Most economical UK petrol cars 2020

The most economical petrol cars promise excellent MPG with low running costs. Here are the 10 most frugal cars on sale now.

John Evans
Feb 13, 2020

If you’ve been shopping for a new car in recent months, you may have noticed a dramatic drop in published fuel economy figures. Since September 2018, car makers have been testing vehicles under a new, stricter economy test called World Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) and publishing the results in their brochures, in place of the old, higher but less realistic figures.

This new test follows the same lines as before, but it's now a much more comprehensive process, designed to provide figures that are more achievable on real roads. Consequently, published fuel economy figures are around 20% lower than were under the previous test format, the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC).

Inevitably, with a transition from old to new tests, there’s still lots of conflicting economy information flying around, with old and new figures quoted in different places. Today, all new car economy data must be WLTP-based, but old brochures or specification sheets will be showing the old NEDC figures - and sometimes it’s not always clear which is which.

Most economical petrol cars 2020

WLTP fuel economy test

WLTP stands for World Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). It's a new fuel economy test sanctioned by the EU and intended to produce more representative fuel consumption and CO2 emission figures than its predecessor, the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). 

Cars are tested in a laboratory for 30 minutes and over 14.4 miles at an average speed of 28.9mph and a maximum of 81mph.

The new test lasts 50% longer than before and the cars are tested over twice the distance. Speeds are higher and gear shifts made to suit the vehicle being tested rather than at set points. Acceleration and deceleration is more aggressive and engines put under a wider range of loads. Finally, to make things tougher still, the ambient temperature at which the car is tested is lower.

1. Peugeot 108

Latest Peugeot 108 deals from £12,580
Monthly finance from £202
WLTP combined economy 58.9mpg

The Peugeot 108 is one of a family of related city cars, the others being the Toyota Aygo and the Citroen C1. However, it is the most economical of the three. Its advantage is so small though that it shouldn't be your only criteria if you're trying to differentiate between them.

Other factors in its favour include its comfortable ride, equipment levels and scope for personalisation. On the downside, the 1.0-litre petrol engine is feeble and the rear seats are more cramped than rivals.

PEUGEOT 108 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Suzuki Celerio

Latest Suzuki Celerio deals from £4,400
Monthly finance from £85
WLTP combined economy
58.9mpg

Suzuki’s smallest car is a humble city-dweller designed to do the important things well. Despite being small, it has a roomy and practical interior and in every spec other than the entry-level one there is a competitive level of standard equipment. Its fuel economy figure is almost as good as the Peugeot 108, making it cheap to run, too.

If only the interior looked less low-rent and the steering were a little sharper and less vague it would be a lot more attractive.

SUZUKI CELERIO BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Toyota Aygo

Latest Toyota Aygo deals from £4,450
Monthly finance from £81
WLTP combined economy 57.7mpg

The Aygo doesn't quite achieve the class-leading economy of the closely related Peugeot 108, but under the new WLTP test, 57.7mpg isn't to be sniffed at. In any case, if you're swayed by its striking looks and that bold, X-shaped nose, the Aygo delivers on the road as well with agile handling.

The 1.0-litre petrol engines are lively too, and although the steering could be sharper and more direct. The back seats are a little cramped but cars like the Aygo are designed primarily for short, urban journeys so that’s unlikely to be an issue for most buyers.

TOYOTA AYGO BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Citroen C1

Latest Citroen C1 deals from £4,500
Monthly finance from £91

WLTP combined economy 57.3mpg

The C1 is the least economical in the Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 108 family, but in real-world terms the difference between all three of these cars is likely to be negligable.

Like its cousins, the C1 is nippy and easy to drive but it's cheaper than the other two. This lower price is evident in the car, however, as its interior is the lowest quality too, while it shares the same cramped rear seats as the Aygo and 108. When push comes to shove, issues such as styling and finance offers are likely to favour one over the other.

So, if you like the look of one of the three it's worth considering the other two as well, to see which suits your needs best.

CITROEN C1 BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Volkswagen Up

Latest Volkswagen Up deals from £4,950
Monthly finance from £90
WLTP combined economy 55.4mpg

The Up has the distinction of being the most economical in another trio of related city cars, sitting alongside the Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii. There’s not much in it but this greater fuel economy is one of several reasons why the VW is regarded as the most rounded of the three.

