With fuel prices soaring towards £2-a-litre, these are the new models on sale from each car brand that sip the least petrol and diesel
With average petrol prices nearing £1.90-a-litre and diesel edging closer to £2 this week, motorists’ wallets and purses are being hit incredibly hard.
It means drivers now have to fork out over £100 for unleaded to fill up an average-size family motor with a 55-litre tank.
But there are some cars that will need to be brimmed with fuel less often than others, as motoring consumer title What Car? has pointed out.
It has named each major brand’s most frugal model on paper, based on their ‘official’ miles per gallon (mpg) fuel economy figures.
Most of these are plug-in hybrid models with astronomical fuel efficiency figures. However, these need to be taken with a pinch of salt, as we’ll explain later.
Scroll down to see the top performer for each mainstream brand listed below.
To see the full list of most-economical cars in every manufacturer’s existing range (including the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Rolls-Royce) – as well as how much these models cost to finance, how much you should aim to haggle off the list price and a star rating for each model – then read What Car?’s full guide.
These are the models that are said to be the most economical in order of fuel efficiency claims for the standout performers for each brand. All are plug-in hybrid (PHEV) cars, but the figures quoted for these vehicles need to be taken with a pinch of salt…
Plug-in hybrid fuel economy figures – why you need to take them with a pinch of salt
A recent study by consumer group Which? found that the fuel consumption figures of plug-in hybrid cars are 61 per cent lower than those quoted by the manufacturers, based on independent tests.
Last year it put 22 PHEV models through its own test cycle that it says better reflects real-world driving scenarios than the WLTP cycle currently used by car makers.
The cars were also tested on the road for 62 miles in total – including on the motorway – with their batteries in varying states of charge, rather than being at 100 per cent capacity.
It found that fuel economy was far lower than what consumers are being led to believe.
Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at Which?, said: ‘A fuel efficient plug-in hybrid vehicle is an attractive feature for prospective buyers, as many will expect to spend less on fuel and reduce their carbon footprint.
These are the result from the T&E study. The BMW X5 xDrive45e was found to be the worst performer of the three PHEVs analysed
‘Yet our research shows many popular hybrid models are not as efficient as the manufacturer’s claim, which means motorists could be spending more on fuel than they anticipated.
‘It is clear that the standard set for calculating fuel efficiency rates is flawed and should be reviewed to reflect real-life driving conditions. This would ensure manufacturers advertise more accurate rates and consumers have an accurate understanding of how much they should expect to spend on fuel.’
A number of reports have also highlighted that plug-in hybrids vehicles might not be as good for the environment as their official carbon dioxide emissions figures suggest.
Green campaign group Transport & Environment described them in 2020 as ‘fake electric vehicles’ after finding some emit up to 12 times their quoted C02 outputs, with Greenpeace calling PHEVs a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ when it comes to their eco credentials.
> Read our latest column by electric car expert, Fiona Howarth, CEO of Octopus Electric Vehicles, about why she thinks plug-in hybrid vehicles have already run their course and why motorists should instead jump straight into pure EVs…
Most fuel efficient model: Tonale 1.5 Hybrid 160 (petrol-electric hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 49.5mpg
Price: from £35,000 (est)
This is Alfa’s newest model, the Tonale. The conventional hybrid is claimed to return almost 50mpg, though a plug-in hybrid version due later this year and will likely have improved fuel economy figures
The Tonale is Alfa Romeo’s new compact SUV it hopes will kickstart the brand’s popularity across Europe. The most frugal version is the conventional hybrid combo of a 1.5-litre petrol engine supplemented by a small battery and electric motor to return a claimed 49.5mpg.
A plug-in hybrid version is due to be confirmed later this year, which will likely become the most frugal car in the Alfa Romeo arsenal.
Most fuel efficient model: A3 Sportback 40 TFSIe Sport (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 256.8mpg
The most fuel efficient Audi on the market right now is the Audi A3 Sportback plug-in hybrid, which is said to return over 256mpg – though take that claim with a pinch of salt
Audi’s five-door hatchback is among its most popular models, and the 40 TFSIe Sport plug-in hybrid is the best of both worlds.
