Most efficient petrol cars

Dodge diesel without paying the price at the pumps: here are the most efficient petrol cars, from superminis to SUVs

Craig Hale
Aug 11, 2022

There are plenty of reasons these days why you might decide to purchase a more efficient car. You might be worried about air pollution, the possibility of diesel taxes or simply prefer quieter and smoother performance. Whatever the reason, buying a petrol car doesn't necessarily mean sky-high fuel bills and excess exhaust emissions.

In terms of efficiency, many modern petrol engines are now genuine alternatives to diesel - especially in small cars where smaller turbocharged engines aren't required to work too hard, and are almost as efficient and usually much cheaper to buy or finance. This improved efficiency also means better mpg and lower CO2 emissions, which results in cheaper company car tax.

If you're looking for a petrol car that's cheap to run, we've included plenty of excellent options in this comprehensive guide ranked according to their mpg figures and CO2 emissions, based on the latest and more stringent WLTP testing. These are indeed the most efficient petrol cars you can buy, and they're all available with excellent value used car deals on BuyaCar.

Continue down the page for the most frugal models in different categories, from city cars to SUVs, or click below to search for prices on all of the most economical petrol cars.

Most efficient petrol cars

Most economical petrol city cars

These city cars appear to be the most efficient petrol cars that you can buy; their small dimensions and light weights should make them natural fuel economy champions. But it will depend on how you drive.

The small engines perform well in the mandatory fuel economy test, but often need revving to deliver adequate performance, which can cause real-world fuel economy to tumble. That means that you may well get cheaper fuel bills with a larger car that has a bigger engine.

1. Peugeot 108/Citroen C1/Toyota Aygo

Peugeot 108 1.0 72hp
Efficiency 59mpg CO2 109g/km
Used deals from £5,700
Monthly finance from £113*
Citroen C1 1.0 VTi 72hp
Efficiency 59mpg CO2 109g/km
Used deals from £5,495
Monthly finance from £130*
Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i 72hp
Efficiency 58mpg CO2 109g/km
Used deals from £5,600
Monthly finance from £112*

Underneath their different styling, the Peugeot 108 and Citroen C1 share many of their mechanical parts. Standard equipment on entry-level trims can be minimal, but seek higher specifications and you could get comforts like a reversing camera, keyless entry and automatic air-conditioning.

They share a 72hp 1.0-litre petrol engine that needs to be worked hard to build up speed, so getting near the official 59mpg figure could be hard. The Aygo is marginally less efficient, but in the real world they are likely to be as efficient as each other.

2. Kia Picanto

Kia Picanto 1.0 DPi 67hp
Efficiency 59mpg CO2 110g/km
Used deals from £6,999
Monthly finance from £122*

The Picanto was updated in 2017, which saw the boot increase in size by 55 litres to a class-leading 255 litres. Being in a low insurance group, drivers should find the Picanto cheap to run as well as to buy, while the seven-year warranty provides peace of mind even to used car buyers.

Like other city cars, the 67hp 1.0-litre engine needs to be pushed so fuel efficiency could see a drop. There’s an automatic option as well as a turbocharged 1.0-litre engine with a more usable 100hp called T-GDi.

KIA PICANTO BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Hyundai i10

Hyundai i10 1.0 MPi 67hp
Efficiency 57mpg CO2 114g/km
Used deals from £12,720
Monthly finance from £218*

The i10 shares many of its parts with the Picanto, but it was updated in 2020 so it will look fresher for longer, because manufacturers tend to update their cars every seven years or so. The unlimited-mileage five-year warranty isn’t class-leading, but it’s not far from it.

There are manual and automatic versions of the 1.0-litre engine found in the Picanto above, as well as a turbocharged 1.0-litre engine. The third option, an 84hp 1.2-litre petrol engine, should return similar efficiency figures in the real world.

HYUNDAI I10 BUYERS' GUIDE

Most efficient petrol small cars

With official fuel economy figures as high as 60mpg and nearly-new prices of less than £15,000, petrol superminis are an ideal choice if you're on a budget, particularly as the extra space that they offer over city cars makes them more flexible and a feasible choice for a small family.

Once again, there can be large discrepancies between the advertised fuel economy figures and those you can achieve in normal driving - as happens with diesel cars too. As all of the best-performing superminis have an identical mpg, the real-world figure is a useful way of choosing between them.

