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 count down the 10 most efficient petrol-engined cars we've ever tested. 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.
10. Seat Leon 1.0 TSI 115
True MPG 53.1mpg
The 113bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine 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
Go for a Kia Picanto, and you'll be getting a car that's won multiple What Car? awards, most recently the Value Car of the Year title at our 2020 ceremony. The 1.0-litre petrol engine needs to be worked hard to perform at its best, but it's a good choice if you'll mainly be negotiating city streets.
=8. Suzuki Ignis 1.2 SHVS Allgrip
True MPG 53.3mpg
Don't be fooled by the Ignis's small size – it's a seriously impressive SUV. It's deceptively spacious, offers a generous amount of equipment and is very cheap to buy and run. This version features four-wheel drive and is a mild hybrid, which means a small electric motor works alongside its 1.2-litre petrol engine, reducing the strain on it and consequently improving economy.
7. Volkswagen Up 1.0 TSI 90
True MPG 53.7mpg
While it has now been discontinued, the 1.0 TSI 90 used to be our pick of the Up range, so is worth seeking out on the used market. Not only does it feel nippy around town, but it doesn't get out of breath on the motorway. And while the closely-related Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo, will cost you less to buy, the Up has a nicer interior.
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 our Small Car of the Year in 2018, and despite having since been usurped by the Volkswagen Polo, it remains one of the best cars in its class.
=4. Suzuki Baleno 1.0
True MPG 55.2mpg
The second (but not the last) Suzuki on this list is the Baleno, a small car rival to the Ford Fiesta and Skoda Fabia that's 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 60
True MPG 55.2mpg
With just 59bhp, you might think this version of the Citigo was best avoided, but it's fine for those who do most of their miles in town, as well as extremely economical. Petrol-engined versions of the Citigo are now available only on the used market, because the car has been overhauled to become the fully 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 on this list. This variant is also a 1.0-litre petrol, but with 74bhp rather than 89bhp. The loss of the turbocharger means it can feel a bit weedy, but fewer trips to the petrol station will at least partially make up for that.
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
Finally we have a second Ignis, which uses the same mild hybrid technology as the first, but foregoes four-wheel drive. It's enough to make it the most efficient petrol car we've ever tested.
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