Petrol, diesel, hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric – which is the cheapest to own?

You might think that the lower running costs of an electric or hybrid car will make it the cheapest ownership prospect. We reveal that’s not always the case...

Seat Arona

Small and family SUVs 

Compact SUVs are the newest additions to many brands’ line-ups, so the number of alternatively fuelled versions is still growing. Here, we’ve compared petrol or diesel versions of the Seat Arona, Toyota C-HR and Volvo XC40 with the hybrid Kia Niro, electric Hyundai Kona and plug-in hybrid Mini Countryman S E. 

The Arona is our 2018 Small SUV of the Year, and it’s the most affordable model here, both to buy and to own, closely followed by the petrol C-HR. The Niro has more room for passengers, but it’s a lot pricier to buy and costs £3046 more to own over three years, despite saving you nearly £400 in petrol. 

Used Mini Countryman Hatchback 17-present

It’s a tough call between the Niro and the Countryman plug-in hybrid. The latter is some £4000 pricier to buy, but its superior economy means it will save you nearly £2000 in fuel costs over three years, so the difference is just £571 in favour of the Mini. 

The Niro is cheaper to own than the Hyundai Kona Electric, however, due to that car’s hefty depreciation and insurance costs. That aside, it’s around £2800 cheaper to fuel. 

The Volvo XC40 – our reigning overall Car of the Year – is the most expensive car here to buy and own. It holds on to a decent amount of its value (45%) after three years, but it costs much more to insure and service than the Niro, and your fuel bills will be £1937 higher, due to a relatively low True MPG figure of 35.4mpg. 

Make and model List price Target Price Depreciation Ins, servicing and road tax Fuel cost Total 3yr cost
1. Seat Arona 1.0 TSI 95 SE Technology £17,830 £16,214 £7656 £2162 £4600 £14,418
2. Toyota C-HR 1.2 Icon £21,880 £20,156 £8997 £2750 £4876 £16,623
3. Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 £31,905 £27,449 £11,449 £3199 £2245 £16,893
4. Kia Niro 1.6 GDi 3 £25,470 £23,141 £10,661 £2591 £4212 £17,464
5. Hyundai Kona Electric Premium 39kWh £30,870 £26,370 £14,520 £2547 £1351 £18,418
6. Volvo XC40 D3 R-Design £30,560 £30,409 £14,823 £3827 £6149 £24,799


Family cars

Volkswagen Golf

Alongside electric and hybrid models, car manufacturers have also spent the past couple of years developing turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engines that are almost as light on fuel as their eco-diesel counterparts. To find out whether these are effective, we’ve pitted the 1.0-litre petrol Volkswagen Golf against the electric e-Golf. 

The Golf costs almost four times as much to fuel as to charge the e-Golf at home. However, the latter costs significantly more in depreciation, and this, in combination insurance, makes it around £4500 more expensive to own over three years. 

The petrol Skoda Octavia and hybrid Toyota Prius cost roughly the same to buy, but the Prius costs less to own in most ways. It retains nearly £1000 more of its original value and needs £1331 less in fuel than the Octavia, making it £2518 cheaper overall. 

Hyundai Ioniq

Hyundai bucked the trend for charging a premium for its alternative fuel vehicles with the Ioniq by pricing all three derivatives – hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric – fairly closely together, and that means the latter version is the most affordable family car in this comparison overall. It’s around £5000 cheaper to own than the pricier e-Golf and £3000 less than the petrol Octavia. 

But if you live in an urban area and do mostly short journeys, the Ioniq hybrid and plug-in hybrid are worthy contenders, too. Cheaper insurance, road tax and fuel costs mean they cost about £1000 and £2000 more respectively to run than the Ioniq EV. 

Make and model List price Target Price Depreciation Ins, servicing and road tax Fuel cost Total 3yr cost
1. Hyundai Ioniq Electric Premium £25,945 £23,958 £11,504 £2162 £1081 £14,747
2. Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid 1.6 GDi Premium £23,340 £21,377 £10,174 £2048 £3586 £15,808
3. Toyota Prius 1.8 VVT-i Active £24,245 £22,444 £9837 £2377 £4181 £16,395
4. VW Golf 1.0 TSI 110 SE Nav £21,025 £19,104 £10,063 £2186 £4248 £16,497
5. Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in 1.6 GDi Premium £25,645 £24,063 £13,292 £2085 £2556 £17,933
6. Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI 150 SE L £24,000 £20,376 £10,776 £2625 £5512 £18,913
7. Toyota Prius Plug-in Bus Ed Plus £31,640 £31,640 £16,390 £2699 £1516 £20,605
8. Volkswagen e-Golf £28,230 £28,230 £16,938 £2668 £1293 £20,899


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