Most economical cars on sale now

Do you value fuel economy above everything else? Here’s a definitive list of the most economical cars on sale in the UK now

Fuel economy will probably play a large part in deciding what your next new car will be. It’s a simple cost-benefit analysis – the more frugal the vehicle, the more money you’re going to save each time you make a journey.

Below we explore the fuel economy issue in detail looking at the most economical petrol, diesel, hybrid and plug-in cars on the market right now. 

How to choose an economical car 

Until recently, diesel cars were viewed as the automotive silver bullet for their combination of good fuel economy and low CO2 emissions. However, their popularity is now on the decline after details of the Volkswagen emissions scandal surfaced back in 2015 and questions were raised about emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter from diesel cars.

Despite this, new diesel cars are very clean and the fuel still makes a good choice for those who regularly cover long distances, as most modern diesel engines will easily return upwards of 50mpg on the motorway. Diesel buyers just need to ensure that they cover enough miles in a year to offset the extra upfront cost of a diesel engine with fuel savings.

CO2 and NOx emissions are another important factor to consider when buying a new car, due to their direct influence over the vehicle’s annual road tax. However, all the diesel cars listed here comply with the latest Euro 6 emissions standards – so they’re amongst the cleanest cars on sale today.

Our list of the most economical cars focuses on internal combustion-engined vehicles, providing you with the top ten most economical cars on sale in the UK now. But, as petrol and hybrid cars will often be a more cost-effective solution for low-mileage drivers, we have included separate pages which detail the most economical offerings for these fuel choices. 

If you don’t fancy a diesel, bear in mind that the impressive official combined cycle economy figures for plug-in hybrids (PHEV) are often difficult to replicate in the real world, especially on longer journeys where they’re forced to use their internal combustion engines. However, if PHEVs are charged regularly and used for shorter trips, (where they can take advantage of their electric-only ranges), they can be extremely fuel efficient. We’ve ignored electric cars for the purposes of this page but that’s not to say you should. Our ‘best electric cars’ list will give you all the guidance you need to pick the right one.

All of the vehicles listed here have been subject to the latest WLTP test programme, which was introduced at the end of 2019 as a more accurate (and more stringent) method of measuring fuel economy. It replaced the dated NEDC system, with the hope of providing consumers with information more representative of real world driving.

Top 10 most economical cars on sale now

The most fuel efficient internal combustion-engined car currently on sale in the UK is the Peugeot 208, whose 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine returns a claimed economy figure of 73.6mpg. The best-performing petrol cars are the Peugeot 108 and the Kia Picanto, which both deliver a 58.9mpg maximum.

Finally, the award for the most frugal plug-in hybrid goes to the Mercedes-Benz GLE, which returns 403.6mpg according to the current test programme.

Scroll down for our full list of the most economical combustion-engined cars on sale in the UK today...

1. Peugeot 208 1.5 BlueHDi (100PS) Active manual – 73.6mpg

The second-generation Peugeot 208 has followed in the footsteps of its forebearer, retaining its crown as the most economical car on sale in the UK. It’s available with PSA’s latest range of frugal combustion engines – but the 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel is the least thirsty option, with a claimed WLTP fuel economy figure of 73.6mpg.

Such frugality doesn’t come at the expense of performance, either. There’s a hefty 250Nm of torque on tap, which provides a respectable 0–62mph time of 9.6 seconds, a top speed of 117mph and decent in-gear acceleration – meaning the diesel unit rarely feels like a hindrance on the open road.

2. Vauxhall Corsa 1.5 Turbo D (102hp) SE manual – 70.6mpg

The latest Vauxhall Corsa is very closely related to the Peugeot 208, so it isn’t a big surprise to see it so high on this list. In its 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel-powered guise, the Corsa has a claimed WLTP fuel economy figure of 70.6mpg – which, while admittedly a bit behind what its Peugeot sibling can achieve, nevertheless makes it one of the most frugal cars you can buy right now.

Just like the Peugeot, the Vauxhall Corsa also has a decent amount of performance for a fuel-sipping supermini. The diesel Corsa has 250Nm of torque at its disposal, which Vauxhall claims is good for a 117mph top speed and a 0-62mph time of 9.6 seconds.

3. Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI (116hp) SE manual – 68.9mpg

If you’re after a fuel-efficient family car, there are worse options out there than the Skoda Octavia. With a claimed WLTP fuel economy figure of 68.9mpg, this particular spec of Octavia isn’t too far off the Vauxhall Corsa and Peugeot 208 in terms of fuel consumption – which is impressive, considering the Skoda is a larger car with a bigger and more powerful engine.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine in the Skoda also has more to its name than just good fuel economy. Its 113bhp and 300Nm of torque outputs give the Octavia decent performance (Skoda quotes a 0-62mph time of 10.3 seconds), so the car has enough power to cruise comfortably on the motorway.

4= Renault Clio 1.5 dCi (85PS) Play manual – 67.3mpg

The fifth-generation Renault Clio comes a respectable joint-fourth in our economy countdown, losing out to the Skoda in third place by only 1.6mpg. Like the diesel versions of the Peugeot 208, the Clio is powered by an efficient 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine – although it’s considerably less powerful than PSA’s unit, with a maximum output of 84bhp and 220Nm of torque.

However, we think the Clio is better to drive than the Peugeot 208, sitting right at the top of its class with the Ford Fiesta. And, even though it’s a bit less desirable than the Peugeot, it’s as well built, better equipped and more practical, boasting a maximum capacity of 1,069 litres with the rear bench seat stowed.

4= Ford Focus 1.5 EcoBlue (120hp) Zetec manual – 67.3mpg

Ford’s Focus ticks a lot of boxes if you’re after a well-rounded family hatchback. It has a well-judged chassis that makes it comfortable and enjoyable to drive, there’s a good amount of interior space and plenty of standard equipment.

Go for a Ford Focus with the 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, and you’ll also have a pretty frugal car – according to the claimed WLTP fuel economy figures, it’s able to return up to 67.3mpg. While the diesel engine isn’t as smooth as the petrol options, it is quite a refined unit, which helps make it a great choice if you’re after a Ford Focus to rack up a lot of miles in.

4=Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI (116hp) SE manual – 67.3mpg

Just like the hatchback version, the Skoda Octavia Estate is worth having a look at if you’re shopping around for a fuel-efficient family car. While it can’t quite match the regular Octavia’s fuel economy credentials, the Octavia Estate’s claimed 67.3mpg WLTP figure is only 1.6mpg off the stats quoted for the regular Skoda Octavia.

The rest of the Octavia Estate is on par with the hatchback derivative. There’s a decent amount of performance, courtesy of the 113bhp/300Nm 2.0-litre engine, and it’s a good car to spend long journeys in thanks to the spacious cabin and comfy ride. Plus, the Octavia Estate has practicality on its side – at 640 litres, the boot is 40 litres larger than the one on the Octavia hatch, and can be increased to 1,700 litres by folding the rear seats down.

5. Citroen C3 1.5 BlueHDi (100hp) Flair manual – 67mpg

If you’re after a more comfort-focused supermini, then it’s worth having a look at the Citroen C3 – the soft ride and heavily padded seats help take the sting out of lumps and bumps in the road. Drivers who rack up a lot of motorway miles will also want to consider the 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, as the claimed WLTP fuel economy figures say it can return an impressive 67mpg.

With a healthy 250Nm of torque on tap, this spec of C3 has decent amounts of performance, too. However, do bear in mind that the diesel version is quite a bit more expensive to buy than the equivalent petrols – meaning, unless you have a large annual mileage, it may be more cost-effective to go for the one of the 1.2-litre petrol options.

6= Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer 1.5 Turbo D (105hp) SE manual – 65.7mpg

Because they’re usually a little bit heavier, estate versions of cars don’t tend to be as fuel-efficient as their hatchback counterparts. However, the diesel-powered Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer is an exception to this rule, as its claimed WLTP fuel economy figure of 65.7mpg is identical to the equivalent Astra hatch’s.

Performance is respectable from the Astra Sports Tourer’s 1.5-litre, 104bhp engine – Vauxhall claims a decent 0-62mph time of 10.4 seconds. Depending on how often you’ll be using the 540-litre boot to haul heavy loads, it may be worth considering the more powerful 120bhp version of this engine, as it has more pulling power while also still having a very good WLTP fuel economy figure of 64.2mpg.