We also consider the Up to be more grown-up than either the Citigo or Mii, with a better interior and overall build quality, although it's still a trendy little car with an impressive breadth of ability. It has a small boot but so do they all. Prices are also a little higher to suit, so as with the 108-Aygo-C1 trio, it's worth considering which one suits you best.

VOLKSWAGEN UP BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Skoda Citigo

Latest Skoda Citigo deals from £4,499
Monthly finance from £91

WLTP combined economy 54.3mpg (1.0 MPi 60PS GreenTech)

The Skoda Citigo just trails the VW Up in the economy stakes. Their engines produce the same power but the Citigo is slightly more liberal with its fuel consumption. Nevertheless, it feels just as grown-up and mature as the Up, although its interior feels slightly less sophisticated than the Up, too. It’s an impression most keenly felt in the most basic Citigo, so it's worth opting for a higher specification version if this bothers you.

Otherwise, it’s cheap to run and has a surprisingly roomy interior with a very usefully sized boot for a car that's so small on the outside. The option of a variable boot floor raises the floor closer to the bottom of the boot opening, making it easier to load bulky or heavy items in, while leaving a hidden compartment beneath for additional luggage.

SKODA CITIGO BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Seat Mii

Seat Mii front

Latest Seat Mii deals from £4,400
Monthly finance from £86
WLTP combined economy 53.3mpg (1.0 12v 60PS Design)

The Seat Mii is the least economical of these three, if only by as much as 2mpg. It's a difference that could be easily overcome in the real world and a small enough difference that your driving style is likely to have more of an impact on the fuel economy you get.

In any case, the Mii has a welcome dose of styling flair while being just as comfortable and roomy. Downsides include the fact that the turbocharged petrol motor found in the VW Up isn't an option here and there’s no chance of an automatic either.

SEAT MII BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Seat Ibiza

Latest Seat Ibiza deals from £4,790
Monthly finance from £97
WLTP combined economy
53.3mpg (1.0 TSI 95PS SE)

The Seat Mii may trail its rivals slightly in terms of fuel economy, but the slightly larger Ibiza is the most economical in its class, with a a fuel economy equal to that of the Mii. That’s some achievement given that you gain a whole load of performance courtesy of the Ibiza's more powerful turbocharged engine (95hp compared with the Mii’s 60hp).

Along with its impressive economy the Ibiza is one of the best small cars available. It's stylish, practical and fun to drive. Unfortunately, poor equipment levels for the most basic models and questionable interior quality let it down. Strong value finance offers mean you could get a higher specification model for less than you think, however.

SEAT IBIZA BUYERS' GUIDE

9. VW Polo

Latest Volkswagen Polo deals from £6,000
Monthly finance from £117
WLTP combined economy 52.3mpg (SE 1.0 TSI 95 5dr)

Even with the same engine, the Volkswagen Polo lags behind the Ibiza in terms of fuel economy. It’s a close thing, though, and for most buyers a small enough difference to go unnoticed. Instead, people looking for a more mature driving experience and a better quality interior will find these elements in the Polo, albeit at a higher price.

The Polo is comfortable, if not entirely thrilling, which may turn off prospective buyers looking for a nippy and fun-to-drive supermini. Instead, it exudes a deep-down quality that no rival can match.

VOLKSWAGEN POLO BUYERS' GUIDE

10. Peugeot 208

Latest Peugeot 208 deals from £4,195
Monthly finance from £86
WLTP combined economy 51.5mpg (1.2 PureTech 82 S&S)

The 208 is the third most economical supermini in our list. Given it’s about to be replaced by an all-new model, it’s a remarkable achievement and bodes well for its replacement.

Of course, being close to the end of its life cycle, the 208 has started to feel dated inside, lacking some of the tech seen in its newer rivals. However, it still a good-looking car that’s refined and well equipped if not overly exciting. Our advice? Just concentrate on its impressive fuel economy or get a used model for very strong economy at a low price.

PEUGEOT 208 BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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