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
Sep 21, 2020

Even when you're feeling flush you don't want to pay more for fuel than you have to. That’s why economy is so important when it comes to choosing the right car.

The best cars for mpg extract the most miles out of a tank of petrol or diesel - making your money go further - although they should still deliver in the other key areas that matter, too.

While diesels tend to suit high-mileage drivers - with diesels typically costing a bit more than an equivalent petrol but offering better fuel economy in exchange - the growth of hybrid technology over the last few years has seen many drivers switch to petrol-electric alternatives. This is good news for drivers as the variety of choice has never been greater.

Among these hybrids are plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), which use a battery that can be charged via a cable and in turn power an electric motor, typically giving 20-30 miles of electric range per charge. When the battery runs out of charge, a conventional petrol or diesel engine takes over.

This makes PHEVs' ‘official’ fuel economy figures extremely good, but it’s important to remember that these are an inflated figure and aren’t a true reflection of what you’re likely to see in the real world - unless you only ever do very short journeys and plug the car in every time you get back home. The extra weight of the hybrid setup means the petrol engine becomes much less efficient than a standard petrol powered car once you've run out of electric charge.

So, to keep things simple we’ve excluded PHEVs from this list of the best cars for mpg, however they are absolutely worth considering if your lifestyle is suitable for one. If you only ever do short, urban journeys, however, you might want to consider a fully electric car, too, as the best current models can cover 250 to 300 miles between charges without burning any petrol or diesel.

Read our guide to purchasing an electric car to get a feel for whether electric power is right for you. Meanwhile, less sophisticated hybrids can't be plugged in at all, with their small batteries drawing power from the engine: unless you tell the car otherwise, it will work out how best to deploy this energy on its own.

And if that sounds too complicated, don’t worry: there are still dozens of cars on the market that achieve great fuel economy figures without the help of electric technology. Scroll down to find a few of our favourites.

Best new cars for mpg

1. Hyundai i10

Used deals from £10,850
Monthly finance from £165

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

Used deals from £13,791
Monthly finance from £210

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

Used deals from £12,890
Monthly finance from £165

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

Used deals from £22,348
Monthly finance from £311

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

Best used cars for mpg

1. Toyota Prius

Used deals from £13,000
Monthly finance from £138

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

2. Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer

Used deals from £6,995
Monthly finance from £132

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

3. Ford Focus

Used deals from £5,800
Monthly finance from £100

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 these 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

4. Lexus IS

Used deals from £11,999
Monthly finance from £204

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

 

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