Petrol prices are still tumbling and there are question marks over the environmental benefit of diesel cars; so now is a great time to consider a return to the green pump.

While petrol cars always used to consume much more fuel than equivalent diesels, a new crop of efficient motors are both more refined than diesels, cheaper to buy and usefully economical. Even if you’re after an off-roader with chunky SUV-style looks and a practical interior, you shouldn’t have to break the bank at the petrol pumps.

We’ve rounded up some of the most appealing petrol SUVs that can be bought for less than £30,000 but return more than 50mpg. You don’t even have to do without four-wheel drive, if this is important to you, as the most economical car we’ve chosen is capable of 148mpg thanks to the addition of an electric motor, but still offers all-wheel drive traction.

Audi Q3 1.4 TFSI 150 SE – £25,340

Audi’s smallest off-roader, the Q3, may be pricier than several rivals, but what you get in exchange is a punchy but economical turbocharged motor and a solid, high quality interior. The 1.4-litre TFSI 150 SE may be the entry level Q3, but with fuel economy of 50.4mpg and a brisk nought to 62mph time of 9.2 seconds, you really shouldn’t feel short changed.

In entry level form the Q3 includes Bluetooth, rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, a digital radio and automatic lights and wipers, which means that you shouldn’t need to plunder the pricey options list to get the kit you want. Car tax is also inexpensive at £110 per year, under the current rules.

Lexus NX300h S – £29,495

The brand new Lexus NX should prove even more frugal than the Audi to live with, courtesy of its 56.5mpg combined fuel economy. Helping the NX achieve this figure is its hybrid power, with the petrol engine aided by an electric motor. Acceleration matches the Audi, while annual car tax weighs in at a mere £30 per year.

Though the NX just sneaks under the £30,000 mark it has a good level of equipment with a digital radio, eight-inch media system, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control and Bluetooth all included. It also comes with an automatic gearbox and the ability to drive under electric power alone for limited distances.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GX3h – £28,249 (after £5,000 plug-in car grant)

Completely disproving the belief that all 4x4s are gas-guzzling monsters, the petrol-electric Outlander PHEV chalks up a very impressive 148mpg claimed fuel economy figure – and offers the ability to drive for around 30 miles on solely electric power. CO2 emissions are equally staggering, being low enough for both road tax and London Congestion Charge exemption.

Despite its eco-credentials the Outlander’s 11.0 second nought to 62mph time is respectable and the ability to run on electricity alone around town makes the Outlander PHEV very refined. Best of all though, this hybrid model costs exactly the same as its diesel equivalent (after you take into account the government’s £5,000 grant for plug-in electric cars) and still includes four-wheel drive.

Nissan Qashqai 1.2 DIG-T 115 2WD Acenta – £19,850

The Qashqai has sat towards the top of the UK bestsellers list for years and the addition of a punchy new 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine just adds to its appeal. With prices from just £18,265 for this two-wheel drive model, it’s also the most affordable Qashqai currently on offer.

Fuel economy stands at 50.4mpg, with the 1.2-litre motor whisking it to 62mph in a reasonable 10.9 seconds. Car tax also isn’t too expensive at £110 per year. Standard kit for the Acenta model includes dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Suzuki SX4 S-Cross 1.6 SX3 – £13,999

The SX4 S-Cross isn’t the butchest of off-roaders, but it does give you a raised driving position and the feel of a SUV. It’s also substantially undercuts the Nissan Qashqai with prices starting at just under £14,000, though its economy beats the Nissan at 51.3mpg and acceleration is near identical, with the S-Cross taking 11.0 seconds to accelerate to 62mph. Car tax is also £110.

Even the most basic model includes air conditioning, electric front and rear windows, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels and audio controls on the steering wheel. Those after more kit should find all the kit they could want in the SZ-T which weighs in at £17,999 and includes sat nav, a digital radio, a reversing camera and polished 17-inch alloy wheels.

Pictures: Manufacturers

Chris Lloyd


January 9, 2015