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Cheapest cars to run 2020

There’s more to car running costs that fuel economy, insurance or depreciation alone, the cheapest cars to run save you cash across the board...

On the hunt for the very cheapest new car going? The list price you’ll pay at the dealership is only the start of your journey. If you really want to know what set of wheels will set you back the least over your entire time with it, you need to look at the total cost of ownership (TCO). That means how much the car will cost you from purchase to sale, from fuel and insurance to depreciation and servicing. The cars we've listed below are the ones that offer the lowest running costs of any car for sale in the UK in 2020.

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We have used figures from the industry experts at CAP HPI to create our top 10 cheapest cars to run. CAP is the industry-leading company for new and used car valuations, and its figures are used by the motor trade to calculate finance costs on new cars, as well as to value used models.

Cheapest cars to insure

Then data lists individual cars in a model range, so to ensure there's some variety in our list, we've picked the best performer for each model in our top 10, and we've used a three-year/60,000-mile ownership model. While this might not be exactly representative of your specific circumstances, it remains a good general guide to the cheapest models. It includes not just the price of buying the car new, but also how much, on average, it’ll cost in maintenance, fuel, insurance, servicing, tax and depreciation. 

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Our list has changed in recent times courtesy of a number of revisions to road tax and fuel economy tests. Now that all cars pay a flat rate of road tax from the second year on the road, rather than the old emissions-based system, it has shaken up the TCO rates for new cars. So while low-emitting models used to qualify for £30 road tax or even tax exemption, the new flat rate of £140 or more has bumped up their costs. In addition, new WLTP fuel economy tests have seen MPG figures downgraded across the board, which again has the effect of raising running costs on most cars.

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The good news, though, is that this is now a more diverse list than before. While in the past, the very cheapest cars to run were all tiny city cars with tiny petrol engines, some superminis and other small cars are beginning to creep into this rundown of the most economically viable motors on sale, and there’s even an all-electric entrant. 

So, without further ado, here are the 10 new cars that cost the motoring equivalent of next to nothing to run, in reverse order…

Cheapest cars to run 2020

10. Suzuki Swift

  • Model: 1.2 Dualjet SHVS 90 SZ3
  • TCO over three years: £15,897
  • Per month: £442
  • Per mile: £0.26
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The Suzuki Swift represents a fun choice in this list. It’s a lightweight supermini that’s great to drive while being cost effective and fuel efficient, and the 1.2 Dualjet SHVS flies the flag for mild-hybrid technology in our rundown. 

It’s a lightweight engine capable of returning over 56mpg, while the five-speed gearbox is sweet and the steering is light and fun. It all combines to make the Swift a car that proves cheap needn’t mean joyless. 

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Basic equipment on the SZ3 trim model includes air conditioning, bluetooth, automatic headlights, electric front windows and a USB connection. Space for four adults is adequate, while the Swift’s boot is a useful size too. It’s certainly one to consider if a city car is too small. 

9. Skoda Fabia

  • Model: 1.0 MPI 60 S
  • TCO over three years: £15,185
  • Per month: £422
  • Per mile: £0.25

We’ve long been fans of the Skoda Fabia. It’s an unpretentious supermini that’s a smart ownership proposition. It’s practical, well made and economical - not just in terms of fuel economy, but on running costs generally as well. Owners are pleased too, in our 2020 Driver Power new car survey, owners rated Skoda as the 5th best manufacturer overall, so the Fabia should be a sound proposition. 

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We’d exercise caution over the very cheapest version, however. The 1.0 MPI model in basic S trim is a very basic car indeed, with a three-cylinder engine developing just 59bhp. It will cost next to nothing to run, but performance will be inadequate. We’ve also never recommended the Fabia in its lowliest S trim line with its very low equipment levels. Despite this, the Skoda has always smacked of being better value than its SEAT Ibiza and VW Polo sister cars when you go higher up the trim structure.

8. Hyundai i10

  • Model: 1.0 67 MPi SE
  • TCO over three years: £14,695
  • Per month: £408
  • Per mile: £0.24
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One of the more grown-up city cars is the Hyundai i10, and like its sister model, the Kia Picanto, it's a good small car choice if you're going to be doing any significant miles on the motorway. It's just that bit more refined than its contemporaries, meaning longer distance trips aren't as much of a chore. It’s the newest car here, too. 

