True MPG: most efficient cars for town driving

What Car?'s True MPG tests show what you can really expect from a car, and here we reveal the models that perform best if you do most of your driving on congested urban roads...

City traffic - True MPG

The official MPG figures published in sales brochures can tempt you into buying a particular car, but those results are often misleading. Fortunately, What Car?'s True MPG tests reveal what sort of fuel economy you can expect in the real world.

To ensure accuracy and repeatability, we use strictly controlled laboratory conditions, but the tests are based on a real-world route that takes in town, rural and motorway driving.

The results reflect what's achievable if you’re driving gently and sticking to speed limits but aren’t resorting to any unrealistically slow acceleration or special 'hypermiling' techniques.

Here we're looking at the cars that perform best in town, where all of the cars featured here can manage at least 50mpg on urban roads.

10. Suzuki Ignis 1.2 SHVS

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Suzuki Ignis long-term review

Town True MPG 50.6mpg, Overall True MPG 59.6mpg

Don't be fooled by the Ignis's small size, because it's one seriously impressive SUV. It's deceptively spacious, offers a generous amount of equipment and is very cheap to buy and run. This version of the Ignis has since been updated, but you can find plenty of used examples on sale, and if you want a newer Ignis, you only have to look as far as the next entry on this list.

Suzuki Ignis 2021 front cornering

Town True MPG 51.3mpg, Overall True MPG 59.9mpg

The Ignis strikes again, but this time as an updated model that's even more frugal both around town and overall. In fact, this version of the Ignis ties with the Toyota Yaris as the most fuel-efficient car we've ever tested. As well as being kind to your wallet, this 82bhp 1.2-litre petrol-engined version is also pleasantly peppy, thanks in part to how its hybrid system offers a welcome power boost at lower speeds.

Read our full Suzuki Ignis review >>

8. Lexus ES 300h

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Lexus ES front - 20 plate

Town True MPG 51.6mpg, Overall True MPG 44.7mpg

There’s an awful lot to like about the Lexus ES; it's spacious, comfortable and, for the most part, quiet. What's more,  running costs for company car drivers are far below those of diesel rivals, and the fact this big, luxurious saloon can top 51mpg in town is seriously impressive. It's just a pity that engine sounds coarse when you accelerate hard, and the infotainment system is a faff to use.

Read our full Lexus ES review >>

7. Toyota RAV4 2.5 Hybrid

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Toyota RAV4

Town True MPG 53.3mpg, Overall True MPG 37.1mpg

This may be the old version of the RAV4, but it's still the seventh most efficient town car we've ever tested. Its 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid setup switches between petrol and electric power smoothly and there's plenty of space inside for passengers and luggage. It should be a very reliable choice, too, and you can pick up a bargain if you buy used.

Read our full used Toyota RAV4 review >>

6. Toyota Prius 1.8 VVTi

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Toyota Prius 2020 RHD front right tracking

Town True MPG 60.3mpg, Overall True MPG 50.5mpg

The Prius is one of the founding fathers of hybrid motoring, so it should come as no surprise to see it towards the top end of this list. Driving primarily in town will enable you to make the most of its limited electric-only range, plus it offers decent ride and handling, and good interior space.

Read our full Toyota Prius review >>

5. Hyundai Kona 1.6 GDi Hybrid

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Hyundai Kona Hybrid front three quarters

Town True MPG 63.7mpg, Overall True MPG 47.4mpg

The Kona is a good choice if you want a small SUV that's also frugal, and it impresses with a generous amount of standard kit and a decent infotainment system. This hybrid version is powered by a 104bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine and electric motor. It won't win any awards for outright acceleration – the 0-62mph sprint takes 11.2sec – but in the real world it's plenty quick enough.

Read our full Hyundai Kona review >>

4. Toyota Corolla Touring Sports 2.0 VVT-i Hybrid

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Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

Town True MPG 68.1mpg, Overall True MPG 49.4mpg

Like the Toyota Prius further up this list, this estate version of our reigning Hybrid Car of the Year is at its most efficient in town, although it's also pretty damn frugal everywhere else. Other strengths include its strong resale values and plentiful standard equipment, and while the boot isn't quite as large as those found in conventional rivals, it’s not far off.

Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid Icon CVT

Town True MPG 80.0mpg, Overall True MPG 49.2mpg

Toyota's rival to the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa combines 80mpg in town with a comfortable ride and a generous standard spec. As a result, it won its price point at this year's What Car? Car of the Year Awards. This Yaris was replaced by an all-new version that went on sale earlier this summer, and which you can read more about below. If you fancy a bargain, though, then there are plenty of used versions of the Yaris available. 

Read our full used Toyota Yaris review >>

2. Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid

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Toyota Yaris 2020 front cornering

Town True MPG 80.0mpg, Overall True MPG 59.9mpg

The latest Yaris not only matches its older sibling around town in terms of fuel economy, but significantly betters it overall. The fact that it ties with the Suzki Ignis as the most efficient car we've ever put through our True MPG test is why we've put it ahead of the old Yaris here, but, as well as low running costs, though, this generation of Yaris also offers tidy handling and peppy performance, plus an interior that feels built to last.

Read our full Toyota Yaris review >>

1. Toyota RAV4 2.5 VVT-i Hybrid 2WD

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Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Town True MPG 91.9mpg, Overall True MPG 49.0mpg

It's safe to say that Toyota knows how to build an efficient town car; the brand is behind six of the 10 cars here, or seven if you include the ES from sister brand Lexus. Most efficient of the lot, though, is the latest RAV4 SUV, which managed an incredible 91.9mpg during the low-speed, stop-start section of our True MPG test. Plenty of rivals are better to drive and the infotainment system is a pain to use, but that sensational fuel economy makes the RAV4's shortcomings easier to forgive.

Read our full Toyota RAV4 review >>

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