Most economical small cars on sale in UK 2022

Trying to save money on your motoring? These economical small cars are bound to help you make substantial savings

Craig Hale
Jan 12, 2022

Trying to make motoring more affordable? One of the easiest ways to save yourself a bit of money is to use less fuel. The price of fuel is easy to overlook, but if you're driving over 8,000 miles per year it's likely your annual fuel costs will exceed £1,000 - lengthy commutes can burn some pretty large holes in your wallet.

For many of us, covering hundreds of miles a month is unavoidable, so saving money on fuel can seem like a pretty impossible task, but there are steps you can take to make sure your fuel bills are no bigger than they need to be. Driving a car with better fuel economy can be a very effective way of saving fuel and minimising costs.

Fuel economy is generally measured in miles per gallon (mpg), and factors such as engine size, exhaust efficiency and tyre pressures can all have an effect on a car's fuel economy - your driving style can influence your fuel costs, too, you can save fuel if you're gentle with your use of the pedals. An engine that has to work harder will burn more fuel, so it's worth addressing any outstanding engine issues your car may have, because a smoother running engine will be more economical.

If, however, your car is simply burning too much fuel no matter how carefully you drive, then you may want to look towards finding something more efficient. In general terms, newer cars will offer much better fuel economy courtesy of their need to comply with ever stringent environmental restrictions such as the Euro 6 emissions standard. Opting for a smaller car can be a good fuel saver, too, because they generally have smaller engines that burn less fuel.

We've taken it upon ourselves to bring you 10 of the most economical small cars on the market. We've picked a pair of cars that use petrol, diesel, mild hybrid, self-charging hybrid and plug-in hybrid power, so there should be something for everyone.

Most economical small cars

Most economical petrol cars

1. Kia Picanto

Our pick Kia Picanto 1.0 ‘2’
Efficiency 58.9mpg CO2 110g/km
Used deals from £8,000
Monthly finance from £0*

Excellent fuel economy helps the Picanto stand out from its seemingly countless rivals, but buyers will also be attracted to its large 255-litre boot and 100,000-mile, seven-year warranty.

On paper, the 66hp 1.0-litre engine is more efficient than the 100hp turbocharged 1.0-litre engine, but you’ll have to work it harder to pick up any speed, so in the real world they’re going to be similar when it comes to fuel economy.

If you can afford it, go for ‘2’ trim because it has air-conditioning, alloy wheels and softer materials around the steering wheel and gear stick.

KIA PICANTO BUYERS’ GUIDE

2. Toyota Aygo

Our pick Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i X-Trend
Efficiency 56.5mpg CO2 114g/km
Used deals from £9,944
Monthly finance from £0*

This little Toyota shares many of its mechanical parts with the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108, but it offers an industry-leading 10-year warranty (on newer vehicles or older ones that meet certain criteria).

The 72hp 1.0-litre petrol engine isn’t particularly quick, so it’s best suited to town driving. That’s not to say you can’t drive the Aygo on faster roads - any engine is at its most efficient at a constant, steady speed, and it’s on the motorway that you’ll likely reach 50mpg.

Like most city cars, you’ll have to pay extra for luxuries like alloy wheels and automatic headlights, though a reversing camera comes as standard on all models which is handy for those tight city parking spaces.

TOYOTA AYGO BUYERS’ GUIDE

Most economical diesel cars

3. Peugeot 208

Our pick Peugeot 208 1.5 BlueHDi 100 Active Premium
Efficiency 73.6mpg CO2 107g/km
Used deals Limited stock

When the redesigned Peugeot 208 arrived in 2020, the company focused on introducing more economical petrol engines and the new electric e-208. However, this supermini is still available with one diesel engine which still promises the best fuel efficiency in the range. You’ll struggle to come near to the 70mpg claimed figure around town, but on a longer journey it’s reasonably achievable.

Every version comes with alloy wheels, a large touchscreen media system, rear parking sensors and air-conditioning. In fact, there’s little need to pay extra for the more expensive trim levels.

READ MORE ABOUT THE PEUGEOT 208

4. Citroen C3

Our pick Citroen C3 1.5 BlueHDi 100 Sense
Efficiency 65.7mpg CO2 113g/km
Used deals from £9,300
Monthly finance from £0*

When Citroen launched the C4 Cactus almost a decade ago many buyers were unsure of the plastic ‘Airbump’ panels along the sides. They have since featured on a handful of other Citroen cars, including the latest C3. They’re said to be cheaper than an entire door panel to replace, so any scuffs picked up in the car park shouldn’t be as expensive to fix.

It uses the same 1.5-litre diesel engine found in the Peugeot 208, along with a number of other Peugeot, Citroen and Vauxhall cars that share the same parts.

Expect similar levels of equipment in the latest versions of the C3 including alloy wheels, air-conditioning and cruise control. In this case, we think it’s worth paying extra for a model with LED headlights as these can be particularly useful when driving at night.

CITROEN C3 BUYERS’ GUIDE

Most economical mild hybrid cars

5. Fiat 500

Our pick Fiat 500 1.0 MHEV Dolcevita
Efficiency 61.4mpg CO2 105g/km
Used deals Limited stock

Thankfully, a petrol-powered Fiat 500 is still being sold alongside the new electric version which helps to keep PCP finance costs down. While it has been available with an efficient and characterful 0.9-litre two-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine in the past, it’s the latest 1.0-litre version that proves most economical thanks to mild hybrid technology.