Even though the SE model is positioned as the entry-level i10, it’s got luxuries some other cars on this list can’t offer. A leather wrapped steering wheel and gear stick go some way to lifting the basic cabin, while electric windows are fitted all round. The mirrors are electrically adjustable and heated, too, while cruise control is standard equipment. We’ve found the new i10 to be one of the best city cars out there, so if you can afford it, it’s certainly one to look into. 

7. MG 3

  • Model: 1.5 VT-i Tech 106 Explore
  • TCO over three years: £14,325
  • Per month: £398
  • Per mile: £0.24
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A small price tag and improved residual values with its most recent round of updates means that the MG 3 is one of only a handful of supermini sized cars that can compete with smaller city cars for total cost of ownership. So, if you want a bit more size and practicality, it’s one to keep an eye on. 

The MG 3 has never been one of the stronger members of the supermini class, but the latest version - now with a sportier design - features a more modern interior with better technology. The basic Explore model foregoes the car’s new infotainment system, and even on the motorway, more composed city cars such as the Picanto and Hyundai i10 will feel just as refined and comfortable, if not more so, than the MG. The engine feels outdated, and running costs won’t be too impressive either. 

6. Kia Picanto

  • Model: Picanto 1 66 1.0
  • TCO over three years: £13,661
  • Per month: £379
  • Per mile: £0.23
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The Kia Picanto feels a bit more upmarket than many of the cars on this list, and is better to drive than the Aygo and Mirage. It’s also a modern city car, newer in design than most of the cars that outflank it for total cost of ownership on this list. So if you’re looking for a cheap car that’s bang up to date in design, the Picanto could be the one. 

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Go for '1' trim, and you get auto lights, USB and AUX connections and remote central locking. But then there are basic features such as manual mirror adjustment, only two speakers for the stereo and steel wheels with plastic trims. However, as mentioned, the Picanto feels a bit more grown up than some of its contemporaries, while the reassurance of Kia's seven-year warranty is sure to hold plenty of appeal, too.

5. Mitsubishi Mirage

  • Model: 1.2 80 Verve
  • TCO over three years: £13,069
  • Per month: £363
  • Per mile: £0.21
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It’s never been one of our favourite small cars on sale, but the Mitsubishi Mirage - recently facelifted and given a standard equipment boost - stacks up as one of the cheaper options to buy and live with, though only if you opt for the most basic ‘Verve’ model, which uses a 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine developing 79bhp. 

It’s far from the best three-cylinder engine out there. Though it’s more powerful than the likes of the Aygo’s 1.0-litre it lacks zing and character and easily feels breathless, while power delivery is lumpy, and it’s not fun to throw around corners either. 

There are far more accomplished rivals for similar money, but not many can come close to its combination of a low TCO and the amount of kit on offer. The base Mirage Verve features a radio with CD player, AUX connection and Bluetooth for hands-free telephone use, plus there’s even a leather steering wheel.

4. Toyota Aygo

  • Model: 1.0 VVT-i 72 X 5dr
  • TCO over three years: £12,684
  • Per month: £352
  • Per mile: £0.21
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While the Toyota Aygo is built alongside the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 using the same platform and technology, its slightly better residual values help it jump ahead of its counterparts on running costs. Compared to its Citroen and Peugeot stablemates, the Aygo remains the one to pick, and not just for value, either - it’s arguably the best car of the trio as well. 

The five-door model beats the slightly cheaper three-door version based on residual values, though the difference is pretty minimal. As with the entry point to many ranges, the Aygo X isn't the most generously equipped. But you do get USB and AUX connections to listen to music, electric front windows and a raft of safety kit as standard. Even better is the revvy 1.0-litre, 72bhp three-cylinder engine, while the Aygo's compact shape and agile handling mean it's a great car to drive in the city.

3. Dacia Logan MCV

  • Model: 1.0 SCe 75 Access
  • TCO over three years: £12,672
  • Per month: £352
  • Per mile: £0.21
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Dacia is best known in the UK for its Sandero supermini and Duster 4x4 but it also does the Logan MCV estate, which is based on the same platform as its supermini sibling and uses the same trim structure. List prices are only £1,500 more than for the Sandero, but the entry-level Logan 1.0 SCe Access will lose less in depreciation over three years. 

