fuel economy than others – you'll never get particularly high figures stuck in London traffic, for example – there are still things you can do to add a few more mpg to your tally.

Read through the tips below to see what you can do to save some money on fuel and make every journey just a little more economical.

Plan ahead

Getting stuck in traffic is always frustrating but it's even more frustrating when you're needlessly burning fuel at the same time. You can minimise wasting fuel by planning ahead. Whether you're driving to work or taking a long journey on holiday, don't just rely on your sat-nav – take a look at a map beforehand so you can skip onto a different route should yours become clogged. Keeping moving is more time-efficient, and good for mpg too. The Waze app (available for Android and Apple smartphones) is good at showing tailbacks and suggesting alternative routes.

Set off early

Even the best-laid plans can fall through sometimes, but giving yourself more time at the start of a trip means you'll have less to make up if you're delayed along the way. Regular motorway drivers will know how easy it is to lose well over an hour to unforeseen traffic jams. If you set off earlier, you may miss the traffic entirely, or at least make sure you don't need to drive too quickly later, burning more fuel. Getting stressed because of delays is a natural human reaction, and stressed-out driving is never going to be economical driving.

Pump up your tyres

Keeping your tyres in good condition and inflated to the correct pressure is vital – let them deflate too much and they'll affect ride and handling, dry- and wet-weather grip, and potentially cause overheating that can lead to blowouts. That's not all – an under-inflated tyre also creates more drag, harming your fuel economy. Want to know the ideal pressure? It's usually printed on a label inside one of the front door apertures. Depending on where your car was made, you may need to convert the listed pressure from bar to pounds per square inch (PSI).

Keep your car serviced

The phrase "a well-oiled machine" exists for a reason – machines work much better when they're in tip-top shape. Overlook maintenance and your engine, gearbox, suspension and other components will suffer. With poor alignment, or greater friction in the engine from lack of proper lubrication, you have to work your car harder to make progress, and fuel economy drops. Not to mention the increased risk of breaking down. Technically speaking if you're not moving then you're getting zero miles per gallon…

Read the road

Do you find yourself braking sharply for every traffic light? Chances are you've not read the road situation, and it's affecting your fuel economy. If you're approaching a green light at quite a distance, chances are it'll go red before you reach it – so why not back off the accelerator early and save some fuel? Same applies when leaving a motorway on a slip road - you'll have to stop at the top anyway, so why accelerate hard from behind that truck? Always think about what the road ahead might mean for your progress, and drive accordingly.

Anticipate traffic

This is an extension of reading the road. If you find yourself stopping at a roundabout even when there's nothing coming around, you've not been looking far enough ahead. Watch what other road users are doing, and you'll find you don't need to vary your speed as much. Cruising along steadily is great for economy, but constantly slowing down and having to speed up again is not.

Drive smoothly

Another extension of the above. Economical driving doesn't have to mean driving slowly, it just means appropriate use of acceleration and braking. If you can conserve momentum (in safety) then you won't just see the benefits in fuel use; your passengers will thank you for the smoother ride. Treat the pedals and the wheel as analog instruments, rather than on-off switches. Note: brake when you have to – taking that mini roundabout at 60mph isn't smooth driving.

Watch your speed

It should come as no surprise that higher speeds mean using more fuel. Particularly at motorway velocities, more speed means more aerodynamic drag. In our years of testing cars we've noticed it's not uncommon to see a 10 mpg difference in economy between 70mph and 80mph. You may find travelling a little slower less stressful too, because getting stuck behind slower traffic means you slow less than if you were bombing along quickly – beat the traffic jam using psychology!

Use cruise!

One way of improving your economy on the motorway is to use cruise control. A skilled driver can actually make be even more economical without it, but for most drivers it's a way of preventing yourself creeping over speed limits and with cruise control's smooth throttle inputs, economy can improve too.

Buy a more fuel-efficient car...

Not an option for everyone of course, but it's worth pointing out that the economy of cars is improving all the time. You might be surprised how fuel-efficient the latest version of the car you're already driving is, or what alternatives are available from other manufacturers. Volkswagen, Peugeot, Renault, Citroen and more all offer cars that, on paper at least, have mpg figures in the high 80s and low 90s. Driven using some of the tips above, you could see a five, ten, or even twenty mpg boost over your current vehicle. And what's that worth over the course of a car's lifetime?