It’s best to avoid entry-level Pop trim which makes do with the bare minimum. Dolcevita models come with a touchscreen media system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Hey Google versions come with a smart speaker you can use at home, but buying used means you’re unlikely to get this handed down to you. Buying nearly new is one way to get it, but check with any individual dealer to be sure.

FIAT 500 BUYERS’ GUIDE

6. Mazda 2

Our pick Mazda 2 1.5 E-Skyactiv G SE-L
Efficiency 60.1mpg CO2 107g/km
Used deals from £12,450
Monthly finance from £198*

While most manufacturers are veering towards smaller engines, the Mazda’s 1.5-litre engine bucks that trend. Its 90hp means that it feels quite quick, and you shouldn’t have to work it too hard thanks to the electrical boost provided by the mild hybrid setup.

We like the Mazda 2 because even the cheapest model comes with a strong list of standard equipment, including cruise control. Keyless entry, a reversing camera and a head-up display (equipment you’d usually expect to find on bigger and more expensive cars) are reserved for higher trim levels, so it’s worth looking out for these for a more well-rounded offering.

If you want to splurge on these luxuries, the 75hp non-mild hybrid 1.5-litre engine should be almost as efficient in the real world, and costs around £1,000 less when new.

MAZDA 2 BUYERS’ GUIDE

Most economical self-charging hybrid cars

7. Toyota Yaris

Toyota Yaris Hybrid front three quarters view

Our pick Toyota Yaris 1.5 Hybrid Design
Efficiency 68.8mpg CO2 92g/km
Used deals from £20,495
Monthly finance from £0*

The Yaris was redesigned in 2020, and your only choice is a self-charging hybrid setup. It uses a 1.5-litre petrol engine and an electric motor to produce 116hp. It’s not sporty, though; the CVT automatic gearbox means its most at home around town, particularly in stop-start traffic where the hybrid system is most economical.

Mid-spec Design models are the pick of the bunch - they come with LED headlights and a slick digital speedometer, but all models come with adaptive cruise control and a reversing camera.

It’s not a particularly cheap supermini, costing over £20,000 when new, but savings are to be had at the pump if you stick to slower roads where you should be able to get 60mpg with little effort. You also get peace of mind from the company’s 10-year warranty.

READ MORE ABOUT THE TOYOTA YARIS

8. Renault Clio

Renault Clio front view

Our pick Renault Clio 1.6 E-Tech RS Line
Efficiency 64.2mpg CO2 98g/km
Used deals Limited stock

The hybrid version of the Renault Clio costs around £4,000 more than its petrol-powered counterpart, but for that you get a high-tech hybrid setup that Renault claims can do 80% of town journeys in electric mode. It’s worth taking any manufacturer’s figures with a pinch of salt, though.

It uses not one but two electric motors - one to provide engine-free driving at speeds of up to 27mph and another to step in during gear changes for seamless acceleration. As with any self-charging hybrid car, it uses an automatic gearbox that should make town driving less stressful.

We like RS Line models for their dramatic styling and modern-looking portrait-orientated touchscreen media system. Whichever version you settle on, you’ll get an impressive five-year warranty.

RENAULT CLIO BUYERS’ GUIDE

Most economical plug-in hybrid cars

9. Mercedes A250e

Mercedes A-Class front three quarters view

Our pick Mercedes A250e AMG Line
Efficiency 282.5mpg CO2 23g/km
Used deals from £30,590
Monthly finance from £444*

For the best fuel economy, you’ll be looking at a plug-in hybrid. There are no plug-in hybrid superminis, so you’ll have to settle for a larger hatchback model like the Ford Focus-sized Mercedes A-Class.

The A250e PHEV is £5,000 more expensive than its petrol counterpart, and a whole £10,000 more than the cheapest A-Class in the range, but for that you can expect sky-high mpg figures and up to 40 miles of electric-only motoring. It’s worth remembering that electricity prices are on the rise, so the money you could save in any PHEV is becoming more limited. It’s still cheaper to run than a petrol or diesel version, if you can afford the high purchase price.

Because it’s only available in the highest trim level, you get things like keyless entry, ambient lighting and powerful LED headlights.

MERCEDES A-CLASS BUYERS’ GUIDE

10. Seat Leon

Our pick Seat Leon 1.4 e-Hybrid FR
Efficiency 252.4mpg CO2 25g/km
Used deals from £25,450
Monthly finance from £0*

You pay a similarly high price for the hybrid version of the Leon. It’s less powerful than the A-Class, and Seat reckons you’ll get around 35 miles from the battery.

You get a choice of four trim levels, and not a lot separates the cost of each. Whichever you pick, you’ll get three-zone climate control, keyless start and a wireless phone charger. If you want heated seats and a heated steering wheel, it’s worth checking out the higher trim levels.

If you don’t like the look of the Leon, you should also consider the more expensive Volkswagen Golf eHybrid or Audi A3 40 TFSI e, which share many of the same mechanical parts. They also come with more performance-orientated versions, the Golf GTE and A3 45 TFSI e.

READ MORE ABOUT THE SEAT LEON

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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