1. Mazda 2

Mazda 2 1.5 Skyactiv-G 90hp
Efficiency 60mpg CO2 107g/km
Used deals from £6,500
Monthly finance from £152*

Unlike many of its competitors, Mazda has opted for larger engines without turbochargers. The 1.5-litre engine is available with 75hp or 90hp, and maybe somewhat surprisingly the most powerful version is the most efficient on paper, although both fall into the same tax bracket.

Headroom in the rear is good thanks to the car’s relatively tall design, although the boot is just average. It’s fun to drive thanks to its accurate steering, but it’s not particularly fast.

MAZDA 2 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost MHEV 125hp
Efficiency 57mpg CO2 112g/km
Used deals from £9,470
Monthly finance from £158*

If you’re looking for something more fun and engaging to drive, little comes close to the Fiesta. There have been various trim levels and engines available making it a popular choice with just about every type of driver, from learners and older people to small families and driving enthusiasts thanks to the ‘ST’ hot hatch versions.

Ford’s range of EcoBoost engines are powerful yet efficient; it’s one of these 1.0-litre engines that you’ll want to go for. Avoid the 1.1-litre and 1.25-litre versions as they can feel a little bit underpowered without a turbocharger. The latest Fiestas are even available with mild hybrid assistance which has helped to reduce the fuel bills of some drivers.

FORD FIESTA BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Kia Rio

Kia Rio 1.0 T-GDi MHEV 120hp
Efficiency 54mpg CO2 118g/km
Used deals from £8,243
Monthly finance from £155*

Like the smaller Picanto, the Rio was updated in 2017 so the tech you’ll find inside is not too dissimilar. The light steering makes it easy to drive around town, while the 325-litre boot is larger than many of its rivals.

While there is a less powerful 84hp 1.2-litre petrol engine, like in the Hyundai i10 above, the 1.0-litre engine is the most efficient. The 100hp version is well suited to town driving, but the 120hp version is the one to go for if you regularly drive on faster roads. It’s also the only one to benefit from mild hybrid assistance.

KIA RIO BUYERS' GUIDE

Most efficient petrol family cars

For excellent fuel economy in a family hatchback, the Peugeot 308 can't be matched, as has been the case for many years. With efficiency comes limited power, and you'll need to be able to live with slow and steady acceleration to reduce fuel costs: stamping hard on the accelerator will send the petrol gauge plummeting.

1. Peugeot 308

Peugeot 308 1.2 PureTech 110hp
Efficiency 55mpg CO2 116g/km
Used deals from £7,495
Monthly finance from £121*

Peugeot recently started selling a new version of the 308, which should be good news for used buyers pushing the prices down for the previous generation. The diesels are particularly economical, but even the petrols fare well in official tests. There are 110hp and 130hp versions of the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engines.

Some drivers may find it difficult to get comfortable behind the wheel of the 308, and most other Peugeots for that matter, thanks to the carmakers ‘i-Cockpit’ design which places a particularly small steering wheel low down, meaning the driver looks above the wheel at the speed dials rather than through.

PEUGEOT 308 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Kia Ceed

Kia Ceed 1.0 T-GDi 120hp
Efficiency 54mpg CO2 119g/km
Used deals from £11,999
Monthly finance from £196*

This is the same engine used in the Rio above, but the Ceed makes do without mild hybrid technology. It’s likely to be less efficient, not just because of this, but because the Ceed is a much heavier car.

Standard equipment and build quality in the Ceed is so good that it rivals more expensive models like the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3. The long seven-year warranty is a welcome bonus, so even a three-year-old car will come with four years’ cover remaining - more than the industry-standard three-year warranty on new cars.

KIA CEED BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Mazda 3

Mazda 3 2.0 Skyactiv-X 137hp
Efficiency 54mpg CO2 118g/km
Used deals from £15,999
Monthly finance from £241*

Here is another example of how an engine doesn’t need to be small in size to be efficient. The 137hp 2.0-litre engine used in the Mazda 3 is more powerful than many of its rivals, but it’s just as efficient and costs just as much to tax.

Mazda went against the grain with its interior design, too, avoiding a distracting touchscreen media system in favour of voice control and a rotary dial. You can even get four-wheel-drive variants if you live somewhere where you find you need some extra grip, but don’t expect to get 54mpg in those.

MAZDA 3 BUYERS' GUIDE

Most efficient petrol crossovers

Citroen and Peugeot (which are owned by the same company) have some of the most efficient petrol engines available, and they dominate most categories, with real-world fuel economy figures that are better than a standard family hatchback.

