Cheap runners: most and least fuel efficient cars 2021

A look at the cars that deliver the best fuel economy, and those that encourage more trips to the pumps.

Being a driver is expensive.

It’s not just the initial cost of purchasing a car, the insurance premiums or trips to the garage to get things put right that can cost a small fortune.

And while most of us are driving less than we used to, the cost of constantly keeping it fueled adds up over the years.

And while finding a forecourt with competitive prices makes a difference, it’s even more important to find an efficient car.

After all, the more miles to the gallon you get, the fewer trips to fill up you need to make (and in the current environment of long queues it's a real time saver as well).

Motoring specialists WhatCar? have run the rule over the nation’s cars to identify which are really the most efficient, coming up with a ‘True MPG’ figure based on driving in towns, rural roads and motorways.

As a result, it’s more in line with what you’re likely to experience driving in the real world compared to the official fuel economy figures manufacturers are required to publish.

So, let’s take a look at the most efficient motors, as well as the cars that end up using the most fuel.

10. Suzuki Baleno 1.0

The Baleno was discontinued in 2019, but it’s a cracking option if you can get your hands on one, also scoring 55.2 MPG. WhatCar? describe it as a “small yet practical hatchback”.

The Baleno was discontinued last year, but it’s a cracking option if you can get your hands on one, also scoring 55.2 MPG. WhatCar? describe it as a “small yet practical hatchback”.

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=7. Volkswagen Up 1.0 S/S60

The 74bhp one-litre engine was found to be one of the best for efficiency by WhatCar, with a True MPG of 55.9 MPG.

As the team points out, it’s one of the top city cars on sale even though it’s been around for a while, as a result of its fun handling and smart interior.

It’s also worth noting that even if you go for the bigger 89bhp version of the Up, you’ll still enjoy 54 MPG according to the tests.

=7. Seat Leon 1.6 TDI 110 Ecomotive

The UP is more or less level with the Seat Leon 1.6 TDI 110 Ecomotive, which offers excellent real-world economy, notching up a True MPG score of 56 MPG. 

The reviewers like the car too, particularly its tidy handling and long list of standard equipment, albeit the fact that it offers a 'rather firm ride.'

=7. Honda Jazz 1.5 i-MMD Hybrid

The top Jazz model for fuel efficiency is the 1.5 i-MMD Hybrid, and it has won praise for its practical interior, which includes flip-up style rear seats. The reviewers also highlighted that it handles well and moves between petrol and electric well.

It’s not perfect though, as it costs more than some of its rivals, while WhatCar also described the Jazz as “not the last word in refinement”.

6. Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 110 Ecoflex

Previous versions of the Astra haven’t rated particularly highly on efficiency, but the 1.6 CDTi 110 Ecoflex is 'far more impressive' according to WhatCar.

WhatCar reckons the lightweight way that it’s put together boosts how far your fuel goes, leading to a True MPG score of 56.3 MPG.

But that’s not the only selling point, with WhatCar noting how spacious it is, as well as its pricing.

5. Suzuki Celerio 1.0

The Celerio 1.0 was one of the cheapest new cars around until it was taken off sale a couple of years ago, but it wasn’t just a financial winner at the forecourt ‒ it also boasted a brilliant True MPG of 57.8 MPG.

According to WhatCar, it came with a “decent array” of equipment, including aircon, a DAB radio and Bluetooth, while its engine was described as “pretty lively”.

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4. Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI 115

WhatCar? reckons that the 2.0 litre unit is well worth it you cover enough annual miles to justify getting the diesel engine, as it will “save you a bundle on running costs”. That’s down to its impressive True MPG of 57.9.

It’s not just the efficiency that makes it a winner though, as it has a spacious and practical interior, delivers a nice ride, and is simply an all round impressive family car.

3. Suzuki Ignis K12D Dualjet Hybrid

The K12D Dualjet Hybrid model is a mild hybrid, so it has a small electric motor helping its 1.2 litre petrol engine. That combination keeps you moving, and at a wallet-friendly rate too, with a True MPG of 59.9.

This is a front-wheel drive, but even if you go for the four-wheel-drive version, you still enjoy a seriously efficient motor, with a score of 53.3 MPG.

Suzuki Ignis (Image: Kletr/Shutterstock)


2. Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid

The Toyota Yaris 1.5 hybrid has formerly taken the fuel efficiency crown with a True MPG of 59.93, but that is now only good enough for second place.

It’s worth noting that the Yaris already stands out from the hybrid crowd on account of its price, while WhatCar? reckon it offers “perky” performance. There are smaller cars that offer a more spacious ride though.

1. Toyota Yaris Cross 1.5 Hybrid

No, that isn’t a typo, the Yaris takes top spot too, this time in the form of its Cross 1.5 Hybrid, which delivers a magnificent 60.1 miles to the gallon.

It’s a cracking SUV in its own right, with lovely handling and a “lofty” driving position, though WhatCar? reckons it isn’t quite as much fun to drive as the Ford Puma.

The least efficient motors

But, what about the other end of the scale?

Here are the 10 cars that performed poorly in the WhatCar tests, and just how meagre their True MPGs really are.


True MPG

Volvo XC40 T4


Mercedes S500


Land Rover Discovery 3.0 SDV6


Mercedes-AMG GLC 43


Porsche Macan Turbo Performance Pack


Mercedes S500 Cabriolet


Audi SQ5


Lexus LC500 Cabriolet


Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio


Audi S8



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