Have you ever noticed that your car's fuel economy doesn't quite match what you were promised in the brochure?
What Car?’s crack team of True MPG testers are working tirelessly to bring you a more realistic picture of things. Our efforts are focused on bringing you the most up-to-date news of which models are truly the most economical cars you can buy.
These are the most economical estates, and many get a What Car? rating of four or five stars out of five. That means they impress in most – or all – of the key areas, so should be on the shortlist of anyone looking for a practical family car that won’t cost a fortune to fuel.
1. Honda Civic Tourer 1.6 i-DTEC EX Plus – official 74.3mpg: True MPG 61.8mpg
If practicality is your number one priority for a family car, it doesn’t get much better than the Civic Tourer. The huge boot includes a large underfloor storage area for a couple of carry-on bags, and the clever rear seats let you flip up the bases or fold the backrests completely flat. Refinement and rear visibility leave a lot to be desired, though, and the cabin is cluttered with poorly labelled buttons. The 61.8mpg it managed is very impressive figure for such a practical car.
The Seat Leon is a great all-rounder, and the 1.6-litre diesel engine only adds to the package. It uses the same chassis as the Audi A3 and VW Golf, which means that you get a great-handling car with a decent ride, but for less money. There’s also huge boot with a variable-height floor, although this is tricky to adjust. Inside the cabin feels well built, despite some iffy plastics in places.
3. Skoda Octavia Estate 1.6 TDi 110 Greenline lll SE– official 88.3mpg: True MPG 59.4mpg
The Octavia Estate has a classy cabin and a cavernous boot. All models are predicted to hold their value well, but the 1.6 TDI is the one to go for if low buying and owning costs are a priority. Reliability is a Skoda strong point, and the Octavia placed seventh out of 109 models tested in the 2014 JD Power survey.
4. Kia Ceed Sportswagon 1.6 CRDi 3 – official 64.2mpg: True MPG 58.9mpg
The Ceed Sportswagon is our favourite estate car for less than £18,000. As with other Kias, it's good value for money, with lots of space and kit for a very competitive price, plus the Ceed avoids feeling like a budget car inside. It also has the Kia seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty to give peace of mind, too. A 1.4 CRDi is also available, which is almost as efficient and even cheaper to buy.
5. Peugeot 308 SW 2.0 BlueHDi 150 Allure – official 70.6mpg: True MPG 58.0mpg
The Peugeot 308 is a stylish looking estate that is decent to drive, comfortable, plus, somewhat importantly in this grouping, cheap to run with a practical boot. The cabin looks modern and features Peugeot’s i-Cockpit design, which places the instruments above a small steering wheel for better clarity. Rear-seat legroom is not as generous as in some rivals and although it’s priced competitively and well equipped, the 308 suffers from poor resale values.
6. Volkswagen Golf Estate 1.6 TDI SE 105 – official 72.4mpg: True MPG 56.2mpg
The Golf Estate’s load space is on par with that of the Skoda Octavia Estate, but the VW is classier inside and better to drive. Clever features, such as a height-adjustable boot floor and handles in the boot to drop the rear seats, mean it’s now one of the best family cars you can buy. In fact, it’s our 2014 Estate Car of the Year.
7. BMW 320d Touring Efficient Dynamics – official 58.0mpg: True MPG 56.1mpg
The 320d Touring is the best-handling car on this list – as long as you add the optional adaptive suspension. There's a large, flat load bay and the cabin feels luxurious. It is expensive to buy but does make up for this with lots of equipment and good resale values. A 320d GT is worth considering as an alternative.
8. Mazda 6 Tourer 2.2 Skyactiv-D 150 – official 64.2mpg: True MPG 53.9mpg
The 148bhp diesel is the least powerful on offer, but delivers more than enough performance to suit most people’s needs. Also, bearing in mind that the 6 is a big car, it backs up its impressive economy with low CO2 emissions of just 118g/km. Its size means it is also extremely practical, too, with up to 1664 litres of boot space and generous accommodation for four adults. Only a hard ride and some suspect cabin materials spoil the party.
9. Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 CDTi Ecoflex – official 72.4mpg: True MPG 51.7mpg
The Vauxhall Insignia has some good points, but it is generally below par in what is a competitive class. However, one of its strengths is a relatively competitive fuel economy, which worked out at 51.7mpg according to our True MPG testers.
10. Volvo V60 2.0 D4 – official 74.3mpg: True MPG 49.7mpg
The Volvo V60 is the first car in this list to dip below 50mpg according to our tests, but only by 0.3mpg. The V60 is an appealing alternative to many of its Gernan rivals, thanks to a classy and spacious cabin, and a generous level of equipment. Its boot isn't as spacious as you'd expect, but it is well designed, with flat-folding rear seats.
11. Volkswagen Passat 1.6 TDI Bluemotion Technology – official 68.9mpg: True MPG 48.3mpg
The Passat might not be right at the top of this list of real-world economy, but it is right up the top of its class in many other ways. It has a huge boot, a plush and spacious cabin and it is wonderfully refined on the move. It's one of the best estate cars you can buy, even if it falls 20mpg short of its official economy according to our testers.
Want to find out what you can really expect to achieve on UK roads? Visit whatcar.com/truempg to see the full range of cars we’ve tested. We add new models to our True MPG database every week.