What Car?’s technicians drive new cars every week to capture 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.
This week we’re looking at the most economical cars that get our top five-star rating. If you want an outstanding new car that won’t cost a fortune to fuel, there are eleven cars in the seven model ranges listed below that beat 50mpg in our real-world test.
The Golf and Golf Estate are good to drive, refined and comfortable, especially if you go for the more powerful engines, which get sophisticated rear suspension. Their cabins aren’t particularly exciting, but they’re classy and well built. Both models are practical, but the Estate is the largest of its kind so far, with load space on a par with that of the Skoda Octavia Estate.
The VW Golf Estate 1.6 TDI 105 is the most economical version we’ve tested so far, managing 56.2mpg, but other models aren’t far behind. The 2.0 TDI 150 engine is a little more expensive, but it’s strong, smooth and still very efficient – in the hatchback, it managed 54.3mpg in our real-world test.
The 3 Series saloon and Touring are the best cars to drive on this list, as long as you add the optional adaptive suspension. Both variants have luxurious, spacious cabins that feel classy and solidly built. Our favourite 320d versions sound gruff at low revs, but they do at least offer genuinely impressive fuel economy.
The 320d Touring with a manual gearbox is the most efficient model we’ve tested so far; it recorded a real-world result of 56.1mpg. The 320d saloon Efficient Dynamics performed almost identically, managing 56.0mpg. In fact, all 320d models we’ve tested so far beat 50mpg, even when equipped with the brilliant eight-speed automatic ‘box.
BMW 5 Series - True MPG up to 54.5mpg
The latest BMW 5 Series has been one of our favourite large executive cars since it was launched in 2010. If you're in the market for a full-size exec, then it should still be at the top of your list - in particular, the 518d and 520d, which are the best cars in the range. With the six-speed manual gearbox, the latter managed 54.5mpg in our True MPG test. The 520d SE is our pick for most buyers, although we recommend the optional Variable Damper Control, which improves the ride, and the eight-speed auto ‘box that delivers super-slick shifts.
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso - True MPG 54.4mpg
The new Grand C4 Picasso gets our top five-star rating when equipped with the 1.6 e-HDi diesel engine. In fact, it’s so good in this guise that we named it our 2014 MPV of the Year. The diesel is smooth and efficient (54.4mpg in our real-world test), while the classy, minimalist dashboard and airy cabin make it a comfortable and relaxing place to spend time. Factor in easy-folding seats and generous standard kit and it’s easy to see why this is the best MPV you can buy.
The A3 Sportback was our 2013 Car of the Year, but in fact we give the A3 model range five stars across the board. The hatchback and Saloon are just as impressive as the five-door car, because they share the same strong and efficient engines, as well as beautifully built cabins. We rate SE and Sport trim, but recommend deselecting Sport suspension to give the best balance between comfort and control.
The combination of the 2.0 TDI 150 engine and six-speed manual gearbox is particularly impressive in the A3 range, with True MPG results of 54.1mpg in the hatchback, 51.2mpg in the Saloon and 51.1mpg in the Sportback.
Skoda Octavia - True MPG up to 52.5mpg
The Octavia might not be the most stylish car of its type, but it’s still one of the best. The cabin is a comfortable and spacious place to sit, and the boot is absolutely vast. If you avoid the pricey Greenline model and top-spec Elegance trim, the Octavia is one of the true bargains in the new car market.
On paper, the 1.6 TDI 105 is the most efficient, but in our real-world test the stronger 2.0 TDI 150 returned better fuel economy. The entry-level diesel managed 50.5mpg, while the 2.0-litre engine achieved 52.5mpg.
Vauxhall Zafira Tourer - True MPG 51.5mpg
The Zafira Tourer 1.6 CDTi is the only version of the MPV that gets our five-star rating, but it’s also the most economical model we’ve tested. The new 1.6 diesel is a big improvement over the 2.0-litre model it replaces. Power is delivered more smoothly and there’s hardly any of the clatter that you might expect from under the bonnet.
It’s a tempting proposition for company car drivers, too, thanks to its sub-110g/km CO2 emissions. Add in the user-friendly flexible seating setup and this is a great value MPV. The 1.6 CDTi model managed 51.5mpg in the hands of our True MPG team.
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.