Best cars for mpg

Need to keep your fuel bills and running costs to a minimum? The best cars for mpg will do just that with infrequent trips to the pump

Joe Holding
Jan 11, 2021

A car that’s good on fuel is not only a win for your wallet - in most cases, it’s also good news for the environment. No one wants to pay more for fuel than you have to and that makes fuel economy so vital when it comes to buying a car.

Of course, the best cars for mpg not only sip fuel frugally and make the most out of a tank of petrol or diesel - they must also deliver in other ways too to be pleasant to live with.

Although diesel cars tend to cost a little more than petrol cars at first, their better fuel economy means that they’re more economical to run. That said, the phase-out of diesel and boom in hybrid technology in recent years means that many have switched to petrol-electric alternatives, and there are so many options to choose from now.

An increasingly popular type of hybrid is the PHEV (plug-in hybrid vehicle), which uses an electric motor and battery that charges much like a full electric car, but with the backup of a conventional petrol or diesel engine for long trips. The small battery tends to give only about 20-30 miles on electric power alone, but this will save you the fuel money most would waste on frequent short trips to the local shops.

The fuel efficiency figures for PHEVs look extremely good on paper, but remember that these are often inflated and don’t always accurately reflect real-world driving conditions. The heavy weight of hybrid vehicles’ systems means the petrol engine will be a lot less efficient than a conventional petrol-powered car once the battery has run out of charge.

For these reasons, we’ve excluded PHEVs from this list of the best cars for mpg. If your lifestyle suits what a hybrid can offer, check out our list of the best hybrids. You might even consider a fully electric car if you only do short trips around town, with some now covering 250 to 300 miles on a single charge without costing you anything in petrol or diesel.

If you’re after something a more traditional, tried and tested petrol or diesel car that returns great fuel economy figures without the magic of hybrid or electric technology, here are a few of our favourites.

Best cars for mpg

1. Hyundai i10

Our pick Hyundai i10 1.0 MPi
Used deals Limited stock

On account of their size, city cars are generally very fuel efficient, so if you just need something to get around in and aren’t so fussed about having lots of space, this is a great place to start. The new Hyundai i10 is one of the best for economy, with the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol version returning 56.5mpg on its official test.

With 67hp to play with, you’ll likely get close to this figure if most of your driving takes place around town. However, head out onto the motorway and the fuel economy will quickly drop as the little engine is forced to work harder to maintain speed. If you’re a regular motorway user, you’ll be better off with something more powerful.

The i10 has a smart design, and while the interior is a little dreary you do at least get a digital radio and a 3.8-inch media display as standard. Some trims upgrade this to an 8.8-inch display that connects to Apple and Android smartphones.

HYUNDAI I10 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Peugeot 208

Our pick Peugeot 208 1.5 BlueHDi
Used deals Limited stock

The latest Peugeot 208 is one of the best superminis around, thanks to its striking looks and great performance across its engine line-up.

Of those, the 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel can deliver up to 71.4mpg according to official tests, making it one of the most frugal small cars you can buy. Producing 100hp, the diesel is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox and will hit 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds, making it perfectly nippy for all types of driving.

Admittedly it’s one of the more expensive cars in its class, so it’s worth looking at rival models to find that sweet spot between purchase price and fuel economy. Barely-used, nearly-new cars are starting to appear on the used market for less than £17,000 or £270 per month on a PCP finance deal. The 208 is still a very new car, though, so expect those used prices to tumble as older models become available.

3. Toyota C-HR Hybrid

Our pick Toyota C-HR 1.8 Hybrid
Used deals from £12,900
Monthly finance from £0*

The Toyota C-HR is a small SUV that’s becoming more and more popular on these shores. The Japanese manufacturer is one of the best in the business when it comes to hybrid technology, deploying it for the maximum fuel efficiency.

The latest C-HR Hybrid is available with two engines: a 1.8-litre petrol that works together with an electric motor to achieve almost 60mpg, and a 2.0-litre petrol that has two electric motors at its disposal. The latter trades in some of that efficiency for some extra power, but in the real world it should hit 55mpg quite easily.

Other reasons to buy a C-HR Hybrid? It’s extremely quiet when cruising at a steady speed, with light steering making it serene to drive. Just watch out for the small boot and poor rear visibility.

