Best petrol cars

Smooth, quiet and now more efficient than ever: if you're not sure about diesel, these are some of the best petrol cars

John Evans
Mar 31, 2019

As diesel cars fall out of fashion, sales of petrol cars are rising fast - by almost 14 per cent this year alone.

And as this year sees the start of newe clean air zones that will mainly penalise diesel drivers, and the continued fear of future tax rises, concerns about diesel pollution and the rising price of the fuel have combined to scare drivers away from diesel cars.

At the same time, petrol models are increasingly appealing, bringing ever-increasing fuel economy alongside smooth and quiet power. Combined with an electric motor in a hybrid car, they can even deliver efficiency that beats a diesel car - particularly on shorter trips.

So, if diesel is losing its appeal for you, here are 10 great petrol cars you should consider.


Best petrol cars


Best petrol city car

Volkswagen up!

Latest Volkswagen up! deals from £4,690
Finance from £83 per month
Our pick
 Volkswagen High up! 1.0 TSI 90PS

Apart from the badge on the bonnet and a few minor details, the up! is identical to the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo, all of which are only available with petrol engines. However, the Volkswagen is the only one available with a 90 horsepower (hp) engine, which is often written as 90PS. This gives it crucial extra oomph on motorways, and extra nippiness in town.

The engine only became available recently, so prices for the 90hp model are high, starting at £9,000, or from £147 per month on finance.. Lesser-powered models aren't bad cars and can maintain motorway speeds, but they take a long time to get there. In town, acceleration is more energetic.
Volkswagen up! buying guide


Best small petrol car

Seat Ibiza

Latest Seat Ibiza deals from £5,500
Finance from £94 per month
Our pick Seat Ibiza SE Technology 1.0 95PS

Seat's Ibiza is the best small car that you can buy at the moment, with space, comfort, modern technoloy and nimble cornering. The modern car (with headlights that slant upwards, as shown above), went on sale in 2017 and is an improvement over the older and cheaper model, which has headlights that slope downwards.

Best value is the 1-litre, 95 horsepower engine. Cars cost from £9,200 at BuyaCar, with finance from £147 per month
Seat Ibiza buying guide


Best petrol hot hatchback

Ford Fiesta ST

Latest Ford Fiesta St deals from £9,199
Finance from £155 per month
Our pick Ford Fiesta ST-2

Ford's small petrol engines are among the best you can buy, even if fuel economy is considerably lower than official figures suggest. They are smooth, powerful and deliver a characterful, sporty growl from the exhaust when you accelerate.

The best example is found in the latest Ford Fiesta ST, which went on sale this eyar. Its 1.5-litre engine catapults the car forward with a firm press of the accelerator but can be quiet and composed on longer journeys. The previous-generation Fiesta ST is available for much less, and performs with just as much urgency.


Best family petrol hatchback

VW Golf

Latest Volkswagen Golf deals from £7,671
Finance from £127 per month
Our pick VW Golf SE 1.5 TSI Evo 130PS BlueMotion

Volkswagen's new 1.5 Evo petrol engine has cylinder deactivation technology, which shuts down part of the engine if full power isn't required - when travelling at a steady speed, for example. This helps to boost the car's fuel economy to around 40mpg in real-world driving, which is a slight improvement over the less-powerful 1.4-litre engine that it replaces.

It accelerates at a relaxed, steady pace, which will suit some drivers but performance becomes brisk when the engine is revved, making it easier to overake and join fast-moving traffic.
Volkswagen Golf buying guide


Best family petrol estate car

Volkswagen Passat

Latest Volkswagen Passat deals from £8,690
Finance from £149 per month
Our pick VW Passat GTE TSI 1.4 auto

If you’re a company car driver keen to reduce your tax bill, then here's one version of the Passat Estate that could save you hundreds of pounds. The Passat GTE is a plug-in hybrid car with a battery that can be charged up with enough power to drive the car for around 25 miles (in real-world driving conditions) before a petrol engine takes over.

