What Car?’s technicians drive new cars every week to bring you our True MPG fuel economy data. Unlike official Government figures generated by a laboratory test, the numbers we publish are gained from real-world conditions.
These are the most economical family hatchbacks you can buy at the moment, according to our tests. We've ranked petrols and diesels separately so you can decide which is better for you.
Most economical diesel family cars:
1. Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC – official 67.3mpg: True MPG 66.4mpg
The smaller diesel in the Honda Civic is the most efficient small family car that we have tested so far, despite not having the highest official economy. It came remarkably close to its official rating, with a True MPG of 66.4mpg. The 2.2-litre diesel also fared well, with a True MPG of 59.0, down on an official 67.3mpg.
2. Seat Leon 1.6 TDI 110 Ecomotive Technology – official 85.6mpg: True MPG 63.2mpg
As with many cars on this list, it is the smallest diesel engine that is the most efficient in the Seat Leon range. We reckon the Ecomotive version is worth the extra cash over the standard 1.6-litre, and this is partly due to it having a six-speed manual gearbox. On the flip side, it is a bit of a noisy engine.
3. Mercedes A200 CDI auto – official 65.7mpg: True MPG 59.6mpg
The Mercedes A-Class is not the best premium hatchback you can buy, but one thing in its favour is a strong range of engines. This A200 version returned an impressive 59.6mpg, which is not far short of its official 65.7mpg. Sadly, however, it is a noisy and rattly engine, and the A-Class rides far too harshly.
4. Peugeot 308 1.6 e-HDI Active – official 76.3mpg: True MPG 56.9mpg
The Peugeot 308 is one of the few cars to feature on this list in petrol and diesel form. The 1.6-litre e-HDI engine's 56.9mpg is impressive by the standards of its class, but a long way short of the official 76.3mpg. It has a smart cabin and large boot, but small rear-seat area.
5. BMW 116d SE – official 74.3mpg: True MPG 56.9mpg
The BMW 1 Series is one of the sportier cars on this list, and it handles and rides really well. However, if economy is a priority, then the 116d engine is a perfect choice. It is our pick of the range if you are running it as a company car, and its True MPG of 56.9 isn't bad either.
6. Volkswagen Golf 1.6TDI Bluemotion – official 88.3mpg: True MPG 56.8mpg
The Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion's True MPG rating is a decent 56.8mpg, but it is a long way off the promised official figure of 88mpg. If you are a private buyer we would definitely look at a petrol version instead.
7. Volvo V40 1.6 D2 – official 78.5mpg: True MPG 56.8mpg
The D2 engine in this V40 is the pick of the range because it keeps down the purchase price while offering decent fuel economy – 56.8mpg in our tests. The bigger, D3 engine is almost as efficient, with a True MPG result of 56.6mpg.
8. Kia Ceed 1.6 CRDi 126 – official 74.3mpg: True MPG 55.4mpg
The diesel engine in this Kia Ceed is our favourite of those on offer, and it is relaxed and comfortable at town and motorway speeds. The Ceed has a fantastic boot and rear passenger space, as well. It isn't as good to drive as some of its rivals, though, but a decent 55.4mpg True MPG result will make up for this for some.
Most economical petrol family cars:
1. Peugeot 308 1.2 e-THP – official 64.2mpg: True MPG 49.6mpg
The Peugeot 308 shows that a small engine can be efficient in a family car, with the three-cylinder unit the most economical petrol in this class in our tests. When it comes to being a family car, the 308 isn't perfect, though. It has a fantastically big boot, but this is at the expense of rear legroom.
2. Seat Leon 1.2 TSI 105 – official 57.6mpg: True MPG 45.4mpg
Our favourite Seat Leon is the sporty 1.4 FR, but this 1.2 keeps things cheap, especially if you stick with entry-level S trim. If you need a bigger car, consider the Skoda Octavia; it managed 44.2mpg with the same engine.
3. Mazda 3 2.0 Skyactiv-G 120 – official 55.4mpg: True MPG 42.8mpg
The new Mazda 3’s petrol engines aren’t turbocharged, so they need to be worked hard to make progress. It’s still a fun car to drive though, and even entry-level SE models get plenty of equipment. The new 3 might not be the best car in this class, but it’s not far off.
4. Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI 122 – official 54.3mpg: True MPG 42.5mpg
Our 2013 Car of the Year is an outstanding buy, especially with this engine. The 1.4 TFSI is punchy and smooth, and as our True MPG result shows, affordable to run. The A3 Sportback is refined and will seat four adults in comfort. It should be on the shortlist of anyone looking for this size of car.
5. Kia Ceed 1.6 GDi 133 – official 52.3mpg: True MPG 42.1mpg
The Kia’s 1.6 petrol engine might match the economy of its rivals, but the performance is a disappointment. We’d go for the punchier 1.6 diesel. The Ceed is a spacious, great-value family hatch that can compete with the best in a number of areas, so it’s well worth considering.
6. Volkswagen Golf 1.4TSI ACT Bluemotion Technology – official 58.9mpg: True MPG 41.7
This version of the Golf offers a decent real-world fuel economy, thanks to cylinder shut-off technology, and it is smooth and rapid as well. However, it is not a cheap engine to buy, so you'll need to do some sums. Otherwise, the Golf is a fantastic car that is all the vehicle most families will need.
7. Mercedes A180 BlueEfficiency 122 – official 51.4mpg: True MPG 41.5mpg
The A-Class has plenty of fans on the basis of its sharp looks and smartly styled cabin. However, while safety and equipment levels are up there with the best, most versions are disappointing to drive and the ride on all models is far too firm. Still, if you’re sold on the A-Class, this petrol engine is the one to go for.
8. Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI 140 – official 53.3mpg: True MPG 40.6mpg
The Octavia is one of the best cars of its type, but not one of the most stylish. The petrol engines are smooth and quiet, and the cabin is a comfortable and spacious place to sit. This 1.4 offers more punch, although the 104bhp 1.2 is perfectly adequate and mildly more economical with a True MPG result of 44.2mpg, down on an official figure of 57.6mpg.
We add new models to our True MPG database every week. Visit whatcar.com/truempg to see the full range of cars we’ve tested, and find out what you really can expect to achieve on UK roads.