It's the same story with Hyundai's engines, which are shared with sister company Kia, as well as Seat which shares its engines and technology with Volkswagen, Skoda and Audi.

1. Citroen C4

Citroen C4 1.2 PureTech 130hp
Efficiency 55mpg CO2 117g/km
Used deals Limited stock

While previous versions of the C4 have been hatchbacks similar in size to the Ford Focus and Seat Leon, the new C4 turned into a sporty-looking crossover with a sloping roofline similar to more expensive models like the BMW X4 and Audi Q3 Sportback.

It uses the same 1.2-litre petrol engine found across most of the Peugeot range, along with sister companies Citroen, DS, and more recently Vauxhall. Whether you go for the 100hp or 130hp version, it’s likely to be equally as efficient in the real world.

There’s also an electric version, called the e-C4, which promises to be an efficient electric car in its own right, capable of a claimed 4.0 miles per kWh.

READ MORE ABOUT THE CITROEN C4

2. Hyundai Bayon

Hyundai Bayon 1.0 T-GDi MHEV 100hp
Efficiency 53mpg CO2 120g/km
Used deals from £17,680
Monthly finance from £272*

The same 1.0-litre engine found across the Hyundai and Kia range benefits from mild hybrid tech in both the 100hp and 120hp versions, and both are available with manual or smooth-shifting automatic gearboxes. Both promise 53mpg, and both straddle the boundary between two tax bands depending on the trim level and gearbox.

Every version comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system, a 10.3-inch digital screen in place of traditional speed dials, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and air-conditioning, so there’s little need to pay for more expensive trim levels unless you want things like heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and keyless entry.

READ MORE ABOUT THE HYUNDAI BAYON

3. Seat Arona

Seat Arona 1.0 TSI 110hp
Efficiency 53mpg CO2 121g/km
Used deals Limited stock

The Arona shares many of its parts with the Skoda Kamiq and Volkswagen T-Cross, including the efficient 1.0-litre petrol engine. It’s best to stick with the manual gearbox though, as automatic versions suffer from a 6mpg drop.

Every version of the Arona from 2021 on comes with LED headlights and cruise control, but whichever age Arona you go for, you’ll likely have to spend more for things like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keyless entry and a reversing camera.

SEAT ARONA BUYERS' GUIDE

Most efficient petrol SUVs

Larger cars require more energy to get moving, and so the extra efficiency of diesel results in greater savings. Diesel engines also produce most of their power without needing to be revved, so they can get heavier vehicles moving with less fuel. That means that petrol has rarely been the first choice for crossover and SUV buyers.

However, this is changing as newer cars are becoming lighter and are being fitted with more advanced engines, which makes petrol power a more feasible choice.

The models below have impressive official figures and, in some cases, real-world fuel economy that’s better than 40mpg. They might not be as efficient as diesel versions that return over 50mpg in real-world conditions, but running costs shouldn’t break the bank.

1. Peugeot 5008

Peugeot 5008 1.2 PureTech 130hp
Efficiency 48mpg CO2 133g/km
Used deals from £19,900
Monthly finance from £338*

You might think you’d need a larger engine for such a big car, but the 130hp version of the same 1.2-litre petrol engine found in many other Peugeot cars can still carry the 5008 to 62mph in around 10 seconds, which is average if not fast.

Depending on the trim level you go for, you’ll get dual-zone climate control, all-round parking sensors, a 360-degree camera and ambient lighting.

PEUGEOT 5008 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. DS 7 Crossback

DS 7 Crossback 1.2 PureTech 130hp
Efficiency 46mpg CO2 138g/km
Used deals Limited stock

It may be less efficient than the 5008 with which it shares some of its mechanical parts, but it costs the same to tax and is arguably more relaxing to drive. Inside, many of the buttons you’d expect to find in a car have been replaced with touch-sensitive panels.

It can be a lot more expensive to buy than other SUVs, especially when new, but most cars come with keyless entry, a reversing camera, wireless phone charging and LED headlights as standard.

DS 7 CROSSBACK BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Renault Kadjar

Renault Kadjar 1.3 TCe 140hp
Efficiency 45mpg CO2 142g/km
Used deals from £11,700
Monthly finance from £176*

Previously, Renault sold the Kadjar primarily with diesel engines, but in its recent move to ditch diesel facing criticism the fossil fuel is getting, newer models are powered by a 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Developed alongside Mercedes, it’s used in the A-Class hatchback, among other models.

