The most economical cars on the road, at least according to official economy figures, are almost invariably diesel powered superminis. However, petrol engines are getting ever more efficient, cost less to fuel and quieter, and they’re generally less bad for the environment in an urban setting than diesels. So what petrol engined cars will cost you the least in fuel? Here’s the top ten…
Honda’s rival to the Prius, the Insight hybrid never actually runs on pure electric power. Instead it relies on its electric motor to assist the tiny 1.3 petrol engine which results in pretty reasonable performance and excellent economy. It’s not as sharp as a Focus, but the inside of the Insight is a nice place to spend some time.
Sneaking in to the top ten is the first of a long run of Toyota cars. The new, larger Prius uses the same hybrid system as the normal Prius, with a 1.8 petrol engine and an electric motor, but it pays a fuel penalty for its practicality. Still, 68.9 mpg beats most things out there and it’s the only car here that can seat seven.
This trio of tiny motors bring refinement, style and fun in bucket loads to the city, and the 1.0 litre engine sips at the petrol whilst doing so. The three are officially able to achieve 68.9 mpg but you’ll be too busy enjoying the drive to worry about that.
The Italians know a thing or two about performance and that translates well into efficiency. The tiny 900cc two cylinder engine in the 500 TwinAir buzzes enthusiastically to an official 68.9 mpg, although real-world economy will struggle to match that. At least you’ll be in the funkiest small car on the road.
Fundamentally a re-engineered Prius, the CT 200h is an incredibly quiet and refined car. That extra refinement adds weight so it’s not quite as economical as its Toyota badged relative, but sometimes you need the finer things in life.
Despite being designed without the hybrid system, Toyota managed to engineer the Auris to take their Hybrid Synergy Drive. It’s not without its flaws, and is one of the least interesting cars on sale, but you can’t argue with the refinement and economy. It’s just a shame it’s only £800 less than the Prius.
Ah yes, the Prius. The eco-warrior’s poster child. Celebrity endorsements, film appearances and, crucially, being first to market, have all helped the Prius take the lead in the public consciousness. Fortunately it walks the walk that it talks about so well, with even a heavy footed drive from us still netting in excess of 50 mpg. It’s a personal view too, but it’s also a fine looking car.
A miracle of engineer in some ways, Toyota have managed to squeeze a 1.5 litre petrol engine, an electric motor and a box of batteries in to the small Yaris without compromising on interior space. The best interpretation of a hybrid car yet, the lightweight Yaris suits the urban environment well, and it’s there that the hybrid system works best. 80.7 mpg seems a high target, but we managed 76.3 mpg on a 50 mile test run. Astonishing.
Toyota may have six cars in the Top Ten, but second place is as high as they can get. The new Prius Plug In extends the abilities of the existing Prius by adding a larger battery pack and a plug socket. This means the limited electric range of the normal car is extended from around one mile to circa 13 miles, obviously leading to much lower petrol usage.
The new headline act for green motoring, these twins are actually electric cars with a petrol powered range extender. In the real world, that simply means you can drive on electric power but when the batteries run out you can continue under petrol power. It’s the best of both worlds, although not perfect; it only seats four people and costs in excess of £10,000 more than a similarly equipped Astra. Being an early adopter is never cheap, but at least you’ll be helping to bring the price down for future buyers.
So there you go, proof if ever it were needed that running a good petrol engine can be every bit as economical as the very best diesels. Even ignoring the top two cars that are assisted by pure electric running, it’s still possible to run a car that manages 80 mpg. Having driven the Prius Hybrid, the official figure is just about achievable, something the 88 mpg Kia Rio and Hyundai i20 diesels would struggle with.
Combine that with lower fuel costs, lower particulate emissions and a more refined experience and perhaps we ought to look again at the trend for diesel cars.
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