The best petrol cars

Whether you're looking for something sporty, a practical hatchback or a seven-seat SUV, petrol power is now more appealing than ever before. We count down our favourite cars that drink from the g...


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What Car? team

If you're buying a new car, chances are you're looking at one with a petrol engine. With the gradual downturn in the sale of diesel-engined cars, petrol power is the top choice for most UK drivers.

And the good news is that petrol engines are smoother, more powerful and more economical than ever before. So while you might have thought that you'd need to choose diesel for a larger car, such as an SUV, that's now no longer the case, as our round-up of the best petrol cars shows.

Whether you're in the market for a performance saloon, a family hatchback or even a seven-seat SUV, we'll help you find a petrol car to suit your needs. And remember, as well as giving more detail about each model in our independent reviews, What Car? can help you secure one at a discount with our exclusive Target Price deals.

10

Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio

While the regular Alfa Romeo Giulia offers a more style-led alternative to the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 executive saloons, the Quadrifoglio version is a true performance car. With a roaring 2.9-litre V6 under its bonnet, it's ferociously fast, yet it also offers sweet handling and a pliant ride. No wonder it's our reigning Performance Car of the Year.

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Pros

  • Wonderful engine
  • Sweet handling
  • Pliant ride

Cons

  • Interior feels cheap in places
  • Iffy infotainment system
  • Inconsistent brake feel
9

Citroen Berlingo

Need to haul around seven people and their luggage but don't fancy an SUV? If so, the Citroën Berlingo should be your next port of call. It's incredibly spacious, represents great value for money and is economical – especially if you go for the turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine we recommend. You might think such a small engine would struggle to haul a large MPV, but it's actually surprisingly sprightly.

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Pros

  • Great practicality
  • Flexible 1.2 Puretech 110 petrol engine
  • Excellent value

Cons

  • Fiddly infotainment system
  • Some storage solutions are optional
  • Mainstream MPV rivals are better to drive
8

Honda Civic Type R

A hot hatchback is prime territory for a petrol engine, and the class-leading Honda Civic Type R has a potent 316bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre example under its bonnet. It's capable of putting a big smile on your face at almost any speed – thanks largely to the intoxicating noise coming from its exhaust – but also offers a comfortable ride and is more practical than most of its rivals.

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Pros

  • Thrilling, highly capable handling
  • Awesome performance
  • More comfortable and practical than most rivals

Cons

  • Terrible infotainment system is only saved by standard fit Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Lots of road noise
  • There are cheaper alternatives
7

Skoda Kamiq

With remarkable practicality and a classier interior than most rivals, the new Skoda Kamiq could really shake up the small SUV market. Key to that is its turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol engine, which is perfectly adequate for most journeys and has a surprising amount of low-down pulling power. It also keeps running costs sensible, making it our pick of the range.

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Pros

  • Remarkably roomy seats and boot
  • Better-finished interior than many of its rivals
  • Comfortable ride

Cons

  • No sliding or reclining rear seats
  • Not especially well equipped
  • Other small SUVs have a higher driving position
6

Audi TT

No other car has won as many What Car? Awards as the Audi TT – and every time we recommend this stylish and fun coupé, it's with a peppy petrol engine. The latest version is sublime when paired with a turbocharged 2.0-litre motor and offers engaging handling and a fabulous interior design to go with its grin-inducing performance.

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Pros

  • Great to drive
  • Fabulous interior design and quality
  • Surprisingly practical boot – for a coupe

Cons

  • Rear seats are seriously cramped
  • Misses crucial safety kit
  • You'll want to add options
5

Volkswagen Polo

The Polo is our favourite small car, having ousted the still brilliant Seat Ibiza to claim the top spot at this year's What Car? Awards. Again, it's a turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol that we recommend, and it's well suited to the Polo's mostly urban nature. As well as a supple ride, the Polo offers a generous amount of space inside.

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Pros

  • Comfortable ride
  • Generous interior space
  • Quiet on the move

Cons

  • Ford Fiesta is more fun to drive
  • Gutless entry-level petrol
  • Standard safety kit could be better
4

Skoda Scala

Think of the Scala as a cut-price version of the Volkswagen Golf and you won't go far wrong. Indeed, it has many of the same attributes we admire about Volkswagen's family hatchback, including a comfy ride and a spacious interior. This 1.0-litre petrol engine is our recommended choice, because with 113bhp available it has enough power to execute swift overtakes when needed.

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Pros

  • Comfortable ride and tidy handling
  • Spacious rear seats and a big boot
  • Cheap to buy and run

Cons

  • Noisier at speed than the quietest rivals
  • Poorer resale values than its main rivals
  • Interior feels a little cheap
3

Hyundai i10

The previous Hyundai i10 lost out to the rival Kia Picanto in the city car sweepstakes, but this latest version is right back on top. It's comfortable whether you're travelling within the city or going further afield, and is spacious enough to cope even if you have to fill all five seats. It might initially look like a pricey choice, but if you plan on buying using a PCP finance deal, it's surprisingly affordable.

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Pros

  • Comfortable and quiet to drive
  • Five seats and decent rear space
  • Loads of safety kit as standard

Cons

  • Pricey to buy outright
  • Non-turbocharged engines are a bit lacklustre
  • Pricey to insure
2

Peugeot 5008

This version of the Peugeot 5008 proves that you don't need to have a diesel engine in your seven-seat SUV, because even with the full family on board, Peugeot's turbocharged 1.2-litre turbo engine never struggles for power. It's economical, too, recording 36mpg on our True MPG tests. When you add the 5008's stylish interior, generous space and competitive CO2 emissions into the mix as well, the combination is one brilliant car. 

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Pros

  • Loads of interior space for the money
  • Stylish and plush-feeling interior
  • Competitive fuel economy and CO2 emissions

Cons

  • Poor rear head room with the optional sunroof fitted
  • Rivals have more diverse engine lineups
  • Slow-witted infotainment system
1

Ford Puma

That's right, our favourite petrol-engined car also happens to be our Car of the Year for 2020, the Ford Puma. As well as being an outstanding small SUV that's both spacious and good to drive, the Puma also comes with a pleasantly peppy 1.0-litre petrol engine – it gets even better, though, because it's also a mild hybrid, so uses small amounts of electric power to help save you money at the pumps. It's the best petrol-engined car you can buy right now.

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Pros

  • Great fun to drive
  • Remarkable blend of performance and fuel economy
  • Big and cleverly designed boot

Cons

  • Rear space is adequate rather than outstanding
  • Visibility could be better
  • Volkswagen T-Roc is more comfortable and quieter