TOYOTA C-HR BUYERS' GUIDE

4. BMW 5 Series Touring

Our pick BMW 520d Touring
Used deals from £15,600
Monthly finance from £0*

If you’re looking a bit further upmarket, the BMW 5 Series Touring (the estate version of the standard 5 Series) is rather brilliant. Not only is it great to drive, tremendously spacious and well-equipped, but it’ll also give you terrific mpg for a car of this size.

In the case of the 520d SE Touring, its 2.0-litre diesel engine will return as much as 55.4mpg, while its 190hp is enough for 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds; more than enough for all kinds of driving - even if you're in a hurry.

The 5 Series Touring is a car with few weaknesses, though the asking price for a brand new one is quite steep as a result: the most basic diesel is a shade off £40,000. But don't feel like you have to spend that much on this great car, the model itself has been on sale for a few years now so you can can find great used deals on BuyaCar.

BMW 5 SERIES TOURING BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Toyota Prius

Our pick Toyota Prius 1.8 Hybrid
Used deals from £17,300
Monthly finance from £0*

We couldn’t make a list of the best cars for fuel economy without mentioning the Toyota Prius. The Prius developed a reputation as the go-to planet-saver for Hollywood stars years ago, and it continues to be dedicated to efficiency today as a popular choice among Uber drivers.

Launched in 2016, even older versions of the current-generation Prius are likely to reach 70mpg in urban environments. How? Energy that would otherwise be lost when slowing down is converted into electricity, powering an electric motor for short bursts and allowing the petrol engine to momentarily be switched off.

The Prius isn’t just an eco-wagon though, it’s quiet and comfortable to drive, and it’s known to be a reliable vehicle for those thinking long-term. It’s not the fastest or the most spacious, though a 502-litre boot is very big indeed for a car of this size.

TOYOTA PRIUS BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer

Our pick Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo D
Used deals from £11,800
Monthly finance from £0*

The Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer certainly isn’t lacking in passenger space, with plenty of legroom for adults front and rear and a large, 560-litre boot. Fold down the 40/20/40 back seats and you’ll boost carrying capacity up to 1,665 litres - enough for even a lengthy flatpack furniture shopping splurge.

The entry-level diesel model is the best for fuel economy, with 55.4mpg and 110hp to its name. Diesel gets a bad wrap these days but there’s no denying its effectiveness over the course of a long journey and the latest version of the Insignia Sports Tourer meets the latest emissions standards.

Nearly-new versions of the Insignia Sports Tourer are likely to push £20,000 or more, but older models are considerably cheaper and offer much greater value for money. This is likely to suit those after serious practicality, as there’s little to get excited about when it comes to the interior design or performance, both of which pale in comparison to pricier rivals.

VAUXHALL INSIGNIA SPORTS TOURER BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Ford Focus

Our pick Ford Focus 1.5 EcoBlue
Used deals from £12,000
Monthly finance from £288*

The popularity of the Ford Focus hatchback seems to know no bounds in the UK, having been one of the biggest-selling family cars in Britain for several years now. It’s easy to see why: much like the Fiesta supermini, the Focus does lots of things well and is sold for a price that rival manufacturers struggle to match.

If it’s high fuel economy that you’re after, there are two approaches you can take: either of the 1.5- and 2.0-litre diesels available on the previous-generation model will break 60mpg comfortably, making them ideal for long-distance travel.

However, if shorter journeys are your thing, Ford’s range of turbocharged 'EcoBoost petrol' engines is one of the strongest of any carmaker in the world. Which is saying something given the absence of hybrid technology. These engines offer impressive punch for their small size and strong fuel economy, too.

FORD FOCUS BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Lexus IS

Our pick Lexus IS 300h
Used deals from £18,479
Monthly finance from £0*

With a sharp design and oodles of in-car technology, the Lexus IS stands out from the crowd, compared with most of the dull medium size saloons. No, the luggage space isn’t great and no it’s not as good to drive as the BMW 3 Series, but when it comes to running costs there’s a really strong argument to be made for the IS.

In the real world you can expect to hit between 45 and 50mpg, depending on which version you go for: we’d recommend going for one of the entry-level versions, as these had the smallest alloy wheels, which is ideal for maximising fuel economy.

The interior design has always been a strong point for the IS, and build quality is high too. Expect a four-year-old model to cost around £250 per month on a PCP finance deal.

LEXUS IS BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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