What Car?’s technicians drove more than 160 new cars in 2013 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 back at the 10 most economical new cars that we tested last year. The top performers include diesel family cars and MPVs, plus two petrol-electric hybrids.
1. Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC – official 78.5mpg: True MPG 66.4mpg
The Civic is far from the best all-rounder in its class, but its impressive fuel economy makes it worthy of consideration if your annual mileage is high and mainly on fast roads. The ride is disappointing and the dashboard is odd, but the huge boot and cinema-style flip-up rear seats mean that it is at least a practical family car.
2. Dacia Sandero 1.5 dCi 90 – official 74.3mpg: True MPG 61.7mpg
The Sandero range starts at an astonishly low £5995, although this diesel will set you back at least £8595. Of course, such a low price demands compromises, but if you can stomach the basic level of refinement and comfort, this economical small family car is incredible value for money.
3. Vauxhall Corsa 1.3 CDTi Ecoflex – official 85.6mpg: True MPG 61.4mpg
The ageing Corsa doesn’t do enough to outclass the newer rivals from Ford and Renault, but it’s still a comfortable and refined little car. This diesel engine is genuinely economical, and with its low tax band, there’s plenty to like for both private buyers and company car choosers. It’s just a shame that it’s not better to drive and a bit cheaper to buy.
4. Hyundai i20 1.1 CRDi – official 74.3mpg: True MPG 61.1mpg
The i20’s big selling point is value for money; this diesel starts at less than £12k. For your money, you can plenty of cabin equipment and safety kit, plus enough space for four adults to sit in comfort. The dashboard and driving experience won’t set hearts racing though, and the 1.2 petrol makes more sense for private buyers.
5. Renault Clio 1.5 dCi 90 – official 78.5mpg: True MPG 60.1mpg
The Clio is only fractions behind the class leaders as a model range, although certain versions - like this 1.5 diesel in Eco specification - are good enough to beat the equivalent Ford Fiesta. Equipment and safety levels are impressive, and the engines are smooth and refined. The ride and handling aren’t on a par with the best superminis though, and the notchy gearshift disappoints.
6. Lexus IS 300h – official 64.2mpg: True MPG 59.6mpg
The Lexus IS is unusual in its class because there’s no diesel engine in the range. Instead, buyers looking for low running costs and taxation can choose this hybrid model. For company car users it will be very cheap, but they might miss the mid-range punch of a torquey diesel. It’s a classy, comfortable rival for the 3 Series, although the BMW remains the better all-rounder.
7. Citroen C4 Picasso 1.6 e-HDi Airdream – official 70.6mpg: True MPG 59.4mpg
One of the key selling points for any MPV is practicality, and the C4 Picasso doesn’t disappoint. A roomy boot, plus seats that slide and fold independently mean it’s one of the most family-friendly new cars. The sleek, uncluttered dashboard is a seriously classy feature, too. The Citroen isn’t as good to drive as some rivals, but it’s far more spacious and stylish inside.
8. Fiat 500L 1.6 Multijet II – official 62.8mpg: True MPG 58.9mpg
The 500L is a stylish addition to the mini-MPV and mini-SUV boom. Swathes of glass flood the cabin, and a roomy rear bench and boot mean this is one of the most spacious and practical cars in the class. It has a fairly composed ride and reasonable body control, but it’s a real shame that this little Fiat isn’t more refined and slightly cheaper to buy.
9. Toyota Auris Touring Sports 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid – official 76.3mpg: True MPG 58.7mpg
The Auris Touring is one of the most practical and user-friendly estates on the market. There’s a decent 530-litre load bay with the rear seats up, and levers in the boot mean they drop flat in seconds, to give even more space. It's not as good to drive as some of its rivals, but it should be significantly cheaper than most for company car drivers.
10. Hyundai i20 1.4 CRDi – official 65.7mpg: True MPG 58.5mpg
On paper, the 1.4 CRDi is 8.6mpg less efficient than the 1.1 CRDi mentioned above, but in our real-world test the difference was only 2.6mpg. The 1.4 does cost another £1700 though, so it’s only really worth it if you need more poke at low speed and more refinement on the motorway. For most buyers though, the petrol i20 is the better choice, and even better value for money.
Visit whatcar.com/truempg to see the full range of cars we’ve tested to find out what you really can expect to achieve on UK roads.