This plug-in hybrid arrangement gives it an official carbon dioxide emissions rating of 40g/km, putting it in the bottom bracket for company car tax. It's quiet on electrical power in town, and not much louder when cruising along the motorway using the petrol engine.
Volkswagen Passat buying guide


Best petrol SUV

Peugeot 3008

Latest Peugeot 3008 deals (current model)( from £7,990
Finance from £129 per monthOur pick Peugeot 3008 1.2 PureTech 130 Allure

Peugeot’s 1.2 PureTech petrol engines are small and efficient, but powerful too. Despite the small 1.2-litre size, they can get the bulky 3008 moving at a reasonable pace and without unpleasant engine roar.

If you don't like changing gears, you’ll find the EAT6 automatic version is just as economical. You can expect around 40mpg in real-world driving, which is respectable for a car of this type, even if it is 15mpg short of the official figure.
Peugeot 3008 buying guide


Best petrol sports car

Mazda MX-5

Latest Mazda MX-5 deals from £11,895
Finance from £160 per month
Our pick Mazda MX-5 1.5 SE-L Nav

It’s not the most powerful 1.5-litre engine out there but that’s never been the point with the MX-5. Instead, nimble cornering, accurate steering, and the ability to dart through corners in one joyous drive is what the little Mazda is about.

On this basis, the 1.5 motor suits it to the ground. It revs smoothly, encouraging you to slice through the gears and relatively light weight ensure that it doesn't dull the sharp steering response. It might be the least-expensive option from the current range but it's the one to have.
Mazda MX-5 buying guide


Best petrol coupe

Audi TT

Latest Audi TT deals from £13,690
Finance from £168 per month
Our pick Audi TT Sport 2.0 TFSI 230PS

The Audi TT is a prime example of the advantages of petrol power: fitted with a diesel engine, this two-door coupe is noisy and heavy, which makes it less nimble in corners.

It's transformed by the 2.0 TFSI petrol motor, which brings improved performance and smoothness. Thee's no need for Audi's quattro four-wheel drive system which adds weight. A standard Audi TT fitted with winter tyres should offer enough grip on wintry roads.
Audi TT buying guide


Best large petrol family car

BMW 5 Series

Latest BMW 5 Series deals from £11,599
Finance from £183 per month
Our pick BMW 530e iPerformance

It's hard to make a bad choice with a BMW petrol engine: the firm has a stellar reputation for engines that deliver strong, smooth and seemingly effortless performance. You'll find this whether you opt for the current car, which went on sale in 2017, or the cheaper, earlier model.

BMW built its reputation on its large six-cylinder engines, which are fitted to the expensive 540i, but the petrol pick of the current range is the cheaper 530e iPerformance: a plug-in hybrid car with a battery that can be charged up to provide around 25 miles of electric-only power, boosting efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions to put it into the lowest company car tax bracket. The electric motor and engine can also combine for swift acceleration.
BMW 5 Series buying guide


Best petrol people carrier

Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer

Latest citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer / Picasso deals from £7,890
Finance from £134 per month
Our pick Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer Flair PureTech 130

Citroen's petrol engines buzz away underneath the bonnet without much noise or vibration, helping to reduce strees on long journeys. All of the options have adequate power, so you're best off saving money and opting for the entry-level 1.2-litre PureTech.

These engines also have the advantage of excellent efficiency in real-world driving, so you can expect around 40 to 45mpg without making much effort. That's 10mpg lower than the official figures which, by the standards of modern cars is pretty good.

The car they power is the best people carrier on the market. The Grand C4 SpaceTourer is comfortable and spacious for a family of four, with a large boot at the back. Alternatively, you can raise the two small rear seats to carry seven passengers at the expense of the vast majority of luggage space. If you're looking at a used model, search for the C4 Picasso - it's an identical car apart from the name badge, which was changed to SpaceTourer earlier this year.
Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer review

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