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True MPG: most efficient cars with 1.0-litre engines

What Car?'s True MPG tests show what you can really expect from a car, and here we reveal the cars with 1.0-litre petrol engines that perform best – plus the models which will be the most expensi...

Most efficient cars with 1.0-litre engines

If you're a new driver, mainly drive in town or are simply looking to keep costs down, then you might be considering a car with a 1.0-litre petrol engine. Such models are usually on the small side, but include family cars and a plenty of small SUVs among their ranks.

Don't think that choosing a car with a 1.0-litre engine means you'll forever be in the slow lane, either. While you're unlikely to be blown away by their performance, these engines are usually turbocharged, meaning you'll find surprisingly nippy acceleration.

Choosing a car with a 1.0-litre engine is a good move if you're looking to cut costs, too – and especially so if you don't fancy a hybrid or electric car. But which models will keep your running costs as low as possible? Read on for the answer, based on the results of our unique True MPG tests.

The most fuel-efficient car with a 1.0-litre engine:

Volkswagen Up 1.0 60

Volkswagen Up front cornering

True MPG Average 56.0mpg | Town 44.3mpg | Motorway 51.9mpg | Rural 72.1mpg

You'll see the Volkswagen Up appear a couple more times within our list, but here we have the most efficient engine of the lot, let alone of all the 1.0-litre cars we've tested. This naturally aspirated model may not have heaps of power, but performance is adequate around town, and it's worth noting that grunt has been upped from 59bhp to 64bhp since our economy figures were recorded. Add in all the Up's other strengths – namely a smart interior and fun driving experience – and this city car package proves very competent and easy to live with.

Read our full Volkswagen Up review or see our latest Volkswagen Up deals

Read on to find out how we find your car's True MPG, and see more of the 1.0-litre cars which performed well in our tests, as well as the models which will cost you the most to run.

How we test for a car's True MPG

To ensure our tests our repeatable, meaning we avoid outside variables such as weather and traffic conditions affecting the results, our True MPG tests are carried out at a rolling road under laboratory conditions. That said, we base the route the cars take on one in the real world, consisting of town, rural and motorway driving.

Electrical equipment like headlights, heated seats or the stereo are turned off while we conduct testing. What's more, the car's internal climate is set to 21 degrees, or if it has manual air conditioning, the temperature is set to its midway point. Fan speed is turned to its lowest setting. We weigh every test car and check tyre pressures, plus an exhaust connection is fitted for the purposes of measuring emissions. A car's tailpipe emissions is sampled every second. 

The True MPG figures you see in this story are calculated from an average of our results.

The best of the rest: cars with 1.0-litre engines

2. Volkswagen Up 75

Volkswagen Up front cornering

True MPG 55.9mpg

We told you the Volkswagen Up would come up again – this time it's the slightly more powerful 75 model. This version is well worth considering over its 60 counterpart, because its extra punch has but a very minor impact on fuel economy (as you can see). Unfortunately, the 75 was dropped from the Up range in 2020. On the other hand, our used car buying pages have a fair few examples to choose from.  

Read our full Volkswagen Up review or see our latest Volkswagen Up deals

3. Skoda Citigo 1.0 MPI 60

True MPG 55.2mpg

Skoda Citigo front 3/4 driving

Although mechanically very similar to the Volkswagen Up, the Skoda Citigo was a little cheaper from new. Now that Skoda has discontinued the car, it's become even more affordable as a used buy – and a great one, too. Don't think of it as a cut-price Up, because in many ways it feels just as polished. It's capable, comfortable and good to drive. 

Read our full used Skoda Citigo buying guide

4. Seat Ibiza 1.0 TSI 95

Seat Ibiza front cornering

True MPG 54.0mpg

As small cars come, the Seat Ibiza is among the best. It's fun to drive, thanks in part to some peppy yet economical engines, and it's deceptively spacious. Like the Citigo, it shares parts with a Volkswagen – in this case the Polo – but it's cheaper than that model. However, unlike the Citigo, as of writing, the Ibiza remains on sale as a new car. 

Read our full Seat Ibiza review or see our latest Seat Ibiza deals

5. Volkswagen Up 1.0 TSI 90

Volkswagen Up front cornering

Town True MPG 53.7mpg

This is the final Volkswagen Up to make our list. It's the most powerful of the three we've presented to you, yet it still manages truly impressive fuel economy. It's also the only engine of the trio to have a turbocharger, so you don't have to work it hard to get the best out of it. It's the most effortless to drive and, because of this, it's our pick of the Up bunch. 

