Supermini Economy Heroes
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.
In this review
- 1Introduction - currently readingWe go on a 300-mile marathon to choose the best of the latest superminis for buyers wanting to slash their motoring bills
- 21st Blue oval baby claims best economy figures of our contendersEven though this Fiesta falls some way short of its official combined economy in the real world, it’s still one of the most efficient models currently on sale – and there are no compromises to be made.
- 32nd Does petrol-only range hold back class’s most flexible car?The Jazz very nearly took the victory here – factor in its low list price and the cost saving of choosing petrol over diesel, and it’s the smartest financial choice. What lets it down is its sluggish pace.
- 43rd German contender has been a trailblazer for eco city carsEven though it was the most economical supermini in the test, the Polo BlueMotion is expensive – so it only really makes sense if you want to reduce your emissions, rather than save money.
- 54th Japanese baby blends low consumption with a bargain priceFar from disgracing itself in such accomplished company, the Justy was capable, economical and surprising fun to drive. Only a lack of comfort and a questionable image hold it back.
- 65th Style doesn’t have to be costly, as Italian promises great returnsAn economy test proved too much for this diesel MiTo. While the sporty, powerful JTDm engine returns reasonable economy, Alfa’s more efficient 1.3-litre oil-burner would have fared better here.
- 7Facts and figures