Fuel efficiency has improved dramatically in recent years, in large part thanks to stricter fuel regulations implemented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Today, new cars sold in the United States get an average of 24.9 mpg, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Fuel economy is one of the most important factors to consider when buying a new car. Even when gas prices are down, they won’t stay that way forever.
Many cars sold today offer impressive fuel economy, especially in contrast to what you may be trading in. Below, we spotlight the most fuel-efficient cars based on Consumer Reports’ overall fuel-economy test results.
Measuring fuel economy is one of more than 50 tests we conduct on each car we purchase. Our fuel-economy numbers are derived from a precision flow meter and are rounded to the nearest mile per gallon. CR’s overall mileage results are calculated based on equal portions of city and highway driving.
This list starts with the most-efficient car, and it does not include plug-in vehicles, like the Honda Clarity and Toyota Prius Prime.
But just a generation ago, in 1980, vehicles were averaging around 17 mpg, according to the Pew Environment Group.
Vehicle fuel efficiency is an immediately relevant issue for American families. Some drivers spend more than $1,000 dollars annually on fuel. And as added fuel efficiency means reduced carbon emissions, more miles per gallon today means less environmental impact in the long term.
To create a level playing field while considering fuel efficiency, we looked at cars with gasoline-powered combustion engines, not electric vehicles, hybrids, or diesel-engine vehicles, and we excluded trucks and SUVs.
Here are the five most fuel-efficient cars being produced today, along with the four least fuel-efficient ones.
According to statistics compiled by the US Department of Energy, the Chevy Spark can save $1,250 in fuel costs over the course of five years when compared to fuel expenses associated with the average new vehicle.
The Spark gets an estimated 38 mpg during freeway driving and 30 mpg in stop-and-go city driving.
Sales of new diesel cars remain in freefall – already down another 20 percent in 2019 – following the Government’s efforts to encourage motorists to ditch them in favour of cleaner, more eco-friendly vehicles.
As a result, registrations of petrol cars have moved higher, increasing by almost six percent so far this year.
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But it’s a well-known fact that diesel offers the better fuel economy of the two, meaning high-mileage motorists might still be better off with an oil burner over a motor-powered with unleaded.
However, up-to-date real-world fuel economy measurements have listed the ten petrol cars with the best miles per gallon figures that might encourage mile-munchers to make the switch.
Fuel economy and efficiency are crucially important for motorists as it can save you on fuel every year.
For a long time, diesel cars were thought upon favourably for their better fuel economy, perfect for long-distance motorists.
However, revelations about the harmful emissions they produce have seen a significant switch in the industry.
Motorists and manufacturers are moving away from diesel in favour of petrol and some alternatively fuelled cars as a result of this.
Petrol cars typically can’t match up to diesel cars in terms of their fuel economy and also tend to emit more CO2 emissions.
This has proven to be problematic as CO2 emissions levels across the UK rose for the first time in 14 years in 2018, after a steady decline.
Motorists that are driving long distances and require a petrol vehicle to do so then need to make fuel economy a priority to make their petrol last longer.
Buying a new car is a different experience for everyone. Some prioritize looks over everything else; then, there are people who want performance over everything else. Meanwhile, there are others who want every possible convenience and safety feature that one could think of. However, the second thing that most of these people look at is the fuel efficiency a car.
To make that buying decision easier for them, we have put together a list of the five most fuel-efficient cars we tested in 2019. We tested the fuel efficiency of cars by doing a highway run and a city-run, and have combined these two figures based on the assumption that half your driving will be in the city and while the rest will be on the highway.
You might be worried about air pollution, the possibility of diesel taxes, or simply prefer quieter and smoother performance. Whatever the reason, buying a petrol car doesn’t always mean sky-high fuel bills.
Modern petrol engines are a genuine alternative to diesel – especially in smaller cars, where they are more suited to city driving, almost as efficient and usually much cheaper to buy or finance. Efficient mpg figures also mean low carbon dioxide emissions, which results in cheaper company car tax.
If you’re looking for a petrol car that’s cheap to run, then you’ll find it in this comprehensive guide. We’ve started by ranking the ten most efficient petrol cars that are currently being sold, based on official mpg figures.
Continue down the page for the most frugal models in different categories, from city cars to SUVs, or click below to search for prices on all of the most economical petrol cars.