This is bad news for drivers needing the extra pulling power of a diesel engine for off-roading or towing, but most SUVs find themselves at home in towns and cities.

RENAULT KADJAR BUYERS' GUIDE

Most efficient petrol estate cars

Once again, it’s a Peugeot that tops the table in this estate car category, but for more than its economical petrol engine: its boot is one of the best you can get in any estate car, including larger and more expensive models. 

1. Peugeot 308 SW

Peugeot 308 SW 1.2 PureTech 110hp
Efficiency 55mpg CO2 116g/km
Used deals Limited stock

While on paper the estate version of the 308 is just as efficient as the hatchback above, that’s unlikely to be the case due to its additional weight. It’ll cost the same to tax, though, which should help keep running costs down.

We like the 308 SW for its large 660-litre boot, which is bigger than the larger Passat Estate’s and even the even bigger Mercedes E-Class Estate’s. The rear seats do take a hit, though, so carrying adults in the back could be a bit of a squeeze. The 1,775 litres of space with the seats folded down is equally as impressive, rivalling other estate cars with big boots.

PEUGEOT 308 SW BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Kia Ceed Sportswagon

Kia Ceed Sportswagon 1.0 T-GDi 120hp
Efficiency 53mpg CO2 121g/km
Used deals Limited stock

Another case where the estate version of a hatchback is just as efficient. The small engine may need to be worked harder in the Ceed SW, though, so mpg might not be as high. It also costs more to tax than the hatchback version.

That being said, the 625-litre boot isn’t too far behind the class-leading 308’s. Because it has been updated more recently, some drivers may be more comfortable in the Ceed SW surrounded by more technology (although there is a new generation of the 308 available now).

KIA CEED SPORTSWAGON BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Fiat Tipo Station Wagon

Fiat Tipo Station Wagon 1.0 Firefly Turbo 100hp
Efficiency 52mpg CO2 123g/km
Used deals Limited stock

The regular Tipo has one of the biggest boots for a hatchback, but the estate version isn’t so impressive, at 550 litres.

It doesn’t get the Fiat 500’s mild hybrid tech, but it’s still capable of over 50mpg. Its compact dimensions make it great for driving around town, particularly when it comes to parking.

FIAT TIPO BUYERS' GUIDE

Most efficient petrol saloon cars

Most buyers of medium-size cars tend to opt for diesel engines, as they have historically offered the lowest company car tax, thanks to reduced carbon dioxide emissions. They will usually be cheaper to run if you make regular long-distance journeys, thanks to their greater efficiency too. Unless you're travelling hundreds of miles every week, the extra cost of a diesel car is likely to outweigh any fuel savings.

1. Audi A4

Audi A4 2.0 35 TFSI 150hp
Efficiency 46mpg CO2 139g/km
Used deals Limited stock

The Audi A4 has long been a favourite among company car drivers and families wanting a car with a premium badge. It’s available in saloon and estate body styles, with a range of efficient petrol and diesel engines as well as some sporty V6 engines.

Some of Audi’s smaller cars use a 1.5-litre petrol engine to get 150hp, but the A4 uses a larger 2.0-litre unit. It’s not particularly cheap to run, with drivers likely struggling to achieve 40mpg, but the same can be said for any petrol-powered saloon of this size.

AUDI A4 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Mercedes C-Class

Mercedes C-Class 1.5 C200 184hp
Efficiency 44mpg CO2 140g/km
Used deals from £20,499
Monthly finance from £292*

The C-Class is also available with a range of petrol and diesel engines, and some mind-blowingly fast V6 and V8 engines. For 44mpg you’re best off looking at one of the newer C200 models which uses a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a small boost from a mild hybrid system.

It’s been on sale in its current form since 2014 but thanks to regular updates it still looks fresh. A new model that went on sale in 2021 should help push used prices down even further.

MERCEDES C-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Peugeot 508

Peugeot 508 1.2 PureTech 130hp
Efficiency 49mpg CO2 129g/km
Used deals Limited stock

The 508 is available with a handful of economical and punchy plug-in hybrid setups, which can slash your running costs if you’re able to plug in regularly at home. But if you can’t, or you prefer not to spend thousands more on a hybrid system, the 1.2-litre petrol engine used elsewhere in the Peugeot range should prove very efficient.

The 508 benefits from sharp, sporty styling and makes a good alternative to cars like the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo. There’s an estate version too, badged ‘SW’, which is just as appealing to look at.

