The death of the diesel may be greatly exaggerated but there is no denying that sales figures have dropped drastically in the past year. New legislations are partly to blame and some manufacturers are stopping producing diesel-powered cars altogether. The focus is now on the next-gen EV and ultra-efficient hybrid models.
That’s great if you only plan to buy an EV in 5-years-time, but most current offerings tend to be rather pricey. Those of us looking for a fuel-efficient car today that doesn’t have a diesel engine need to look at what is out there right now.
Thankfully, there are plenty of petrol-powered options to choose from, they may not ultimately use as little fuel as their diesel counterparts but the lower initial purchase price and potentially cheaper running costs may save you even more in the end. To cover all the bases, we have also selected some of the best hybrid offerings that offer great economy figures.
Frugal cars that aren’t diesels
VW Golf S 1.4 TSI
The evergreen Golf is available in a number of engine options, the 1.4-litre 125-bhp Golf S is a great choice for city slickers. Equipped with the 7-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission it gets 54.3mpg on the combined cycle.
The 0-60mph figure of 9.5-seconds is more than enough for the cut and thrust of the morning commute.
Mini Cooper 3-door
The base Mini Cooper hatchback offers 136-bhp from its 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine and can zoot to 60mph in under 8-seconds. Now that’s impressive from a car that can average 55.4mpg.
Renault Clio TCe 90 Eco
The Clio TCe75 and 90 post the same average consumption figures of 56.5mpg, so you may as well spend the extra £500 that separates them and enjoy the more powerful variant.
BMW 118i SE
BMW 118i SE The BMW 118i shares its 136-bhp three-cylinder engine with the Mini and while it is a fraction slower to 60mph, if you spec one with the automatic transmission and avoid the big alloys it is even more fuel efficient. Its average figure of 56.5mpg even matches the far less powerful Renault Clio.
VW Golf S 1.0
The most frugal petrol-powered alternative in the Golf range is the 85-bhp 1.0 TSI variant. It may not set your hair on fire but with a 58.9mpg overall consumption figure it offers great fuel economy.
Ford Fiesta EcoBoost 1.0
The turbocharged 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine found in the new Fiesta is at its most efficient in 125-bhp form, outperforming even the lower powered 70 and 85-bhp 1.1-litre models by posting a 65.7mpg overall consumption figure.
Audi A1 1.0 TFSI
The Audi A1 in 95-bhp 1.0-litre petrol form offers a very impressive 67.3mpg, that’s not far off the 1.6TDI which manages 74.3mpg but it is a bit slower. It does however undercut the diesel in CO2 emissions at 97g/km versus 99g/km.
Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech
Peugeot’s classy looking little 208 is good to drive and at its most efficient in Pure Tech 82 trim. The 1.2-litre engine produces 82-bhp and manages 67.3mpg.
If you want the most frugal petrol Peugeot in the range though then it will have to be the tiny 1.0-litre 108, it can average 68.9mpg on the combined cycle but you will have to make do with 68-bhp though.
Fiat 500 0.9 TwinAir
The Fiat 500 is the perfect city car for the stylish set. There are a range of options that allow you to personalize your car too and the good news is that you don’t have to buy the least powerful 69-bhp 1.2-litre engine to get the best economy.
That is because at 74.3mpg, the 85-bhp 0.9-litre TwinAir engine is the most economical in the range. For £500 more you can get the 105-bhp version which still offers 67.3mpg and adds a bit more zip to the package.
Suzuki Celerio 1.0 Dualjet
The most efficient petrol-powered car currently on sale in the UK is the Suzuki Celerio. The 68-bhp output of its tiny 1.0-litre engine may not be much but the 78.4 combined mpg it offers makes a lot of sense.
If you are concerned about running costs and do a lot of driving in slow-moving city traffic then this little car is your ideal petrol-powered companion.
Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDi Hybrid SE
Hybrid setups generally comprise of a small electric motor and a battery that can be recharged using the petrol engine. The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid is relatively new on the market and offers an arguably more stylish alternative to the Prius.
It features a 1.56 kWh battery that aids the gasoline engine when needed and it offers up to 83.1mpg on the combined cycle. Choosing larger alloys wheels does lower the economy figures though.
Toyota Prius 1.8 VVTi Hybrid
Toyota was one of the very first manufacturers to offer a hybrid powerplant in its original Prius, now on its third-generation, the latest Prius 1.8 VVTi is capable of 83.1mpg on the combined cycle.
It can still manage a very impressive 80.7mpg on the motorway, an area where most hybrids tend not to perform very well.
Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDi Plug-in Hybrid
Plug-in-Hybrids offer superb economy potential if you make the most of their electric powerplants. Most allow you to run for extended periods on battery power alone which will obviously drastically lower your petrol usage.
Don’t forget to factor in the cost to recharge the battery though. The Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDi Plug-in Hybrid offers up to 39-miles of range on its 8.9 kWh battery and the combined 141-bhp gas/electric power output makes it perfect for most tasks. Up to 256.8mpg can be achieved.
Toyota Prius 1.8 VVTi Plug-in
Just as the Ioniq can now be had in a variety of hybrid setups, so too can the Prius. The Plug-in Hybrid version does offer a much better 235mpg overall consumption figure than the standard hybrid Prius but it does cost around £5,000 more.
It does however come with a cool solar roof panel that extends the range by 3-miles a day. Whether you can recoup that kind of outlay during your ownership depends on how many miles you drive. Remember though that while you can travel 39-miles on battery power alone, your fuel usage will be greatly reduced if you do extended motorway trips.
BMW i3 Range Extender
The i3 is BMW’s first fully electric car, it is capable of up to 187-miles on a single charge but it is the Range Extender edition that is more practical for use outside of the city centre. That is because it comes with a small two-cylinder petrol motor that charges the batteries to reduce range anxiety when you are far from a potential recharging point.
At £37,220 for the standard i3 with the Range Extender, this is one of the priciest cars on our list, but the combined consumption figure of 470.8mpg is also by far the highest. It is quick too, offering up to 184-bhp in i3s trim.
Diesel is (almost) dead but that’s ok
Whichever car you prefer, there is a broad range of options out there that offer superb economy without resorting to having a stinky and noisy (they all get noisy after a while) diesel engine under the bonnet.
As a rule of thumb, the smallest engine in the range is not always the most economical and if you are set on a hybrid make sure that your commute makes the most of its strengths. Namely, short urban hops rather than long cross-country trips.