What is the most fuel-efficient petrol car?
Dacia Sandero 0.9 TCe
The Sandero is not only the cheapest new car you can buy in the UK but also one of the cheapest to run. Its 0.9-litre petrol engine isn’t the last word in refinement or speed, but if you want to keep running costs as low as possible, it’s a good choice. The Sandero is also surprisingly spacious for a small hatchback.
The cheapest car in Britain is also one of the most efficient. The budget hatchback manages an admirable 52.8mpg from its 1.2-litre petrol engine.
Prices for the car start at just £5,995 so you can’t expect it to be the best equipped, most powerful or exciting car but it is incredibly cheap.
Dacia’s Sandero represents affordable driving when it comes to new cars. For less than £7k, you can have a zero-mile motor that returns almost 53mpg.
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2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
The Corolla hatchback is new for 2019, and the vehicle’s 42 miles per gallon on the highway make it a new car worth considering for anyone with a long freeway commute. In the city, the Corolla Hatchback averages 32 mpg.
A 2019 Corolla Hatchback has myriad standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance.
Seat Leon 1.0
The 113bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine you get in this Leon is our recommended choice because it’s vigorous enough to get you up to speed in good time, while also keeping running costs in check. The Leon offers tidy handling, too, and most versions come well equipped.
This medium-sized hatchback is big enough and suitable for a family. The Spanish made cares powered by a 1.0-litre TSI engine, which produces 112bhp, allowing a sprint from 0-62mph in under 10 seconds. It is based on the VW Golf but comes in at a cheaper price point.
Kia Picanto 1.0
It’s cheap, cute and fun. The Picanto is a decent little city car that returned great mpg from its frugal 1.0-litre engine for under £10,000. It won’t be as refined on the motorway, but this vehicle will most likely be driven around a city or town.
In the Kia Picanto, you’ll be driving a multi-What Car? Award winner, most recently scooping the Value Car of the Year title at our most recent awards ceremony. This 1.0-litre petrol version needs to be worked hard to perform at its best, but it’s a good choice if you’ll mainly be negotiating city streets.
While it might not be as cheap as a Sandero, buy a basic Picanto with the mega-frugal 1.0-litre petrol unit under the bonnet, and you’ll have spare change left from £10,000.
What it lacks in smoothness and quietness compared to the slightly bigger 1.2-litre engine it makes up with lower fuel bills.
On motorways, the engine needs to be worked fairly rigorously. However, most will be using them in the city, where it proves to be an economy winner.
Again, it’s not as efficient as the official figures will lead you to believe, but it will return 50mpg-plus on a daily basis.
Volkswagen’s Up is one of the most premium city cars you can buy today.
Two turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol is available, this one being the least potent on them.
With just 89bhp under the bonnet, you’ll be forgiven for thinking it might be a little breathless on the move.
However, there’s plenty of performance, especially in the city, and a True MPG return of almost 54mpg.
Suzuki Baleno 1.0
You’ve probably not heard of the Baleno, so let us introduce it.
This is Suzuki’s bargain offering in the family hatchback segment, priced from less than £13,000.
The 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine can return 55mpg, though it also isn’t what you’d call brisk – a 0 to 62mph saunter takes 11 seconds.
But what it lacks in pace it boasts in affordability.
For less than £13,000, it might not be a popular choice, but it is certainly a worthy option.
The first of three Suzukis on this list is the Baleno, a small car rival to the Skoda Fabia and Ford Fiesta, but is more efficient than either of them in 1.0-litre form. You get lots of equipment as standard, too, plus a spacious boot. It’s worth noting that the Baleno is no longer on sale, but you can find used examples at very reasonable prices.
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2019 Mitsubishi Mirage
Though the Mirage’s 36 mpg in the city and 41 mpg during highway driving are certainly impressive, the car’s exceptional fuel economy comes at the great expense of power. The 3-cylinder engine is rated at a mere 78 horsepower.
In their test of a new Mitsubishi Mirage, reviewers from Kelley Blue Book reported an agonizingly slow 13 second 0 to 60 mile per hour acceleration. But as an efficient commuter car, it is an affordable choice in terms of initial cost and fuel expenses.