Official WLTP (which stands for Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) fuel economy figures say it will return 256.8mpg.
However, that’s based on the car only being used in optimum circumstances, such as completing short journeys where most of the work is done by the electric motor.
Most fuel efficient model: X5 xDrive45e M Sport (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 235.4mpg
The plug-in hybrid version of BMW’s X5 can drive for 54 miles using electric power only. This is why it has a claimed fuel economy of 235.4mpg
If you’ve got £75,000 to spend on a hulking SUV, then BMW’s X5 is the most frugal car the German manufacturer currently produces.
The plug-in hybrid xDrive45e is claimed to return 235.4mpg, with the fully-charged battery pack able to drive the 4X4 for 54 miles using only electric power.
Most fuel efficient model: C5 X 1.6 Plug-in Hybrid (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 236.2mpg
Citroen’s recently-revealed C5 X is a stylish family SUV with a plush interior and silky-smooth ride. And the PHEV version is also said to be uber-economical, returning over 236mpg
Another high-riding, large-size SUV, with impressive fuel economy is Citroen’s new C5 X. It ticks all the usual boxes for cars produced by the French brand, with quirky looks and a super-luxurious interior and wafting ride comfort.
With a plug-in hybrid drivetrain underpinning it, the C5 X is said to return over 236mpg – that’s better than any other Citroen in showrooms today.
Most fuel efficient model: Formentor 1.4 eHybrid 204 V1 (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 235.4mpg
You might not have heard of Cupra before but it is the spin-off arm of Spanish (well, VW owned) Seat. The PHEV Formentor SUV is its most economical model, official figures suggest
Cupra is the new spin-off brand of Spanish car maker, Seat. It will generally focus on electrified models that are aimed at the youngest licence-holding audience.
Its Formentor is a powerful family SUV. Fitted with the plug-in hybrid eHybrid 204 drivetrain, it is said to return 235.4mpg – though will be quite a bit less in the real world.
Most fuel efficient model: Duster 1.5 Blue dCi Comfort 2WD (diesel)
Official fuel economy: 57.6mpg
Dacia’s diesel Duster is the brand’s most economical car, offering up to 57.6mpg, according to official figures. Not bad for a family car costing just over £18,000
The first non-hybrid car to make this list comes from Dacia – which is one of the last brands to begin electrifying variants of its budget-friendly cars.
The diesel Duster SUV – in the front-wheel-drive guise – has a claimed return of 57.6mpg, stretching out the highest cost of the fuel at the moment.
Most fuel efficient model: 500 1.0 Mild Hybrid Pop (petrol)
Official fuel economy: 61.4mpg
Fiat has launched an all-new 500 city car that’s exclusively powered by batteries only. But the older model is still on sale with petrol engines under the bonnet – and this one will do over 60mph, says the Italian marque
With 500 introducing an all-new 500 that is exclusively sold with electric drivetrains, the previous-generation car remains on sale with petrol – and mild-hybrid petrol – engines.
This Pop variant will return a claimed 61.4mpg, which is likely more achievable in the real world than some of the PHEV figures quoted that are over four times more economical.
Most fuel efficient model: Kuga 2.5 PHEV ST-Line Edition (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 257.0mpg
Ford’s plug-in hybrid Kuga can, according to official figures, return 257mpg, though priced from £37,000 it is a premium over combustion-engined variants
You might think it would be a Fiesta that would top the list of the most fuel efficient Fords, but that’s not the case.
Instead, it is the bigger Kuga SUV with the 2.5 PHEV setup. Ford says it will cover up to 39 miles using its battery and electric motor only, though with the two combined is said to return 257mpg.
Most fuel efficient model: Jazz 1.5 i-MMD Hybrid SR (petrol-electric hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 62.8mpg
Honda’s Jazz has always been a popular small car in Britain. The current generation car has a hybrid drivetrain that will return well over 50mpg in the real world
The Honda-e isn’t the only electrified model in the Japanese company’s UK showrooms – it also has a hybrid version of the Jazz.
The spacious little motor – which has been a popular choice among Britons for years – has a claimed range of 62.8mpg, though What Car? says the reality is around 56mpg, based on its own tests.