6= Seat Leon 2.0 TDI (115hp) SE manual – 65.7mpg

It isn’t quite as economical as the equivalent Skoda Octavia that uses the same engine, but the 113bhp diesel Seat Leon is nevertheless a very frugal car on paper. According to the claimed WLTP figures, it’s capable of returning up to an impressive 65.7mpg.

The 2.0-litre diesel in the Seat Leon is also pretty punchy, with its hefty 300Nm of torque meaning the engine pulls strongly and has good in-gear acceleration. A word of warning, though: the 2.0-litre diesel engine is only available on the entry-level SE grades, which means you’ll be limited to petrol or petrol-electric plug-in hybrid power if you want a new Leon in the FR or Xcellence trim levels.

6= Vauxhall Astra 1.5 Turbo D (105hp) SE manual – 65.7mpg

Just like the Sports Tourer estate version, the Vauxhall Astra hatch is quite the fuel-sipping family car. In fact, with the same 104bhp/260Nm of torque 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine under the bonnet, both Astra variants have an identical claimed WLTP fuel economy figure of up to 65.7mpg.

We’ve ranked the hatchback below the Astra Sports Tourer because, while the regular Astra’s official fuel economy figures vary from 60.1mpg to 65.7mpg depending on the spec, the least efficient version of the estate has a slightly better economy figure of 61.4mpg.

Other economical car options

If none of our top 10 combustion-engined econo-boxes are to your taste, fret not – for there’s a wealth of other frugal cars on the market which have claimed economy figures upwards of 60mpg.

For example, the DS 3 Crossback can be specced with the same 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine as the Peugeot 208 but, due to the SUV’s poorer aerodynamics, fuel economy falls by around 16% to 61.4mpg. The trade-off for this reduced efficiency is a more comfortable interior and a significant shift upmarket to PSA’s most premium brand.

Moving further upmarket, there’s the BMW 116d SE. It’s fitted with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder diesel engine, which has a maximum claimed fuel economy of 62.8mpg. And, by sacrificing a little more efficiency, buyers gain access to a sweet handling chassis, a prestigious badge and a comfortable interior fitted with BMW’s excellent iDrive infotainment system.

Top three most economical petrol cars on sale now

Up until the turn of the century, diesel power was your only choice if you needed a car with good fuel economy. In recent years, though, advancements in engine management software, fuel delivery systems and turbocharger technology have made petrol engines almost as efficient as their coal-rolling counterparts.

Currently, the most efficient petrol cars on the market deliver around 10mpg less than their diesel-engined competitors. However, petrols have lower NOx and particulate emissions than diesels and they’re cheaper to buy from the outset – so we’d recommend that you seriously consider your options if the majority of your journeys are of a shorter distance.

1= Peugeot 108 1.0 (72PS) Active manual – 58.9mpg

The Peugeot 108 is a good contender in the city car class, offering plenty of big-car features for small car cash. If we’re honest, though, it’s not our favourite – the Volkswagen Up! is more refined and the Hyundai i10 provides much more space. However, neither can match the 108 for economy.

Its tiny Toyota-sourced 1.0-litre three-cylinder returns a claimed WLTP fuel economy figure of 58.9mpg, which is impressive for a petrol engine. The unit produces 71bhp and 95Nm of torque, so it rarely feels underpowered around town. On the motorway, though, it’s a bit breathless and transmits large vibrations into the cabin. 

2= Kia Picanto 1.0 MPi (67hp) 1 manual – 58.9mpg

Sharing joint honours with the Peugeot 108 as the most frugal petrol-powered car in the UK is the Kia Picanto. Like the Peugeot, the Kia is capable of returning up to 58.9mpg, courtesy of the city car’s low weight and its tiny 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine.

The Picanto is pretty close to the Peugeot 108 in the power stakes, too, with outputs of 66bhp and 96Nm of torque. That means the Kia has enough punch for a car that will probably spend a lot of its life being driven around towns and cities, though it does mean you’ll need to work the engine quite hard to keep up with traffic on dual carriageways and the motorway.

