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Fuel-efficient cars

The most fuel-efficient cars on the road

A fuel-efficient car will not only lower your petrol costs, it may also reduce how much you pay for car insurance

By Rachel Wait

Published: 03 October 2019

family sitting in car boot looking at a map

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Which is the most fuel efficient car?

When choosing a new car, it pays to find the most fuel-efficient model. Finding the most economical car won’t only save you money at the pump; there are other benefits too – fuel-efficient cars which do more miles per gallon (mpg) can earn you savings on car insurance, and help you avoid certain fees such as London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone.

However, it can be hard to know which cars are more fuel efficient than others. Read on for our unbiased guide to the most fuel-efficient internal combustion cars on the market.

How much can I save with a fuel-efficient car?

Driving a more fuel-efficient car can save a lot of money on routine fuel costs. The average motorist will spend tens of thousands of pounds on fuel in their lifetime – but a more fuel-efficient car can save you some of that money. At current fuel prices, if you drive 7,000 miles a year, even a rise in fuel efficiency of only five mpg will save you £120.

Fuel-efficient cars can also save money on car insurance. Some providers offer discounted premiums for more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly cars.

Fuel-efficient cars are likely to avoid extra fees such as London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone, which charges drivers of more polluting vehicles a daily fee of £12.50. The zone is shortly being extended to reach London’s North and South Circular roads, and similar schemes are likely to start appearing in other UK cities.

A greener car also avoids the ‘showroom tax’ for new car buyers. This applies in the first year only, with buyers of the most polluting diesel cars (those with emissions of more than 255g/km) having to pay £2,135. By comparison, a fuel-efficient car emitting 90g/km will be charged a relatively low £110 in its first year.

Other options: Hybrid and electric cars

For this guide, we’re only looking at fuel-efficient cars with a traditional petrol or diesel engine – but if saving money on fuel and helping the environment is a priority, you could also consider a hybrid or electric car.

Hybrid cars – such as the Toyota Prius – have two engines: a traditional petrol or diesel engine, alongside an electric engine. Hybrid cars tend to have much better fuel efficiency than traditional internal combustion cars – but only if you make the most of their potential.


How electric cars can save you money

A plug-in hybrid car, for instance, combines a petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor recharged through the mains, but if you don’t keep the battery charged, its fuel efficiency may actually be worse than that of a traditional non-hybrid car.

Fully electric cars are charged from the mains at home or at work, or with a public charging point. They don’t have an internal combustion engine and produce no emissions.

While fully electric cars are often more expensive to buy, they’re much cheaper to fuel – some models can be charged with as little as £3.60 of electricity, while it can cost £60 to £100 for a full tank of petrol. However, their range tends to be much more limited than either a conventional or a hybrid car.

Some of the most fuel-efficient cars

There are plenty of fuel-efficient cars to choose from. We take a look at some of the best that currently on offer.

Dacia Sandero 0.9 Tce

As well as being the cheapest car on the UK market, with prices starting at £6,995, the Sandero is also one of the most fuel efficient – What Car’s True MPG test gave it 52.8 miles per gallon. It’s a small car, but still quite spacious for its class – even the boot is large, at 320 litres; that’s more than a Ford Focus or Renault Clio. While it’s not as visually impressive as some other cars, it’s an excellent money-saver and great for urban commutes.

Skoda Citigo 1.0

With a True MPG of 55.2mpg, the Citigo looks similar to the Seat Mii or the Volkswagen Up, but edges out many rival models in fuel efficiency. It’s also a few thousand pounds cheaper, retailing from £8,095 compared to the Up’s £9,260 or the Mii’s £11,720. Available in three- or five-door versions, it’s an agile and smooth drive – and sports suspension is also available.

Volkswagen Golf TSI 1.0

The Golf’s real-world MPG of 49.7mpg is lower than the Sandero or the Citigo, but it has all the benefits of a full-size hatchback, and it’s still the most fuel efficient non-hybrid family car on the market. From £20,115 it’s not the cheapest car in its range, but its superb fuel efficiency should bring savings further down the line.

Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi

The first diesel car on our list, the Qashqai is an SUV with fuel efficiency comparable to a subcompact car like the Sandero – What Car found that you’ll get 51.9 miles for every gallon of fuel. It also meets all the emissions tests needed for exemption from the Ultra Low Emissions Zone. Like the Golf, it’s pricier than some of its competitors, but if you’re in the market for a small SUV its excellent fuel efficiency should help recoup some of those costs.

Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 110

With 56.3 miles to the gallon – rising to 70 on country roads – the diesel Astra is the most fuel efficient non-hybrid car on the UK market today. Priced around £18,000, it’s also remarkably cheap for its abilities, and won’t be subject to the Ultra Low Emissions Zone fee.

Compare fuel-efficient car insurance

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