Most fuel efficient model: Ioniq 1.6 GDi Plug-in Hybrid Premium (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 256.8mpg
Hyundai’s Ioniq is ending its production cycle, but the PHEV version of the car is still its most frugal model on sale today
Hyundai’s Ioniq is a pretty interesting model in the Korean brand’s line-up – it has been available since 2017 with the choice of three drivetrains: fully electric; plug-in hybrid; and conventional hybrid,
The middle one of the three is what tops the charts in terms of using petrol the most efficiently, returning a claimed 256.8mpg, according to official records.
Most fuel efficient model: E-Pace 1.5 1.5 P300e R-Dynamic S (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 201.8mpg
Jaguar is set to become an all-electric premium car brand by 2025. Before then, the E-Pace is the petrol-electric hybrid with the best claimed fuel economy figures
Jaguar isn’t a brand you would historically associate with making fuel-sipping motors. However, that will all change soon enough with the British marque promising to be an electric-only premium car maker from 2025.
While it is still making models with petrol and diesel engines, the plug-in hybrid E-Pace – its smallest SUV – has the best claimed return of 201.8mpg.
Most fuel efficient model: Sportage 1.6 T-GDi Plug-in Hybrid 3 (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 252.0mpg
Kia’s new Sportage compact SUV comes with the option of a PHEV powertrain that is claimed to return a massive 252mpg
Kia has only recently brought to market a new Sportage, with the nameplate a popular model among Britons since it was first introduced to the UK market.
With a claimed 252mpg, the latest PHEV version promises lots of fuel economy – though won’t quite deliver on that figure in the real world. Kia adds that it will cover 43 miles in electric-only mode.
Most fuel efficient model: Range Rover Sport 3.0 P440e SE (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 341.2mpg
A new Range Rover Sport is on the way this year and the PHEV variant is Land Rover’s most fuel efficient car in its existing range
When you hear the name Land Rover, you think hulking gas-guzzling 4X4s that regularly need to visit a filling station forecourt.
But Land Rover does offer hybrid versions of most of its cars these days, meaning some added fuel economy. The most efficient is said to be the Range Rover Sport P440e, which returns an official 341.2mpg.
Want to get the most out of expensive fuel that you’re pumping into your car? Read our eco-driving tips
Read our top eco-driving tips to make the most of the pricey fuel you’re currently having to pump into your car
Experts say the possibility of motorists paying sky-high prices at the pumps could go on for some time, meaning no respite for Britons already facing a cost of living crisis.
But there are things YOU can do to extend the time between visits to forecourts – if you’re willing to change how you drive and prepare your vehicle to be as economical as possible.
Bar replacing your car with one that’s more economical – or even electric – and driving less frequently, there are plenty of ways to drive more efficiently that can help you to cut down on your fuel bills.
Using really simple eco-driving techniques ‘can easily save the equivalent of 9p-a-litre’, says the AA.
For motorists desperately wanting to get the most out of the expensive fuel they are currently pumping into their car’s tank, This is Money has compiled our top 10 best tips to drive as efficiently as possible. You can read them all here
Most fuel efficient model: NX 450h+ F-Sport (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 313.9mpg
Lexus has been selling hybrid cars for years, but it is a relative newcomer to the plug-in hybrid market. The compact NX 450h+ can go for up to 45 miles in electric-only mode and returns a claimed 314mpg
There are some brands that are synonymous with excelling in hybrid vehicles, and that includes Lexus.
The NX 450h+ is a plug-in hybrid that offers an electric-only range of up to 45 miles – granted it is fully charged. This helps to contribute to the cars incredible 313.9mpg claims, which will ultimately be difficult to achieve on the road.
Most fuel efficient model: CX-60 2.5 PHEV Exclusive-Line (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 188.0mpg
The whopping CX-60 is Mazda’s debut PHEV model. The official WLTP test cycle results say it can do up to 188mpg and run for 39 miles without the petrol engine being needed
If it wasn’t for the CX-60, Mazda’s most economical model would have a combustion engine. But this is the brand’s first plug-in hybrid.
