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Jamie Gibbs

The 5 most efficient petrol family cars


If keeping your car’s running costs low is your top priority, you should start with finding one that won’t gulp a lot of fuel.

Mazda3 teaser

Thanks to generally low miles per gallon (mpg) and CO2 emissions, diesel cars have become the norm. They’re cheap to run and are currently in high demand. However, you don’t need diesel, electric or hybrid cars to enjoy low running costs.

And if the Volkswagen scandal has put you off buying a diesel motor then check out our list of efficient petrol-powered family cars.

The tax figures here are based on cars registered before April 2017. For tax brackets on newer models, check out our guide.

5. Mazda3 2.0 SkyActiv


The Mazda3 drives as well as it looks and won’t be a burden on your wallet. There are two engines to choose from - 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre. The former is more affordable. However, if you need more power and don’t mind paying a little extra, go for the 2.0-litre petrol engine.

The difference in fuel economy between the two isn’t that big. The 2.0 Mazda3 returns over 55mpg and it falls in the same tax band as the 1.5-litre one – VED tax band E, costing you £30 a year.

It’s an impressive alternative to the VW Golf and the widely popular Ford Focus.

4. Peugeot 308 Allure 1.2 e-THP PureTech

Peugeot 308

If you’re looking for a stylish exterior and slick features, look elsewhere because the 308 isn’t about the looks. It’s minimalistic, but that’s fine. This Peugeot doesn’t have to prove anything as it relies on its efficient engine and comfortable interior.

For the low emission 1.2-litre petrol engine, the French car maker promises diesel-like 61mpg, which is great for a family car.

The yearly tax is also quite affordable too and will cost you just £20. The closest opponent to the nimble 308 is the competitively-priced Ford Focus.

3. Nissan Qashqai 1.2 DiG-T

Nissan Qashqai

In 2015, Nissan reported that it took them less than two years to roll 500,000 Qashqais off the production line in Sunderland. The Japanese crossover proves time and time again that it’s one of the best SUVs you can buy today. Despite its bulky size, the 1.2-litre engine offers enough power thanks to Nissan’s sprightly turbocharged engine technology.

You’ll enjoy driving it both on the motorway, where you won’t struggle to overtake, and in the city, where agile manoeuvring is a breeze. The average fuel consumption for this particular model is 50mpg, and it falls into VED tax band D as it emits 129g/km of CO2.

You can opt for the 1.6-litre engine if you want more power, which also benefits from similar fuel economy.

2. Renault Megane 1.2 TCe

Renault Megane

Even though the Megane isn’t going to win any beauty contests, it makes a very adequate family car. Turbocharged engines have almost become the norm among the low litre petrol cars and the Megane 1.2 TCe has one of them.

The French car maker’s claim regarding fuel efficiency is that this one can easily run for 53 miles on a gallon of fuel. In terms of CO2 emissions, it’ll emit 119g/km and you’ll have to pay just £30 for the 12 month VED tax band C.

Fuel economy is further improved by the “Stop and Start” feature which comes as a standard with this model.

1. Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost

Ford Focus

The Focus remains one of Britain’s most loved small family hatchbacks. The most recent 2015 facelift breathed new life into the model, making it more modern and elegant.

Looks aside, the class-leading Focus comes with a small nippy engine which delivers big results. If fuel economy is your top priority, then you’ll find the Focus’s 60mpg quite wallet-pleasing.

What’s more, you won’t be forking out much for your road tax either as it’s in VED band B. The Ford Focus’s efficient diesel-like engine emits 109g/km of CO2, meaning you’ll have to pay £20 a year.

Because it’s such a frugal well-performing car, finding a used one won’t be difficult. But even if you want to buy new, it’s priced very competitively.


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