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The most fuel-efficient cars

With the cost of fuel rising and our budgets getting squeezed, every penny counts. Find out how you can hit the road for less with our guide to the most fuel-efficient cars on the market

Written by Verity Hogan
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What are the most economical cars?  

With the rising cost of living and unpredictable fuel prices, investing in the most economical car available just makes sense. But how can you tell whether a car is going to be efficient or a gas guzzler? The best indication of fuel efficiency is MPG or miles per gallon, which tells you the distance the car can typically travel on one gallon of fuel.  

However, it’s important to remember that fuel efficiency isn’t an exact science and a car with the best MPG might still not be the right vehicle for you. The amount of fuel you can save will depend on a range of factors including how you drive, the type of terrain you cover, and the features you use such as air conditioning or heated steering.  

And with the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles expected to come into force in the UK in 2030, you might want to consider an electric or hybrid vehicle instead. Making the switch to an EV can help you cut your fuel costs and still achieve impressive distances on a single charge.  

How to choose an economical car 

Choosing an economical car is very similar to buying any other type of vehicle. The best fuel-efficient car for you will depend on your individual circumstances, budget, and driving habits. An electric car, for example, might not be a great choice for you if you can’t install a charger at home or tend to travel a lot of long distances. However, if you plan to stick to city commutes, an EV could fit in with your lifestyle perfectly.  

Always check the MPG quoted before you sign on the dotted line. While the official figure won’t always reflect the number of miles you can cover, it can give you a good idea. It’s also worth considering the size and weight of the vehicle as, typically speaking, the larger and heavier a car is, the more fuel it’ll consume on the road.  

Electric vs. hybrid cars 

While electric cars can be more expensive to buy than a petrol or diesel model, they’re typically cheaper to run and maintain. They also produce no emissions and are the most environmentally friendly driving option, meaning they won’t be charged for entering ultra-low emissions zones. If you’re considering electric car finance, keep in mind that you may need to take out a loan for a vehicle and lease its battery separately. You might also want to have a home charging point fitted for convenience.  

If you don’t have access to an electric charger at home or tend to do a lot of motorway driving, you may want to choose a hybrid car instead. These types of vehicles could offer the best of both worlds: most hybrids offer both a petrol or diesel engine and a battery-powered motor and you can switch between the two. This set up means they feel similar to a traditional car when you get behind the wheel, they can be cheaper to run, and you don’t have to worry about running out of charge.   

How can I find the true MPG of a vehicle?  

MPG fuel tests are conducted under lab conditions on a rolling road to ensure each vehicle is accurately compared. However, this also means that tests exclude many of the things you might come across while out on the road such as bad weather or heavy stop-start traffic. As a result, the car’s engine won’t necessarily be working as hard as it would in the real world and so the official MPG can be higher than the actual distance you’ll achieve. In fact, research shows that true MPG results are on average 4% lower than the reported figure.  

How can I be more fuel efficient? 

No matter what type of car you buy– petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric – there are steps you can take to be a more fuel-efficient driver:  

Turn off unnecessary gadgets 

While the cool breeze from your air conditioning can feel good on a warm day, electronic gadgets like your heater or radio could be burning through more fuel than you’d like.  

Drive smoothly  

Keeping your speed steady and avoiding the temptation to rev your engine could also help you conserve fuel. Try not to suddenly accelerate and aim to avoid stop-start traffic whenever possible.  

Slow down  

While we’re all prone to putting our foot down on the motorway, cutting your speed could help your fuel last longer. Driving at 60mph rather than the 70mph National Speed Limit could save you approximately 14% more fuel.  

Leave the car at home 

You might not think that a quick trip to the shops or dropping the kids off at school would use much fuel, but multiple short journeys can burn through just as much as a longer distance. If your destination is walkable, why not try leaving the car at home to save fuel?  

The best fuel-efficient cars on the market  

Nissan Leaf 

One way to avoid having to pay for fuel entirely is to make the switch to an electric vehicle. The Nissan Leaf was one of the first EVs to enter the market and it’s the perfect choice for families. With an array of safety features, a compact build, and impressive boot with 435 litres of space, it packs a punch despite its small size. The Leaf also runs smoothly, accelerates instantly, and offers a range of up to 239 miles on a full charge.  

Kia Niro  

The Kia Niro hybrid offers high performance, compact proportions, and a bold design that’ll turn heads wherever you go. With strong lines and distinctive two-tone bodywork, the Niro also boasts a surprisingly generous interior, fully decked out with eco-friendly materials. The dashboard is accessible and easy to navigate with large dual displays and its hybrid engine promises 59.8mpg.  

Honda Jazz 

Fuss-free and refreshingly efficient, the Honda Jazz has grown in popularity thanks to its fuel efficiency, reliability, practicality, and comfortable interior. The latest models are also available as a hybrid, combining the refinement of petrol with the fuel savings of an EV to deliver 62.7mpg. A great family option, the Jazz is the perfect all-rounder.  

Hyundai Kona Electric  

If you’re looking for a spacious electric car, the Hyundai Kona Electric could be the best choice for you. With a 64kWh battery that can be fully charged in just 47 minutes, the Kona can go from 0-62mph in just 7.9 seconds, hit a top speed of 104mph, and has a range of up to 300 miles. The car’s exterior is sleek with athletic styling, while the interior comes equipped with a host of smart-tech features including touchscreen entertainment.  

Fiat 500 Hybrid  

If there’s one small car that makes a big impression, it’s the Fiat 500. This iconic supermini is now available with mild hybrid technology and has been specially designed with city drivers in mind. The change in engine hasn’t impacted the Fiat’s appearance at all – the exterior boasts the same distinctive design as its petrol cousins – but inside, you’ll find seats that have been crafted from recycled plastics. The Fiat 500 hybrid also offers 61mpg.  

BMW 330e 

An electric car with a touch of luxury, the BMW 330e features a 2.0 litre petrol engine paired with an electric motor. This combination offers good fuel economy without sacrificing the acceleration and speed you’d expect from a BMW. It’s been described as a joy to drive, achieving 0–62mph in 5.9 seconds and travelling up to 37 miles on electric power alone, making it ideal for short commutes and the daily school run. Inside, intuitive tech will adapt to your journey, automatically detecting whether you’re in the city or on the motorway.  

Verity Hogan

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