It’s capable of being driven for up to 39 miles in pure-electric mode, while the overall fuel economy figure produced in the official WLTP tests suggest it will be able to do 188mpg.
Most fuel efficient model: C-Class C300e AMG Line (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 470.8mpg
Of all the cars in this list, the Mercedes C300e PHEV is – on paper – the most fuel efficient of them all. The junior executive saloon is said to be able to return 470mpg
This is the most fuel efficient new car on the market right now, if you base the rankings on the claimed fuel economy figures.
The C300e PHEV is claimed to return over 470mpg – an astounding level of efficiency that will certainly be difficult [if not impossible] to replicate in the real world. Helping the car reach this stratospheric figure is its larger battery, which means it can run for up to 62 miles in electric mode before the petrol engine needs to kick in.
Most fuel efficient model: HS 1.5 T-GDI PHEV Excite (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 155.8mpg
MG is already selling electric cars that offer relatively good value for money against other expensive EVs. However, it is still making combustion engine models, with this HS PHEV returning bold claimed mpg figures
MG has solidified its position in the UK market with impressive pure-electric models, but it also sells a range of combustion-engine, and hybrid, cars.
The HS PHEV is the most frugal of all the vehicles in its range, which is claimed to be able to return 156.9mpg – based on the laboratory test results.
Most fuel efficient model: Countryman 1.5 Cooper S E All4 Classic (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 156.9mpg
Mini’s Countryman is sold with the option of a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. Pay the premium for it and the BMW-owned brand says it will do 156.9mpg
Mini has the all-electric version of its popular hatchback, but it’s not the smallest model in its range that offers the most economy from a petrol or diesel engine.
That accolade is currently held by the plug-in hybrid Countryman with a claimed return of 156.9mpg.
Most fuel efficient model: Qashqai e-Power (petrol-electric hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 53.3mpg
Nissan’s new Qashqai is set to be a big seller, with the Sunderland-produced SUV a big favourite among Britons for over a decade. There’s an e-Power hybrid version that’s more frugal on paper than any other Nissan model
Nissan does have electric cars in its line-up, but not any plug-in hybrids…yet.
That means the most economical model in the current range is the e-Power hybrid Qashqai, which is produced in Sunderland. It has a fuel economy claim of 53.3mpg from the petrol-electric combo.
Most fuel efficient model: 308 1.6 Hybrid 180 Allure (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 281.1mpg
Peugeot’s 308 is a more affordable alternative to premium-branded family hatches like the Audi A3 and VW Golf. There’s a PHEV variant too with impressive – claimed – fuel economy returns
Peugeot’s most fuel efficient car is the plug-in hybrid variant of its popular 308 family hatchback. While it might not be able to match sales of the more premium Mercedes-Benz A-Class and VW Golf, it’s a very good option if you have a slightly smaller budget to spend – and is well-equipped too.
Returning a claimed 281mpg, visits to a petrol station should be relatively infrequent.
Most fuel efficient model: Panamera 4 E-Hybrid (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 141.2mpg
Porsche is brand you relate to speed over efficiency, but it has already started to dabble in the world of electrification. Its PHEV Panamera is claimed to return 141.2mpg – some achievement for a high-performance four-door family wagon
Another brand you wouldn’t necessarily think of when you’re discussing frugality is Porsche. However, the German sports car giant has already entered the 100 per cent electric market with the Taycan and also offers hybrid versions of its bigger models.
That includes the plug-in hybrid variants of the Panamera, and in this case the 4 E-Hybrid, which is said to return 141.2mpg.
Most fuel efficient model: Captur 1.5 E-Tech Techno (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 188.3mpg
The Renault that sips fuel slowest of all is the Captur E-Tech plug-in hybrid. Think of it as a super-green Clio on stilts
When it comes to having to avoid pulling into a fuel station and filling up, Renault’s best answer is the Captur E-Tech plug-in hybrid.
The compact SUV – which is a jacked-up Clio supermini – is said to return 188.3mpg with the support of the small onboard battery and electric motor.
