True MPG: most efficient petrol cars
What Car?'s True MPG tests show what fuel economy you can really expect from a car. Here, we reveal the best-performing petrol-powered cars we've ever tested...
The official government 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 counting down the 10 most efficient petrol-engined cars we've tested to date. As more and more buyers choose petrol over diesel, getting the most efficient engine is going to be important – especially if you want to keep your running costs low. Our top 10 contains small and city cars as you might expect, but there are also a few surprises in the mix too.
10. Dacia Sandero 0.9 TCe
True MPG 52.8mpg
The Sandero is not only the cheapest new car you can buy in the UK but also one of the cheapest to run. Its 0.9-litre petrol engine isn't the last word in refinement or speed, but if you want to keep running costs as low as possible, it's a good choice. The Sandero is also surprisingly spacious for a small hatchback.
9. Seat Leon 1.0
True MPG 53.1mpg
The 113bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine you get in this Leon is our recommended choice, because it's peppy enough to get you up to speed in good time, while also keeping running costs in check. The Leon offers tidy handling, too, and most versions come well equipped.
8. Kia Picanto 1.0
True MPG 53.3mpg
In the Kia Picanto, you'll be driving a multi-What Car? Award winner, most recently scooping the Value Car of the Year title at our most recent awards ceremony. This 1.0-litre petrol version needs to be worked hard to perform at its best, but it's a good choice if you'll mainly be negotiating city streets.
7. Volkswagen Up 1.0 TSI 90
True MPG 53.7mpg
You can choose from two turbocharged 1.0-litre engines in Volkswagen's city car, but it's the lower-powered version with 89bhp that we recommend. Not only does it feel nippy around town, but it doesn't feel out of breath on the motorway either. And while the Up's badge-engineered siblings, the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo, will cost you less to buy, the Up has the nicer interior. It's worth noting, too, that like the Mii and Citigo, the Up is in the process of going fully electric, so your best chance of grabbing a petrol-engined model is by buying used.
6. Seat Ibiza 1.0 TSI 95
True MPG 54mpg
This 94bhp 1.0-litre petrol version of the Ibiza pulls willingly from low revs and can whisk you up to motorway speeds surprisingly quickly, yet it's also exceptionally frugal. The Ibiza was crowned as our Small Car of the Year in 2018, and despite having been usurped by the Volkswagen Polo in more recent years, it remains one of the best cars in the small car class.
5. Suzuki Baleno 1.0
True MPG 55.2mpg
The first of three Suzukis on this list is the Baleno, a small car rival to the Skoda Fabia and Ford Fiesta, but is more efficient than either of them in 1.0-litre form. You get lots of equipment as standard, too, plus a spacious boot. It's worth noting that the Baleno is no longer on sale, but you can find used examples at very reasonable prices.
4. Skoda Citigo 1.0
True MPG 55.2mpg
The Citigo will cost you less to buy than its Seat Mii and Volkswagen Up brethren and is also supremely economical. This 59bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine might sound like it's down on power, but it's perfectly suited to taking on city streets. The Citigo is also relatively roomy inside, so carrying friends for a big shopping trip need not be out of the question. Petrol-engined versions of the Citigo are now available only on the used market, because the new car has been overhauled to become the all-electric Citigo e iV.
3. Volkswagen Up 1.0 75
True MPG 55.9mpg
No, you're not seeing double; the Volkswagen Up does indeed feature twice in this list. This entry is for the same 1.0-litre petrol engine we covered earlier, but this time its power is 74bhp rather than 89bhp. The loss of a turbocharger means this version can feel a bit weedy compared with more powerful Ups, but we reckon fewer trips to the petrol station will make up for some of that. As with the Up we had earlier on in this list, however, this version has since been discontinued, although you can find examples on the used market.
2. Suzuki Celerio 1.0
True MPG 57.8mpg
In a car as small and light as the Celerio, even a 67bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine can give you a pleasant turn of speed. In fact, while the Celerio feels most at home in town, it isn't outpaced on faster A-roads or motorways. Suzuki also has an impressive reliability record, so you shouldn't face many issues with things going wrong. The Celerio was discontinued by Suzuki in 2019.
1. Suzuki Ignis 1.2 SHVS
True MPG 59.6mpg
This version of the Ignis small SUV has an ace up its sleeve: it's a mild hybrid. That means that as well as its 1.2-litre petrol engine, it can rely on small bursts of electric power too. And that all adds up to a frugal package that's also pleasantly peppy. Add in the Ignis's spacious interior and generous standard equipment and it's a very compelling package.