Cheapest cars to run 2022
When it comes to total cost of ownership, cut-price entry models aren’t always the best. So what are the cheapest cars to run?
When you’re looking for a new car and you’re on a tight budget, the chances are you’ll be comparing windscreen sticker prices of a range of city cars and superminis. You’ll probably also be looking at promoted finance deals in the hope of saving a bit more cash, but are you considering the longer game? Which model is actually the cheapest to run over the long term?
The cost of any car isn’t just the amount of money you need to find up front, because you keep paying out while you own it for fuel, maintenance, road tax and insurance. You also get a chunk of your money back when it’s time to sell. Taking all these factors into account produces a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) figure, and while it’s easy to be wise after you’ve owned a car, predicting a TCO figure before you buy it is a bit of a black art.
So we’ve teamed up with the experts at car data firm CAP HPI, and with the benefit of their expertise and algorithms, we’ve come up with predictions for the cheapest cars to run that are on sale in 2022. CAP is the industry leader for new and used car valuations, and its figures are widely used by manufacturers to calculate new car finance costs.
To avoid being repetitive and increase the range of choice, our list excludes duplicate models if more than one specification of the same car falls into our roster of low running cost champions. Instead we’ve picked the best performer from each model range.
Our TCO calculations are based on a typical three-year/60,000-mile ownership model too, and while this might not be the car buying pattern everyone follows, it’s a great basis for making running cost calculations and comparisons.
So, on to our winners. As you can see it’s not just bargain basement eco-boxes making the grade in 2022, as the super-low cost of charging an electric car compared to filling up with petrol or diesel has brought a number of EV options into play in spite of their comparatively high list prices.
So, without further ado, here are the brand new cars that cost the motoring equivalent of next to nothing to run…
Cheapest cars to run 2022
- Kia Picanto
- Abarth 595
- Citroen C3
- Dacia Sandero
- Kia Ceed
- Hyundai i10
- Toyota Aygo X
- Fiat 500 Electric
- Kia Rio
1. Kia Picanto 1.0 1 5dr
Total cost: £15,196.37 Monthly: £422.12 Per mile: 25.3p
The Kia Picanto feels a bit more upmarket than some of the cars on this list, and it’s pretty good to drive. It’s also a modern city car, that’s newer in design than many of the cars on this list, yet it still manages to beat ageing models for total cost of ownership. So if you’re looking for a cheap car that’s bang up to date in design, the Picanto could be the one.
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.
2. Abarth 595 1.4 T-Jet 165 3dr
- Total cost: £15,225.00
- Monthly: £422.92
- Per mile: 25.4p
You probably didn’t expect to see a hot hatch in second place in Britain’s cheapest cars to run, but the Abarth 595 has a number of attributes that make it seriously cost effective. For a start, it’s pretty cheap to buy, and because it’s desirable, you can also expect to get a decent amount back at the end, reducing its overall cost of ownership.
The Abarth is also small, light and has a reasonably efficient turbocharged petrol engine, so it doesn’t get through too much fuel, returning just over 40mpg. It is fairly focused too, so if you’re simply after a cheap car, the Abarth’s stiff suspension might come as a surprise. There’s not much room in the MINI rival either, with just a 185-litre boot that expands to 550 litres if you fold the back seats. Still, if you’re after cheap and fun motoring, it doesn’t get any more attainable than the Abarth 595.
3. Citroen C3 1.2 PureTech You 5dr
- Total cost: £15,714.77
- Monthly: £436.52
- Per mile: 26.2p
Competitive pricing, great fuel economy from the efficient three-cylinder engines, and a level of desirability that strengthens residual values all contribute to the Citroen C3 scoring a well-deserved podium in our list of TCO heroes.
You! is a cost-effective trim level introduced in April 2022 that rolls many of the C3’s most desirable options into a wallet-friendly package. That means you get LED headlights and body-coloured exterior trim, as well as a five-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth. The spec also includes hill start assist, lane departure warnings, cruise control, a speed limiter and coffee break warnings, which means the C3 C-Series offers much more than we’ve come to expect from a cheap-to-run champion.
4. Dacia Sandero 1.0 TCe Bi-Fuel Essential 5dr
- Total cost: £15,774.87
- Monthly: £436.52
- Per mile: 26.3p
The Dacia Sandero was for a long time Britain’s cheapest car to own by a large margin, and that also made it the cheapest car to run. However, the latest Sandero is not only a lot more advanced - sharings its chassis and many of its parts with the current Renault Clio - but it’s also no longer available in the ultra-basic Access trim that was oh so cheap to buy.
Access was an extremely basic proposition, though, with just white paint, black plastic bumpers and steel wheels with plastic trims, no radio, no air conditioning, plus manual windows and mirrors, all of which were key to keeping the cost down.
The latest model in Essential trim is far better to drive and travel in, with a nicer interior, improved infotainment set-up and mature road manners. The Bi-Fuel version is also one of the only cars on sale with an LPG tank from the factory, so it can be run on either petrol or money-saving LPG.
5. Kia Ceed Diesel 1.6 CRDi 48V ISG 2 5dr
- Total cost: £15,791.48
- Monthly: £438.65
- Per mile: 26.3p
This list is traditionally dominated by city cars, so the Kia Ceed stands out for being a family-sized hatchback. That’s an impressive achievement by the Volkswagen Golf rival, which will make it the most compelling car here for buyers in need of a decent rear passenger space and a big boot.
