Fuel bills are one of the biggest costs that drivers face. However, with a number of recent news stories questioning the green credentials of diesel models, many buyers are now thinking about returning to petrol models from more fuel-efficient diesels when they replace their car.

Don’t think that petrol models always come with a big economy penalty though; some of the best petrol cars return fuel economy figures that top 60mpg. Even if you opt for a mid-size 4×4 you can still find models that can return over 45mpg.

We’ve rounded up some of the most appealing – and most economical – cars across a number of classes to prove that opting for a petrol doesn’t have to mean big fuel bills. You can also save money when buying a petrol, as diesels are typically £1,000 – £1,500 more expensive new, so unless you cover a huge amount of miles, there’s no reason to avoid petrol models.

Most economical city car

One of the most frugal petrol models on the market is the new Citroen C1 in 1.0-litre 68 S&S form. This compact machine returns a claimed fuel economy figure of 74.3mpg, meaning that fuel bills for the C1 should be just as small as its external dimensions.

An average year’s motoring – 8,000 miles, according to the latest figures – would cost just £629.61 with current petrol costs. With a 1.0-litre engine under the bonnet, the C1 68 S&S scampers from a standstill to 62mph in a reasonable 14.3 seconds, so it should be perfectly suited to driving around tight city streets.

Most economical superminis

If you need a little more space, the UK’s bestselling car – the Ford Fiesta– could fit the bill. Most economical of the petrol versions is the 1.0-litre Ecoboost 125, which returns 65.7mpg.

Despite the engine’s economy and small size, it also offers impressive performance, firing the lightweight Fiesta to 62mph in just 9.4 seconds.

Toyota’s hybrid Yaris supermini could save you even more however, with an economy figure of 80.7mpg. Thanks to the addition of battery power to aid the petrol engine, the Yaris should be particularly frugal around town.

Most economical medium car

The turbocharged 1.0-litre engine under the bonnet of the Fiesta also finds its way into the Ford Focus and, in 1.0-litre 100 99g/km guise, matches the Fiesta’s economy figure.

An equivalent diesel however is capable of a substantial 83.1mpg. Bear in mind the diesel’s £1,500 price premium though and the diesel is a less attractive option.

With the petrol costing just an extra £131 per year to fuel, it would take a substantial 11.5 years to make back the diesel’s higher price in fuel savings.

Most economical small off-roaders

Off-roaders may traditionally be some of the most un-environmentally friendly vehicles on the road, but a number of smaller – and two-wheel drive – cars have popped up in the last decade, offering much lower fuel consumption.

Citroen’s quirky C4 Cactus offers a boxy, SUV-lite look but returns 61.4mpg, while the tiny – though four-wheel drive – Fiat Panda 4×4 0.9 TwinAir is capable of 57.6mpg.

Drivers after more traditional high-rise off-roader styling can still get 53.3mpg from the Ford EcoSport 1.0 Ecoboost 125 and 47.9mpg from the Audi Q3 1.4 TSI 150, though both of these models do without fuel-sapping four-wheel drive.

Most economical mid-size off-roaders

Larger off-roaders and good fuel economy may have typically been mutually exclusive, but go for a two-wheel drive version and economy figures of over 45mpg are still possible.

Topping the economy chart is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV– a hybrid that you can charge by simply plugging it in to a charging point, or even at home. This machine costs the same as an equivalent diesel model and can achieve a whopping 148.7mpg, though as with all hybrids it’s most economical around town and least frugal when driving fast along the motorway.

If you’d rather a conventional petrol model over a hybrid, the Mazda CX-5 2.0 165 2WD still returns 47.1mpg, meaning that an average year’s driving would set you back less than £1,000.

Chris Lloyd


September 25, 2014

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