Most fuel efficient model: Leon 1.4 eHybrid (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 235.4mpg
Seat’s Leon has always been a volume-selling family hatchback in Britain. The latest variant comes with the option of an eHybrid powertrain with big claims about how economical it is
The Seat Leon is a highly rated family hatchback. Underneath, it is essentially the same as an Audi A3 or VW Golf, though priced lower than its premium-badged siblings.
The eHybrid is the most fuel efficient model in the line-up – and the entire Seat range. The ongoing chip shortage means new orders are currently on hold, but once they re-open customers will be able to get a car with a claimed economy of 235.4mpg.
Most fuel efficient model: Octavia 1.4 TSI iV SE Technology (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 282.5mpg
Skoda’s Octavia is mechanically very similar to the Seat listed above, though with slightly higher fuel efficiency claims. It blows the rest of the Skoda range out of the water
Fittingly, Skoda comes after Seat in our list – as the Octavia TSI iV is the sister car to the Leon eHybrid, using the same combination of 1.4-litre petrol engine, small battery and electric motor.
While it might be mechanically similar to the Seat, it returns a better fuel economy – according to the claims – of 282.5mpg.
Most fuel efficient model: Across 2.5 PHEV E-Four (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 282.4mpg
This might look like a Toyota, but it is actually a Suzuki. It’s called the Across SUV and, with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, is the Japanese marque’s most frugal car
You might not think the Japanese marque Suzuki qualifies as one of the major car manufacturers, but the brand has so far in 2022 outsold big name makers including Porsche, Jaguar and Lexus.
The most fuel economical model at the moment is the Across SUV, which is the sister car to Toyota’s RAV4, with a fuel return of 282.4mpg, according to the sales pitch.
Most fuel efficient model: RAV4 2.5 PHEV Design (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 282.4mpg
Look familiar? The Suzuki Across listed above is the sister car to this – the Toyota RAV4. In fact, they share the same PHEV drivetrain – and quoted fuel economy stats
When you think of ultra-frugal hybrid cars, you will most picture a Toyota Prius – the petrol-electric car that’s so economical that Uber drivers are hugely reliant on them.
But that isn’t the most fuel efficient motor the Japanese brand sells. That award goes to the RAV4 (which we’ve just mentioned), which is now sold as a PHEV returning 282.4mpg claimed. What Car? says with the battery depleted and running on the petrol engine alone, it can return an impressive 50mpg.
Most fuel efficient model: Astra 1.6 Hybrid GS Line (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 256.8mpg
This is Vauxhall’s handsome new Astra. While the Astra-e 100% electric model is the one that will grab the headlines, there’s a plug-in hybrid option too that is said to sip petrol at a slow rate
Vauxhall has a new Astra out, and it comes with plug-in hybrid power – and soon an Astra-e all-electric model.
Until then, the PHEV is the greenest variant as well as its most economical when it comes to fuel use. It is claimed to return 256.8mpg, but at over £32,000 is a steep premium over conventional combustion-engine options.
Most fuel efficient model: Golf 1.4 TSI eHybrid Style (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 313.9mpg
Volkswagen’s Golf eHybrid is the brand’s most fuel economical model in showrooms at the present time
Following the 2015 emission cheating scandal, for which VW is now synonymous, the German brand set out big targets to repair its reputation and put in place a clear direction for it to go green.
While it has already launched a range of fully electric cars under its ‘ID’ banner, it also continues to offer hybrid and plug-in hybrid options across the line-up. This includes a PHEV Golf, which is said to return over 300mpg.
Most fuel efficient model: S60 2.0 T8 Recharge Plus (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid)
Official fuel economy: 403.0mpg
Volvo is already electrifying its car range and won’t sell you a diesel engine at all. The S60 T8 Recharge Plus pictured is the most economical model it has with a petrol engine in it, returning a claimed 403mpg
Volvo is another brand setting out clear targets to become greener, having already ditched diesel engines from its line-up and having electrified – both 100 per cent battery and hybrid – options for every model it sells.
The most economical of its cars with a combustion engine present is the S60 T8 Recharge Plus – a PHEV that can cover up to 55 miles in pure electric mode and is claimed to return 403mpg on average.