With fuel costs rising it can feel impossible to save money if you're driving regularly. Small cars generally have good fuel economy, but some are a cut above when it comes to cutting the cost of your driving. Here are the 10 most economical small cars you can drive. We’ve included small cars from various classes and with diverse drivetrains: petrol, diesel, hybrid and fully electric to give you the best options available across the board.
Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid
WLTP Average Efficiency: 62.2mpg
Toyota’s fondness for a hybrid drivetrain means the company makes some of the most efficient runabouts around; very few manufacturers put proper hybrid systems into cars as small as the new Yaris Cross. And, in fact, real world efficiency tests are showing that the front-wheel drive Yaris Cross Hybrid can exceed its official 62.2mpg figure, getting closer to 68mpg. That’s amazing for a tall crossover that actually has plenty of interior space from a small footprint.
Kia Picanto 1.0 DPi
**WLTP Average Efficiency: 58.9mpg **
The Kia Picanto is one of the best small cars ever made, because it combines great build quality and refinement with excellent use of space. And, more subjectively, it’s proper stylish too, a good antidote to the plainer, more boxy styling of the Volkswagen Up, say. To get the most efficient Picanto you need a basic 66hp DPi petrol version, but to be honest we’d stretch to the 1.0 T-GDi turbo petrol model, which is significantly quicker and more responsive, while still offering 50mpg+ real world economy.
Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI
WLTP Average Efficiency: 55.7mpg
So there is a version of the new Fabia that’s technically slightly more efficient than the 95hp 1.0 TSI we’re suggesting here, that being the 65hp, 55.8mpg 1.0 MPI model. However, we’d suggest you sacrifice that 0.1mpg because the base engine is only available with the basic car - the one on steel wheels and with no touchscreen. And actually, the more powerful turbo engine will most likely be more efficient in real life anyways, because you won’t need to work it anywhere near as hard. Also, the new Fabia is brilliant and deserves an appropriately good power source, which the 1.0 TSI is.
Vauxhall Astra 1.5 Diesel
**WLTP Average Efficiency: 64mpg **
Vauxhall is one of the few manufacturers left still offering diesel, which is why the brand new Astra gets a 1.5-litre diesel engine with an impressive 64mpg average efficiency claim. It’s probably not wise to get this one unless you’re doing frequent long journeys in your Astra - as ever with diesel - but if you are, then here’s a tech-laden and pretty refined hatchback with very appealing running costs. There’s only one diesel choice, a 1.5-litre turbo with 128hp, and although it won’t be as quiet (or as fun) as the 3-cylinder turbo petrol model with the same power, nor as tax efficient as the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) petrol version, it’s a cost-effective shortcut to big fuel economy. The PHEV posts an amazing 200mpg+ official economy number, but it’s significantly more expensive to buy than the diesel, and you’ll probably achieve a third of that efficiency in real life.
Renault Clio E-Tech Hybrid
**WLTP Average Efficiency: 64.2mpg **
Renault’s E-Tech Clio hybrid setup is the sort of complex engine technology that you just wouldn't have found in a small hatchback a few short years ago. It matches a 1.6-litre petrol engine with 2 electric motors and a clutchless automatic gearbox, the lot working together to give the car a few miles of electric-only driving and overall efficiency of 60mpg+. Renault reckons 80% of journeys can be done in electric-only mode, though it’s not clear where that figure comes from. Still, if you really want to impress people, just tell them that the hybrid tech in your new runabout comes directly from the Renault F1 team. Yep.
Dacia Sandero Bi-Fuel
WLTP Average Efficiency: 52.3mpg
The Sandero is far from the most advanced car on this list but it is undoubtedly the cheapest to run overall, for 2 reasons: firstly, it’s the lowest priced new car on sale in the UK, and secondly, Dacia is the only UK manufacturer that offers an LPG option. The Sandero Bi-Fuel can run on either petrol or LPG (liquid petroleum gas), the latter very cheap to buy - about 70p per litre today, assuming you can find a forecourt that sells it. It switches between its fuel sources automatically and has a separate 40-litre LPG tank under the boot, meaning an 800-mile tank(s) range, in theory, and no loss of boot space.
WLTP Average Efficiency: 3.7 Miles Per kWh | 209 Miles Battery Range
The Vauxhall Corsa E is one of the most efficient electric cars on sale, mainly because it’s one of the smallest and lightest, and has a very modern electric drivetrain that was developed carefully to be used across a huge range of cars; you’ll find the same motor and battery setup in cars as diverse as the Peugeot e-2008 crossover and Citroen E-Spacetourer 9-seat MPV. The 50kWh battery isn’t the biggest, but the efficiency means you can expect to achieve close to 200 miles between charges, especially if you stick to the city.
Peugeot 208 1.5 Diesel
**WLTP Average Efficiency: 73.6mpg **
The Peugeot 108, people, is the most efficient pure internal combustion engine on sale today - ‘pure’ as in, no electric assistance. The 100hp 1.5-litre BlueHDI diesel isn’t the quickest or most refined choice in the world, but it’s punchy enough and is capable of a good 60mpg+ even if you drive, ahem, enthusiastically. Which you’ll probably want to, because the Peugeot 208 is one of the most dynamically rewarding small cars on sale. A great choice if you do a lot of big journeys in your little car.
Fiat 500 Mild Hybrid
**WLTP Average Efficiency: 53.3mpg **
Not the most efficient thing on this list, but the recent addition of a mild hybrid to the ‘classic’ Fiat 500 makes it more economical than ever. Those air quotes there denote this as the last-generation 500, by the way, the one before the all-new electric one came out, but which is still on sale. It soldiers on. Mind, it remains one of the most charming, outright fun city cars on sale, and the new mild hybrid drivetrain makes it around 30% more efficient than before. That plus the really low insurance and tax costs make it dirt cheap to run.
Mercedes-Benz A-Class A250e Plug-In Hybrid
WLTP Average Efficiency: 282mpg
That’s right, a 282mpg Mercedes hatchback. You’ll probably already know that it’s a proper unrealistic claim - you’ll have to work harder than Dr Dre’s drum machine to get close to 3 figures, even - but actually the Mercedes A-Class hybrid setup is one of the most efficient around. The battery is big for a hybrid and good for 40+ miles of electric-only driving, and the 1.3-litre petrol engine is an economical one. It’s not the most refined setup on the market, but if you’re looking for a classy family hatchback with extremely low fuel and company car tax costs, this is probably your best option.