PEUGEOT 508 BUYERS' GUIDE

Most efficient petrol seven-seater cars

Citroen and Peugeot’s efficient petrol motors help to make even a big seven-seater petrol car a realistic choice, although acceleration can feel a bit slow.

1. Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer

Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer 1.2 PureTech 130hp
Efficiency 48mpg CO2 133g/km
Used deals from £15,500
Monthly finance from £288*

There are plenty of seven-seater SUVs to choose from, but MPVs are becoming less popular as they fall out of fashion. The Grand C4 SpaceTourer (and five-seater C4 SpaceTourer) still look great, though.

There’s generally an even split of petrol and diesel models, so it should be easy to find a high-spec Flair or Flair Plus version with an electric boot, keyless entry and massage seats, but be sure to check the specification of any individual car you’re considering to make sure you’re getting what you want.

CITROEN GRAND C4 SPACETOURER BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Seat Tarraco

Seat Tarraco 1.5 TSI 150hp
Efficiency 42mpg CO2 155g/km
Used deals from £21,495
Monthly finance from £309*

Every version of Seat’s largest SUV comes with seven seats, but if you don’t like the styling it’s worth considering the Skoda Kodiaq or Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace which are built on the same platform, and are both available with the same efficient petrol engine.

You’re likely to get an mpg figure in the mid 30s, and while it may negatively affect this somewhat, we think the car is best suited to the smooth seven-speed automatic gearbox.

SEAT TARRACO BUYERS' GUIDE

3. BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer

BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer 1.5 218i 136hp
Efficiency 44mpg CO2 144g/km
Used deals Limited stock

BMW recently updated the five-seater 2 Series Active Tourer, which includes a plug-in hybrid option, but the seven-seater Gran Tourer version missed out on the update. It remains on sale for now, though, with the same 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine used elsewhere in the BMW range.

The 2 Series Gran Tourer is sportier in style to many of its rivals, but that can make it uncomfortable for passengers, particularly in the rearmost seats which are better suited to children.

BMW 3 SERIES GRAN TOURER BUYERS' GUIDE

Most efficient petrol hybrid cars

With an electric motor that boosts power and reduces the amount of work required from the engine (cutting fuel use), petrol hybrids are particularly effective in stop-start traffic when they can be more efficient than diesels. We've gone for so-called self-charging hybrids here, because they are the cheapest and most common type of hybrid. As the name suggests, they don't need to be (and cannot be) charged like more expensive plug-in hybrids and electric cars.

1. Toyota Yaris Hybrid

Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid 116hp
Efficiency 69mpg CO2 92g/km
Used deals Limited stock

The latest and the previous generations of the Yaris use a 1.5-litre petrol engine supported by an electric motor, making it one of the most efficient self-charging hybrids you can get.

Go for the latest generation to get things like a reversing camera and smartphone connectivity on all trims, although you’ll have to pay more for LED headlights, keyless entry and an upgraded sound system.

2014-2020 TOYOTA YARIS BUYERS' GUIDE

READ MORE ABOUT THE 2020 TOYOTA YARIS

2. Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius 1.8 Hybrid 122hp
Efficiency 67mpg CO2 94g/km
Used deals Limited stock

The go-to for many of us when we think of a hybrid car, it’s still as impressive as when it first launched in the early 2000s, although it’s even more economical. Drivers can expect over 60mpg in day-to-day driving.

The 1.8-litre petrol engine is the same that’s used in other Toyota hybrid cars like the C-HR, although it makes do without the more powerful 2.0-litre hybrid option found in the Corolla.

There is a plug-in hybrid version, which Toyota says will achieve up to 235mpg. If you can charge the car regularly and regularly need the petrol engine, this is totally feasible, but fail to charge and you could see figures plummet below the regular Prius thanks to its heavier battery pack.

TOYOTA PRIUS BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Renault Clio E-Tech

Renault Clio 1.6 E-Tech 140hp
Efficiency 64mpg CO2 100g/km
Used deals from £18,990
Monthly finance from £297*

The Clio is one of the first cars in the Renault lineup to get a hybrid option; the Megane has a plug-in hybrid choice, but the Clio makes do with a simpler and lighter self-charging version.

The high-tech hybrid setup uses two electric motors, rather than the one found in most other hybrids. The largest of the two motors helps get the car going, while the smaller motor helps start the engine and plugs the gaps between gear changes for a smoother ride.

RENAULT CLIO 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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