Read our full Volkswagen Up review or see our latest Volkswagen Up deals

6. Toyota Aygo X 

Toyota Aygo X front cornering

True MPG 52.2mpg

Though this funky city car has some rugged SUV style, the Toyota Aygo X is much better suited to the urban jungle than the actual one, and that's just what you need in  though, plus the model earns points for being cheap to buy and run. This is aided by a modest 1.0-litre engine – that's the only unit available, mind you. 

Read our full Toyota Aygo X review or see our latest Toyota Aygo X deals

7. Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI 95

Volkswagen Polo front cornering

True MPG 51.8mpg

A jack of all trades, the Volkswagen Polo feels just as at home around town as it does on the motorway, especially when fitted with this engine. In other words, it has decent get-up-and-go, and not at the detrimental expense of fuel economy. It doesn't sip fuel quite as gently as its Seat Ibiza cousin, though. 

Read our full Volkswagen Polo review or see our latest Volkswagen Polo deals

8. Kia Picanto 1.0 DPi ISG

Kia Picanto front driving

True MPG 51.7mpg

With tidy handling, a good-size boot (by class standards) and excellent infotainment on upper trim levels, the Kia Picanto proves itself as a well-executed city car. This engine is the Picanto's least powerful offering, but, unless you're planning on doing much motorway driving, it does its job well and does it at an impressively low cost. 

Read our full Kia Picanto review or see our latest Kia Picanto deals

9. Volkswagen Taigo 1.0 TSI 95

Volkswagen Taigo 2022 front cornering

True MPG 50.5mpg

We weren't fibbing in the beginning – an SUV really does make it onto this list. Don't be too surprised, though, because the Volkswagen Taigo uses the same 1.0-litre engine as the Ibiza and Polo we've already mentioned. In fact, the two cars share a fair few positive qualities, including being comfortable and practical. On top of that, the Taigo adds a raised-up driving position, rugged looks and a sleek, coupé-inspired roofline, so it could be considered the more stylish choice. 

Read our full Volkswagen Taigo review or see our latest Volkswagen Taigo deals

10. Fiat 500 Hybrid 

Fiat 500 Hybrid front driving

True MPG 50.0mpg

It may be dubbed the Fiat 500 Hybrid, but this title is somewhat misleading. You see, you can’t plug it in, and it can’t travel on electric power alone – this is actually a mild hybrid. Regardless, that gentle electrical assistance does help save some fuel and put the 500 on our list, albeit only just. It also helps this stylish, though ageing city car stay fresh after 15 years on sale. 

Read our full Fiat 500 Hybrid review or see our latest Fiat 500 Hybrid deals

And the least efficient cars with 1.0-litre engines

Those are the 1.0-litre models that performed the best during testing, but what about those cars that weren't so successful? Next, we'll take you through the three models that performed the worst in our real-world tests.

3. Dacia Sandero TCe 100 Bi-Fuel

Dacia Sandero front right tracking

True MPG 40.9mpg

Though it isn't very economical (for a 1.0-litre), this Bi-Fuel version of the Dacia Sandero can be somewhat forgiven, because the LPG it uses is a lot cheaper per litre than unleaded. Of course, you don't have to put LPG in it, the engine can be powered by petrol alone, but if that's your plan, the regular petrol version could make more sense. Badged TCe 90, it's more economical. 

Read our full Dacia Sandero review

2. Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Hybrid mHEV 155

Ford Focus 2023 front cornering

True MPG 38.7mpg

A hybrid among the least efficient 1.0-litre cars? Surely it can't be. Well, like the Fiat 500 we referenced before, this Ford Focus is but a mild-hybrid. Its engine is fairly powerful, too; more so than any other car we've featured here, and that goes some more of the way to explaining its lacklustre True MPG result. The fact it's a larger, heavier family car among mostly small cars goes even more of the way. 

Read our full Ford Focus review

1. Dacia Duster TCe 100 Bi-Fuel

Dacia Duster 2022 front tracking

True MPG 35.6mpg

Unsurprisingly, the Bi-Fuel version of the Dacia Duster faces a similar fate as its Sandero equivalent, but one made worse by its SUV bodystyle. Again, its poor economy isn't a knife in the Duster's back, as we explained a few paragraphs ago, but it's something to keep in mind when you're buying one. The Duster also features a TCe 90 variant (if LPG doesn't suit you).  

Read our full Dacia Duster review

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