Most economical cars

Last updated: Jun 25, 2014

With the cost of running cars seemingly getting ever higher, it is no surprise that economy and low emissions are top of many car buyers’ wish lists. Help is at hand, though, with most manufacturers offering models that have been specifically designed to have cheap running costs.

Although electric cars and hybrids offer low day-to-day running costs, we have deliberately excluded them from this list because they tend to be expensive to buy and, in the case of electric cars, have a range that limits their usability for most buyers. Hybrids, meanwhile, often have MPG figures that are hard to achieve in the real world. You can find both on our list of London Congestion Charge exempt cars, however.

As a result, all the cars below feature conventional combustion engines and, because it offers unbeatable economy, they are also all diesel. All are capable of more than 80mpg, although it's worth mentioning that their engines can clog up if they are used exclusively for short journeys, which could spell trouble in the form of big repair bills.

The most economical car 2013 is an accolade that so many manufacturers are striving for, and if it's the factor that matters most to you, then take a look below at our top ten list of the UK's most economical cars.

Peugeot 308 hatchback

The latest Peugeot 308 offers class-leading economy in the form of the 1.6-litre BlueHDi 120 Active model, which returns a hugely impressive 91.1mpg and CO2 emissions of just 82g/km, meaning it easily scoops the number one spot in our most economical cars list. Despite the excellent figures, the engine still produces 120bhp, so you don't have to make a huge performance sacrifice either. The new 308 is 140kg lighter than the old model, so the car is better to drive as well as more efficient. Read more.

Key points

3.8 / 5
£14,895 - £24,445

Volkswagen Golf hatchback

Choosing between the Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion and the Hyundai i20 is tough. Both have official economy of 88.3mpg, thanks to the fact the Golf is a bigger car and slightly more practical – it just edges ahead here. While many cars are economical on paper, the Golf should be so in the real world, too. In fact, one VW Golf Bluemotion recently recorded an official figure of 97mpg on a 995-mile trip between Nantes and Copenhagen – an impressive feat! CO2 emissions of just 85g/km, a desirable badge and a well-built interior are simply the icing on the cake. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
£16,975 - £30,845

Hyundai i20 hatchback

The fact that the Hyundai i20 CRDi Blue runs the Volkswagen Golf a close third is high praise indeed. Not that long ago Hyundais were cheap to buy and well equipped, but ultimately not as good to own as their European counterparts. But that’s not the case anymore. A low list price, efficiency of 88.3mpg and emissions of just 84g/km make the i20 an excellent budget choice. It can also fit four adults in relative comfort, has a five-year warranty and plenty of standard equipment. Read more.

Key points

3.9 / 5
£10,180 - £13,680

Kia Rio hatchback

With a figure of 88mpg, the Kia Rio EcoDynamics is only slightly less economical than the Hyundai, with which it shares its 1.1-litre diesel engine. The Kia counters, though, with its excellent seven-year warranty and chunky looks that are on a par with the best European hatchbacks. The Kia Rio shares many of its characteristics with the Hyundai, so the interior is quiet, relatively spacious and well equipped. The soft suspension gives a good ride, but means there’s quite a lot of body roll in the corners, which could prove tiresome for driver and passengers alike. Read more.

Key points

4.2 / 5
£10,095 - £16,695

Smart ForTwo micro car

If you drive mostly in the city and can live with two seats, the youthful looking Smart ForTwo could be the car for you. The Smart ForTwo cdi Pulse returns 86mpg and emissions of just 86g/km, so it will be cheap to run. Compact dimensions mean the Smart can fit in spaces that are too small for most cars, while excellent visibility makes squeezing into them relatively easy. Out on the motorway, the Smart’s small size can leave you feeling vulnerable to larger vehicles and its small, 800cc engine is a bit short on power. Read more.

Key points

2.2 / 5
£10,330 - £10,849

SEAT Leon hatchback

The lower weight of the new SEAT Leon combined with the fuel-saving technology fitted to its 110bhp 1.6-litre TDI engine means the 1.6 TDI Ecomotive model is capable of 85.6mpg and emits 87g/km of CO2. The Leon was named Carbuyer's Best Family Car for 2014 thanks to its blend of style, practicality, performance and value. If you consider these qualities with the excellent economy figures returned by the Ecomotive model, you have a very appealing all-round package. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
£16,115 - £24,170

Ford Fiesta hatchback

The Ford Fiesta ECOnetic diesel returns 85.6mpg and tax-busting emissions of 87g/km, meaning it’s a cheap car to live with on a daily basis. The Ford Fiesta is one of our favourite small cars because it is good looking, fun to drive and a even quite practical for young families. Although its three-year/60,000-mile warranty is bettered by other cars on our list, few can match its cheap parts and huge dealer network. Read more.

Key points

4.7 / 5
£9,995 - £17,995

Vauxhall Corsa hatchback

The Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi matches the Ford Fiesta’s 85.6mpg figure but finishes behind the Ford because it is simply not as fun to drive. Although perfectly usable, the Vauxhall’s interior isn’t as nice to sit in as the Ford’s, and its exterior looks could also be accused of being a bit drab. Unfortunately for the Corsa, Vauxhall also finished a disappointing 26th out of 32 manufactures in our 2013 Driver Power survey. Nonetheless, it’s worth checking the Vauxhall website before making a decision, because the manufacturer usually has a range of attractive deals on offer. Read more.

Key points

2.4 / 5
£8,995 - £17,005

Citroën C3 hatchback

The 1.4-litre Citroen C3 Airdream has a bigger engine than many of the cars on the list, but sadly that doesn’t translate into strong performance. But, if that doesn’t bother you, then the Citroen could well be worth a look. The interior is quiet at motorway speeds and its suspension gives a comfortable ride. It’s cheap to run, too, with efficiency of 83.1mpg and emissions of 87g/km. The Citroen is a good looking car and its height means there is decent head and legroom, although equipment is limited on basic models. It's also worth noting that the car’s four-star Euro NCAP means the C3 lags behind many others on this list. Read more.

Key points

2.5 / 5
£11,075 - £16,860

Volvo V40 hatchback

The Volvo D2 ES is a new entry onto our list of the UK’s most economical cars and, if you cover a lot of miles, it is probably the pick of the bunch. Its 1.6-litre engine is the most powerful here, plus Volvo has a reputation for building cars with quiet cabins and extremely comfortable seats. The dashboard matches the solid feel of the VW Golf, but is arguably more stylish to look at. With an economy figure of 83.1mpg and emissions of 88g/km, the Volvo might be cheap to run, but it is the most expensive car to buy on our list. Read more.

Key points

3.7 / 5
£18,995 - £31,900

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