Supermini Economy Heroes

Credits: Otis Clay
7 Mar, 2009 8:37am

We go on a 300-mile marathon to choose the best of the latest superminis for buyers wanting to slash their motoring bills

You can’t turn on a news report at the moment without hearing about the state of the world’s economy – but it’s your car’s economy that will have a bigger impact on your monthly motoring bills!

These days, the miles per gallon figure can make or break a new car, and manufacturers know it. That’s why Ford has launched its Fiesta ECOnetic, saying that it emits the least CO2 and delivers the best fuel economy of any mainstream car. It’s time to put those boasts to the test!

To find the best frugal model, we’ve brought together five small hatchbacks with lofty mpg claims, each of which has something different to offer. In order to take victory in this test, a car will need penny-pinching running costs and everyday usability rolled into one.

The Ford’s first challenge is to see off the well established Polo BlueMotion. Not many models in showrooms at the moment emit less than 100g/km of CO2, but until now, the Volkswagen has been the best of the bunch. We’ve also lined up a smart-suited new premium model, in the shape of the ultra-frugal oil-burning Alfa Romeo MiTo.

But what about petrol options? Unleaded is now around 10 per cent cheaper than a litre from the black pump, so don’t bet against the featherweight three-cylinder Subaru Justy or Honda’s entry-level 1.2-litre Jazz.

Each car was brimmed at Fleet Services on the M3 in Hampshire, before we headed along the A303 to our photo location on Exmoor, Somerset. After a 300-mile round trip, we filled up again and calculated how frugal these fuel sippers really are!


The most frugal car in our eco test is the VW Polo BlueMotion... but that doesn’t make it the winner. It will take decades to recoup the price premium it commands over competitors which are nearly as efficient. While the VW’s stats grab headlines, we don’t think it’s the smartest option.

At the top of our ranking are two very different models. Although Honda’s 1.2-litre petrol-engined Jazz isn’t branded as a green model, it ticks all the environmentally friendly boxes. Plus, it’s one of the most practical small cars on the planet. However, in terms of performance it’s found wanting.

Of all our contenders, the Fiesta provides the best balance of fuel-sipping economy and no-compromise day-to-day driving. The appeal of our top supermini remains in ECOnetic form.

With the Polo taking third place, Subaru’s lightweght Justy pushes the more style-conscious Alfa Romeo into fifth position in our ranking.