Four adults can sit in comfort and the Ceed is refined enough to take on longer trips with ease. That’s a task the 1.6-litre CRDi mild-hybrid diesel engine is also well suited to, and you won’t have to stop for fuel very often thanks to its excellent fuel-efficiency. Low running costs even extend to insurance, because even the diesel version only sits in groups 12 to 16 out of 50.
6. Hyundai i10 1.0 MPi SE 5dr
- Total cost: £15,938.07
- Monthly: £442.72
- Per mile: 26.6p
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 among the newest cars 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. Toyota Aygo X 1.0 VVT-i Pure 5dr
- Total cost: £16,112.18
- Monthly: £447.56
- Per mile: 26.9p
The popular Toyota Aygo city car has been replaced and upgraded by the Toyota Aygo X, which is a taller, more stocky take on the city car formula. Happily it’s still cheap enough to own and run to appear on this list, which is exactly how it should be for Toyota’s most affordable model.
While it isn’t a hybrid like the Toyota Yaris, its familiar 1.0-litre petrol engine is still very frugal, returning up to 56mpg. With just 71bhp it isn’t the quickest car on this list, but the willing nature of its three-cylinder engine makes it feel more sprightly than its 14.9-second 0-62mph time suggests. It also feels more grown-up on the road, and its plastic body cladding should help fend off scrapes and bumps.
8. Fiat 500 Electric 70kW Action 24kWh 3dr
- Total cost: £16,201.97
- Monthly: £450.05
- Per mile: 27.0p
The all-electric Fiat 500 is one of the more expensive cars on this list, as a result of its expensive EV technology, but incredibly low running costs help claw back the difference. With no petrol prices to worry about, you’ll instead need to pay just a few pounds to charge the battery, so long as you’re on a reasonably cheap electricity tariff.
A range of 118 miles might not sound much, but don’t forget this ‘City Range’ battery is aimed firmly at urban drivers, where traffic likely means it takes an hour or more to drive 10 miles. The 500 also supports 85kW fast charging, so its battery can be topped up pretty quickly on occasional longer trips.
9. Kia Rio 1.2 DPi 1 5dr
- Total cost: £16,293.73
- Monthly: £452.60
- Per mile: 27.2p
Forget Dacia and Skoda, Kia’s third entry on this list means the South Korean brand is clearly the most affordable badge on British roads. The Kia Rio supermini sits between the Picanto and Ceed, but the data proves it’s slightly more expensive than either over three years or 60,000 miles.
The Rio isn’t as sharp to drive as a Ford Fiesta, but its light controls and supple suspension make it easy and relaxing to drive. Its 1.2-litre engine feels a bit old-school compared with the latest turbocharged rivals, but its performance is fine for town driving and even the occasional motorway jaunt. Most importantly, it can hit almost 50mpg, should be cheap as chips to maintain and the whole car is backed up by Kia’s seven-year warranty.
How to cut your fuel costs
CAP’s Total Cost of Ownership figures are based on the manufacturer’s official fuel economy figures, but what if you could do even better? Follow our tips on cutting fuel costs and you could spend even less on Britain’s cheapest cars to run than we’ve listed above.
- Don’t buy your fuel at a motorway service station
- Find the cheapest petrol station in your area
- Use a fuel loyalty card (including Tesco Clubcard and Nectar)
- Drive smoothly
- Plan your journeys
- Reduce weight
- Maintain your car
- Climate control
1. Buying fuel at a motorway services is a bit like buying a burger inside the stadium at a U2 concert - you’ll pay a lot more for the privilege.
2. Use a website or app to find the cheapest petrol or diesel prices in your area - some cars with connected services even have this feature built in. In some cases you’ll be able to save around 35p per litre just by peeling off the motorway and filling up at a nearby supermarket, saving around £20 per fill depending on the size of your car’s tank.
3. When you do need to fill up, make sure you subscribe to any loyalty schemes that can net you discounts just for filling up. Most major chains run them, and supermarket forecourts mean you can enjoy benefits such as your Tesco Clubcard or Nectar card (valid at Sainsbury’s, BP and Esso) both in the shop and while filling up.
4. Driving smoothly can help save fuel, because petrol and diesel cars use more energy when accelerating hard, and the more often you brake, the more often you’ll need to pick up speed again. To avoid this, build speed gradually and try to anticipate traffic and junctions so you keep rolling as much as possible.
5. Plan your journeys to make the most of fast and flowing roads (which tend to be better for fuel economy), rather than simply taking the most direct route through traffic black spots or villages, where you’re likely to slow to a crawl and have to change speed more often.
6. Manufacturers tirelessly strip as much weight out of cars as possible to reduce CO2 emissions and boost fuel-efficiency, so don’t undo all their good work by leaving the boot full of sports gear and burning more fuel than necessary.
7. Ensuring tyres are correctly inflated, the engine oil is changed and air filters are replaced are all key to making sure a car runs at its best. Driving with underinflated tyres in particular will mean you visit the forecourt far more often than anticipated.
8. Air conditioning and climate control are wonderful things, both for keeping a car cool in summer and demisting windows in winter, but they also take lots of energy to run. If the weather permits, turn it off as often as possible, or run it in ‘Eco’ mode if your car has one.
What's the cheapest car to run that you've ever owned? Let us know in the comments...