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Car of the Year Awards 2021: True MPG Award

What Car?’s True MPG fuel economy figures show the sort of efficiency you can really expect from a car. And our True MPG Award goes to the most efficient model we've ever tested...

WINNER: True MPG Award

Toyota Yaris 1.5 VVT-i Hybrid

What Car? Car of the Year 2021 logo with sponsor

While other brands have only recently begun to introduce hybrid technology, Toyota has been offering models with this fuel-saving capability for 20 years, and a hybrid Yaris has been on sale for nearly a decade. However, none of those earlier models was as frugal as this latest Yaris, which is the most fuel-efficient car we’ve ever put through our real-world True MPG test.

Toyota’s hybrid small hatchback is powered by a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that’s supplemented by not one but two electric motors and a battery that’s smaller, lighter and yet larger in capacity than those fitted to previous incarnations.

Toyota Yaris 2021 Dashboard

The result is that the Yaris has a remarkable ability to sip fuel gently. In town, it achieved 80.0mpg – almost double the economy of conventionally powered small cars such as the Peugeot 208 and Volkswagen Polo. And it's True MPG average of 59.93mpg just pips that of the mild hybrid Suzuki Ignis to set a new benchmark in overall terms.

Best for motorway driving - Suzuki Ignis 1.2 Dualjet Hybrid

Suzuki Ignis 2021 front cornering

If you’re after a small car that’s cheap to punt around, the Ignis should be on your wish list, because it’s the most economical car we’ve tested for driving on rural roads and motorways.

It has an 82bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine that’s equipped with mild hybrid technology to boost average fuel economy to a level that’s higher than what many full hybrid and diesel models can achieve. Only the Toyota Yaris comes close to its impressive rural figure of 74.8mpg, and the Ignis’s real-world motorway economy is better than that of traditional diesel mile-munchers such as the Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI.

Unusually for a small SUV, the Ignis is available with four-wheel drive – the Ignis Allgrip – and although this isn’t as economical as the front-wheel-drive model, it still averaged more than 50mpg. The only type of driving that takes its toll on the Ignis’s economy is the urban slog. That said, it’s still the sixth most frugal car we’ve tested here and the least thirsty model that isn’t a full hybrid.

Best for town driving - Toyota RAV4 2.5 VVT-i Hybrid

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The RAV4 debunks the myth that large SUVs are gas guzzlers. Toyota dropped purely petrol and diesel engines with the introduction of this latest model, leaving a hybrid as the only power option. This is great news, because the RAV4 has the best True MPG urban economy of any car we’ve tested.

In town, its economy is 10mpg higher than the car in second place – the far smaller, lighter Toyota Yaris – and it sips fuel at nearly half the rate of direct rivals such as the Honda CR-V Hybrid.

The RAV4 uses two electric motors and a relatively big battery to boost the economy of its 2.5-litre petrol engine. It can run on electric power alone in stop-start traffic and uses a combination of both power sources at higher speeds.

This makes it a convenient option because it never needs to be charged up, although its True MPG is reduced at motorway speeds because here it relies mostly on the petrol engine. That said, its average True MPG figure of 49.0mpg is still better than those of the CR-V Hybrid and most conventionally powered rivals.

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