Volkswagen Up 1.0 TSI 90
You can choose from two turbocharged 1.0-litre engines in Volkswagen’s city car, but it’s the lower-powered version with 89bhp that we recommend. Not only does it feel nippy around town, but it doesn’t feel out of breath on the motorway either. And while the Up’s badge-engineered siblings, the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo, will cost you less to buy, the Up has the nicer interior. It’s worth noting, too, that like the Mii and Citigo, the Up is in the process of going fully electric, so your best chance of grabbing a petrol-engined model is by buying used.
The Up! is a cheap, fun and stylish little car, which is an attractive buy for city drivers or new motorists. The 1.0-litre TSI 90 also achieves 53.7mpg, meaning that it will cheap to run.
No, you’re not seeing double; the Volkswagen Up does indeed feature twice in this list. This entry is for the same 1.0-litre petrol engine we covered earlier, but this time its power is 74bhp rather than 89bhp. The loss of a turbocharger means this version can feel a bit weedy compared with more powerful Ups, but we reckon fewer trips to the petrol station will make up for some of that. As with the Up, we had earlier on in this list. However, this version has since been discontinued, although you can find examples on the used market.
Suzuki Ignis 1.2 SHVS
This version of the Ignis small SUV has an ace up its sleeve: it’s a mild hybrid. That means that as well as its 1.2-litre petrol engine, it can rely on small bursts of electric power too. And that all adds up to a frugal package that’s also pleasantly peppy. Add in the Ignis’s spacious interior and generous standard equipment, and it’s a very compelling package.
The SHVS Ignis has been crowned the most efficient car the firm has tested. The mild-hybrid uses an electric motor and a 1.2-litre petrol station to power it along, which helps with its fuel economy. You can almost get 60mpg in the real world from the front-wheel-drive compact SUV.
The most efficient petrol car tested by What Car? So far is an SUV. Well, a small one. It’s the Suzuki Ignis, which can almost hit 60mph with this particular engine under the bonnet The SHVS version of the Ignis, which is front rather than four-wheel drive, is the most efficient petrol-powered car.
It’s what’s called a ‘mild hybrid.’ That means it has a small electric motor to supplement the 1.2-litre petrol engine under the bonnet.
The compact crossover achieves almost 60mpg in the True MPG test.
And even if you wanted a model with the extra security of fou.
Suzuki Celerio 1.0
Another cheap runner is the Suzuki Celerio. You can get one for less than £7,000 new, and it will return almost 58mpg in the real world.
The Suzuki Celerio edges exceptionally close to the Dacia Sandero (at number 10) in the battle of the cheapest new cars sold in the UK.
For less than £7,000, you get to get your hands on this little town runaround with a peppy 1.0-litre engine.
Fuel bills will be low thanks to a True MPG measurement of 57.8mpg.
Suzuki – thankfully – also has an impressive reliability record, so you won’t have many repair receipts as well as fuel costs.
Another Suzuki on the list and also one of the cheapest car on sale in Britain. The sub-£6,000 is powered by a 1.0-litre petrol engine and comes with Bluetooth, a DAB radio and air conditioning. It can achieve around 58mpg due to its frugal little engine.
In a car as small and light as the Celerio, even a 67bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine can give you a pleasant turn of speed. In fact, while the Celerio feels most at home in town, it isn’t outpaced on faster A-roads or motorways. Suzuki also has an impressive reliability record, so you shouldn’t face many issues with things going wrong. The Celerio was discontinued by Suzuki in 2019.
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Skoda Citigo 1.0
The Citigo will cost you less to buy than its Seat Mii and Volkswagen Up brethren and is also supremely economical. This 59bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine might sound like it’s down on power, but it’s perfectly suited to take on city streets. The Citigo is also relatively roomy inside, so carrying friends for a big shopping trip need not be out of the question. Petrol-engined versions of the Citigo are now available only on the used market because the new car has been overhauled to become the all-electric Citigo e iV.
A cheaper but admittedly less cool version of the VW up! Its 1.0-litre engine produces just 59bhp, which is incredibly low, but it can return over 55 mpg.
So while it will not be fun or exciting to drive, it will save you some cash on fuel.
Want a VW Up that’s slightly less cool? The Skoda Citigo might be the car for you.
The model tested here is the lowest powered on sale packing just 59bhp – relatively weedy when you compare it to just about anything else with four wheels.
But it is economical, especially in town.
What Car? Measured it as returning 55.2mpg on average, which is a dead heat with the Suzuki Baleno.