2. Suzuki Swift 1.2 Dualjet (83hp) SZ-L manual – 57.2mpg 

Despite being a bigger car with a larger and (slightly) more powerful engine, the Suzuki Swift runs the Peugeot 108 and Kia Picanto quite close in the fuel consumption stakes. Suzuki quotes a 57.2mpg WLTP fuel consumption figure for the 82bhp Swift supermini, which is only 1.7mpg down on what the smaller Kia and Peugeot city cars can manage.

Officially, this spec of Suzuki Swift is also a hybrid, as the 1.2-litre petrol engine is assisted by an electric motor generator unit. However, we’ve included it here as the mild hybrid system doesn’t have a battery big enough to allow electric-only driving – instead, it’s there to give the engine a small helping hand under acceleration, which in turn helps to improve the car’s fuel consumption a little bit.

Top three most economical hybrid cars on sale now

Plug-in hybrids stake the biggest claims in fuel economy, with BMW, Hyundai, Mercedes, Peugeot and Toyota all insisting their vehicles are capable of returning more than 200mpg. In reality, their fuel consumption falls far short of the manufacturer claims – partly because many PHEVs spend a lot of time running without battery charge on their internal combustion engines alone.

However, if you keep the batteries topped up and regularly use the vehicle for short trips (where you can take advantage of the car’s electric-only range), the benefits can be huge. Nowadays, there are plenty of PHEVs available with an electric-only range of around 30 miles – so, theoretically, you’d never use any fuel if you’re only travelling locally.

1. Mercedes GLE 350de (320hp) AMG Line auto – 403.6mpg

Diesel and plug-in hybrid cars tend to have very good on-paper fuel economy. Therefore, it’s perhaps no surprise that the diesel-electric plug-in version of the Mercedes-Benz GLE is claimed to be a very frugal car indeed. According to the WLTP figures, it’s capable of returning an incredible 403.6mpg.

The key to that lofty stat is the car’s large 30.8kWh battery, which Mercedes claims is big enough to allow an impressive electric-only range of up to 41 miles. That big battery does mean there’s a lot of extra weight to carry if it runs out of charge, though – while a non-hybrid GLE 350d tips the scales at around 2.2 tonnes, the GLE 350de is even heftier still at 2.6 tonnes.

2= Mercedes A 250e (218hp) AMG Line auto – 282.5mpg

While it’s a long way from matching the diesel-electric Mercedes GLE, the plug-in hybrid A-Class is still very efficient on-paper for a petrol-powered premium family hatchback. If the claimed WLTP fuel consumption figures are anything to go by, impressive economy of up to 282.5mpg is possible in the Mercedes A 250e.

Performance is pretty good, too: combined, the 1.3-litre petrol engine and electric motor produce 215bhp and 330Nm of torque, which Mercedes says is good for a 0-62mph time of 6.6 seconds. Despite that speed and the fact it’s only available in the sporty AMG Line trim, though, the A 250e isn’t that much fun to drive – which isn’t helped by the lumpy-at-times automatic gearbox.

2= Audi A3 40 TFSI e (204hp) Sport auto – 282.5mpg

Sharing the runner-up spot with the Mercedes in our most frugal plug-in hybrid list is the Audi A3 40 TFSI e. Thanks to the car’s 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine and electric motor combo, the petrol-electric Audi is able to return up to 282.5mpg, according to the WLTP figures.

The Audi A3 TFSI e is quite closely matched in other areas to its Mercedes rival, too. Both cars have spacious and well-built interiors, and there isn’t too much to split them in the power stakes (201bhp for the Audi; 215bhp for the Mercedes). Even their prices are fairly similar – both the A3 40 TFSI e and the A 250e start from around £32,000, which makes them some of the most expensive versions in their respective ranges.

Things to consider before you buy

Always remember – when hunting for an economical car, you must choose something that will suit both your lifestyle and your wallet. It’s no good buying a city car, simply because it’s cheap to run, if you spend most of your time on the motorway.

To reiterate, diesel engines are less suitable for regular short trips, but perform admirably on longer journeys. Small petrol engines are the opposite, working well in town but labouring on faster roads. If you spend most of your time tooling around the streets of a busy city, consider buying a PHEV and reaping the benefits of its electric-only range or, if your lifestyle allows it, make the switch to a pure-electric vehicle.

Next, read our list of the best used electric cars to buy and check out the top economical cars on our sister site BuyaCar...

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