For a wide variety of reasons, not everybody is currently willing or able to make the switch to an EV, which means that an economical petrol or diesel car (with or without hybrid assistance) is still going to be their best option.
But what about plug-in hybrids with their enormous fuel economy figures and ability to run on battery power alone? Plug-in hybrids could be a good option for some, but when those batteries run down the car is left with a lot of excess weight to lug around, so they tend to get quite thirsty.
As such, we’ve left electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids off this list and we’re looking solely at the most fuel-efficient petrol and diesel cars on the market with their economy figures based on the most recent, rigorous and up-to-date WLTP testing standard. Miles per gallon (mpg) may seem like an old-fashioned figure to use given that we use neither miles nor gallons in Ireland, but when it comes to fuel economy figures, it’s the metric most people best recognise. Bear in mind too that in real-world use, despite changes to economy standards, these cars may struggle to match their official figures.
Fuel economy: 71.4mpg – 3.96 litres/100km
The Peugeot 208 is an attractive small car that looks good, is decent to drive and is packed with a lot of tech for a supermini. For the economy-minded, the 208 to go for is the one with the 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel engine which, though not the liveliest thing in the world, is torquey and will officially return more than 71.4mpg.
Fuel economy: 70.6mpg – 4.0 litres/100km
It’s no surprise that the C3 returns such a similar fuel economy figure to the Peugeot — both employ the same 1.5-litre diesel engine. The C3 is one of the more pleasant small cars out there but be sure to opt for Flair over Feel models as otherwise you won’t get the Airbumps along the side that add to the C3’s quirky looks as well as helping to prevent car park grazes.
Fuel economy: 70.6mpg – 4.0 litres/100km
You guessed it, the Corsa uses the same 1.5-litre diesel engine as its Stellantis cousins the Peugeot 208 and Citroën C3, and that’s a good thing. The latest Corsa is a fine car that looks better than ever and has a strong interior too. That engine isn’t out of its depth on motorways and is a reasonably refined unit.
Fuel economy: 68.9mpg – 4.1 litres/100km
Volkswagen Golf buyers have a huge range of choice when it comes to powertrains — petrol, diesel, mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid — but the one we’re looking at is the diesel. Powering the latest generation Golf on the diesel front is a turbocharged 2.0-litre unit that makes the Golf lively enough to drive while returning high fuel economy figures. As ever, the Golf is one of the most competent cars in its class, is good to drive and feels solidly built.
Fuel economy: 68.8mpg – 4.1 litres/100km
The current Yaris is arguably the best-looking supermini on the market, and it comes with previous generations’ truly enviable reputation for reliability. Powering the Yaris isn’t a diesel though, but a 1.5-litre petrol hybrid (among other things) that, on paper at least, returns high fuel economy. It’s a little cramped inside, but otherwise well-equipped, refined and nice to drive.
Fuel economy: 67.3mpg – 4.2 litres/100km
The fact that the same 1.5-litre diesel engine powers four out of ten cars on this list really shows how frugal it is and how diesel really is still one of the best options for those covering high mileages. The new Astra, like the latest Corsa, is better than ever and the styling looks great. The interior too has really come on in leaps and bounds making it an even stronger contender against the likes of the VW Golf and Ford Focus.
Fuel economy: 65.7mpg – 4.3 litres/100km
The Octavia isn’t the pinnacle of excitement, but it’s one of the most competent family cars out there offering an outstanding blend of practicality, space and build quality. In its most frugal iteration, the current Octavia is powered by the same 2.0-litre diesel engine as the Golf, but being a bigger, heavier car returns a slightly worse economy figure. Nevertheless, it’s still impressive for a car of this size offering this much room inside.
Fuel economy: 58.9mpg – 4.8 litres/100km
The Picanto is another car that keeps getting better and better and the latest model is stylish, easy-to-drive and its 255-litre boot is substantial enough for a car of this size. Reliability is strong and the Picanto feels well screwed together too. Powering the little Kia is a 1.25-litre petrol engine which, though it gets a bit grumbly and out-of-puff on the motorway, is still a reasonably peppy motor that returns good fuel economy.
Fuel economy: 57.2mpg – 4.94 litres/100km
Suzuki’s fortunes in Ireland haven’t been stellar of late and that’s a shame because the company builds some cracking little cars such as the Swift and Ignis. The Swift is a handsome, high-quality and comfortable hatch that drives particularly well compared to its competitors. Under the bonnet is a mild-hybrid-assisted 1.2-litre petrol engine that is likely to return fuel economy not too far off its officially claimed figure. The Swift is underrated and should be firmly on the list of anyone in the market for a budget supermini.
Fuel economy: 56.5mpg – 5.0 litres/100km
Like other cars on this list, the Focus gives buyers a range of powertrain options. When it comes to fuel economy though, it’s much of a muchness whether you go for the 1.5-litre diesel option or the 1.0-litre EcoBoost hybrid as both return around 55-56mpg. With an extra 30hp on tap though, the hybrid will feel livelier to drive, which is something the Focus rewards. It has long been one of the nicest cars to drive in its class and the latest model is no different. Looks, quality and interior tech are high, which is one reason it’s sad to see Ford axing its hatchbacks and saloons in favour of crossovers and SUVs.