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Like the Sandero, the Logan Access is very basic in terms of kit. What you do get though is a huge boot with 573 litres of space at your disposal in five-seater mode. That's competitive with estates based on larger family hatchbacks, and means that as well as having a low TCO, the Logan also offers one of the best boot-space-per-pound ratios of any car for sale in the UK today. If you need a practical car on a very tight budget, it’s the one to go for.

2. Smart ForTwo EQ

  • Model: Prime Premium 17kWh 2dr Coupe
  • TCO over three years: £12,488
  • Per month: £347
  • Per mile: £0.21
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The second place entry on this cheapest cars to run list may raise a few eyebrows. 

That’s because the Smart ForTwo EQ in Prime Premium trim has a list price of over £20,000. However, total cost of ownership is calculated on how much money you’ll spend from purchase to sale. Strong residual values, coupled with tiny running costs thanks to the electric drivetrain used in the ForTwo EQ mean that CAP rates it the second cheapest car overall to buy new, run for three years, and eventually sell on. 

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It certainly won’t be a car to fit most lifestyles, however. The expensive purchase price will probably rule the Smart out for most buyers shopping on a budget, while the ForTwo is also strictly a two-seater. The small 17kWh battery means a maximum range of only 100 miles, too. 

An alternative for buyers wanting to go emissions free on a budget would be the new Skoda Citigo-e iV, which costs less than the Smart on list price, seats four and is capable of 170 miles on a single charge. It’s one of the most convincing small electric cars out there and the TCO calculation of £13,505 over three years isn’t bad either. But, an initial UK allocation of 400 cars has already been sold out. You’ll have to wait for fresh stock if you want the Skoda. 

1. Dacia Sandero

  • Model: 1.0 SCe 75 Access 
  • TCO over three years: £11,888
  • Per month: £330
  • Per mile: £0.20
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Unsurprisingly, the very cheapest car on sale in Britain will make for the cheapest to own and run for three years as well. The Dacia Sandero in its most barebones form - Access trim with a 72bhp 1.0-litre engine - is only £6,995 on list price, which is an incredibly small amount of cash for a brand new car. 

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It’s an extremely basic proposition, though. You’ll have to be satisfied with white paint, black plastic bumpers and steel wheels with plastic trims, the absence of a radio, no air conditioning, plus manual windows and mirrors all of which are key to keeping the cost down. This simplicity has parallels with the way the Sandero drives, too. 

For those keen on the idea of a Sandero but wanting more, the Essential model - £7,995 on list price - adds a radio, air conditioning and a bit of colour. It’s available with a more powerful, turbocharged three-cylinder engine and the new Bi-Fuel LPG/Petrol hybrid option.

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Cheapest cars to run data

Below you’ll find the full data table with ours top 10 cheapest cars to run plus a few of the models that just missed out on the list...

ModelTotal cost: (3yr/60k miles)MonthlyDaily
Dacia Sandero Hatchback 1.0 SCe 75 Access11,8883300.20
Smart Fortwo EQ 60kW Prime Premium12,4883470.21
Dacia Logan MCV 1.0 SCe 75 Access12,6723520.21
Toyota Aygo Hatchback 1.0 VVT-i X12,6843520.21
Mitsubishi Mirage 1.2 80 Verve13,0693630.22
Dacia Logan MCV Estate 1.0 SCe 75 Essential 5dr 1913,3423710.22
Kia Picanto 66 1.0 113,6613790.23
MG3 1.5 VTi-Tech 106 Explore14,3253960.24
Hyundai i10 1.0 MPi 67 SE14,6954060.24
Skoda Fabia 1.0 MPI 60 S15,1854220.25
Suzuki Swift 1.2 Dualjet SHVS 90 SZ315,8974420.26
Fiat Panda 1.2 69 Pop15,9204420.27
Honda Jazz 1.5 i-MMD Hybrid 97 SE15,9614430.27

What's the cheapest car to run that you've ever owned? Let us know in the comments...

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