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Economy cars

It’s always an interesting evaluation: comparing all the cars that have been designed to function as the world’s best fuel sippers.  If you are a commuter, then you’ll know what it’s like spending hours at the wheel in traffic jams. You will also appreciate owning a car that doesn’t cost the earth to run.


Take a look at the list of cars that I have compiled.  These vehicles are Australia’s most economical vehicles at present – and all of them are sold new. The fuel consumption figures are based on what Australia’s ‘Wheels Magazine’ has compiled.  You might like to buy a copy for yourself – they are always a good read.


The fuel consumption figures are based on the number of litres of fuel consumed every 100 km. If you think there should be a car in this list, that isn’t, please feel free to comment on what that car is.  Your thoughts are always welcome.


Hopefully this read will prove helpful to those of you looking out for a car that leads the globe in fuel frugality.  Obviously, these penny-wise cars will tend to be smaller. But, take a look, as there are one or two cars in this list that do offer some sensible practicality as well.  And, if it’s just you travelling then the smallest of these cars might tickle your fancy and be just what you need. 


The list is in alphabetical order – just to be helpful: 


Audi offers a tidy little package in its little A3 TDI version.  The 1.9 TDI engine is linked to a five-speed manual gearbox, has plenty of torque and holds a fuel economy figure of 4.5 litres/100 km.  It is probably one of the most roomy economy cars on this list.



Another small German car worth a mention is the BMW 118d.  It’s a fun drive, has an automatic stop/start function for the engine, and you might like to note that this engine offers 300 Nm of torque – a punchy little powerhouse!  Being run through a slick six-speed manual gearbox means that the BMW 118d achieves an impressive 4.5 litres/100 km fuel economy figure.  It’s rear-wheel-drive too!



The French love to rival the Germans, so it is no surprise to see that the Citroen C3 and C4 feature.  Loaded with style, the Citroen C3 HDi has a very competitive price, a beautiful ride and fuel consumption of 4.4 litres/100 km.   Bigger and roomier, the nice looking Citroen C4 HDi is simply gorgeous.  And, it boasts 4.5 litres/100 km fuel economy.



Super cute, and with endless loads of flair, the nicely packaged turbo-diesel Fiat 500 will capture your attention.  Whether the 1.3 JTD engine is mated to a five-speed or six-speed manual gearbox, both options provide a thrifty 4.2 litres/100 km fuel consumption.




The Italian flamboyance continues with the Punto 1.3 and 1.4 JTD models.  The Punto knows how to handle the road ahead – making it very rewarding to drive.  And hey, it looks like a Maserati!  While returning 4.6 litres/100 km this won’t make it a member of the Alcoholics Anonymous group.  Both of these Fiats are also very hotly priced.





Now for a benchmark: Ford has the stylish Fiesta Econetic.  This is Australia’s most economical car at present. Nothing beats the 3.7 litres/100 km fuel economy figure.  Nicely proportioned, and a great handler, the Ford Fiesta Econetic is the complete package.



Honda’s ever reliable Civic is so very technologically advanced and nice to drive.  Blessed with a satisfying interior, Honda now offers a Honda Hybrid sedan that has a sprightly 1.3 litre Hybrid Honda engine.  A 4.6 litres/100 km fuel economy figure ensures it keeps the other marques honest.



Hyundai has come to the party with its 1.6 litre turbo-diesel.  The Hyundai i30 SXCRDi is Australia’s cheapest diesel car to buy new.  The car is pleasant to look at, and it has a nicely finished interior and plenty of zip.  With 255 Nm of torque, and a fuel economy figure of 4.7 litres/100 km, it’s got to be tempting!




Running very close to the little Ford Fiesta Econetic, is Mini’s Cooper D.  The Mini Cooper D has one of the catchiest exterior designs in this line-up, and with a small 1.6 litre, turbo-diesel engine the Cooper D makes sure it offers plenty of punch.   The engine is linked to a manual six-speed gearbox, meaning that the mini Cooper D achieves a fantastic fuel economy figure of 3.9 litres/100 km.  This Mini has, perhaps, the best handling characteristics in this comparison.  Definitely worth a look!



Very classy, the new Peugeot 207 offers a fine economy package in the XT HDi.  With just 4.8 litres of diesel being used every 100 km it won’t exactly send you broke. Pug’s bigger 308 1.6 HDi offers plenty of practicality, and is very stylish and beautifully designed -inside and out. 



Definitely the smallest car here, the Smart ForTwo fits into car parks like you wouldn’t believe!  Small and safe, comfortable and peppy, any smart CBD commuter will check out the tiny Smart ForTwo.  Boasting a combined fuel economy figure that sits well under 5 litres/100 km – and this coming from out of a petrol engine – do your sums and you’ll see why this set of four wheels makes sense.



Here is a quick plug for those of you who need economy in an SUV package.  The muscly looking SsangYong Actyon has a 2.0 litre turbo-diesel engine that packs over 300 Nm of torque, has four-wheel-drive, is well priced and goes about its business quietly.  Getting any 1.8 tonne vehicle to manage under 5 litres/100 km is a feat.  Well done to SsangYong!



Budget priced, and one of the few petrol powered cars in this list, is the Suzuki Alto.  Take away the added expense of maintaining and running a diesel, and the Suzuki Alto 1.0 litre GL and GLX with a fuel economy figure of 4.8 litres/100 km makes a heap of sense.  The Suzuki Alto is also nice looking, has six airbags and even comes with ESP as standard – in the GLX model.  Great for around town – you’d be nuts to not consider an Alto.



Where would the world be without Toyota?  For a very frugal, spacious and practical drive, the clean burning Toyota Prius III offers a 1.8 litre petrol hybrid engine.  It doesn’t come cheap, but it is certainly friendly on the environment.  Expect 3.8 litres/ 100 km.



Start with the Germans, and finish with the Germans, – Volkswagen always has offered very well designed, reliable and fuel efficient motorcars.  Superbly finished, refined, elegant and roomy, the Golf 77TDI variants easily boast fuel economy figures that sit below 5 litres/100 km.


So, here’s your list. Digest the information, and see if I have missed anything useful? 


Hopefully it’s a helpful read to you all.  Happy commuting!


  1. Brian Hannan says:

    I’m sorry to see a myth promulgated in the findings – it states “Australia’s most economical vehicles at present”. But, that is not necessarily so. If you mean fuel economy – that’s great, but fuel economy does not create “Australia’s most economical vehicles”.

    The equation for the economics of owning a car is, in simple terms:
    Purchase price less sale/trade in price at the end of the love story, plus insurance plus fuel plus maintenance plus registration.

    Many of the European fuel economic vehicles have far higher maintenance costs than say the Japanese or Japanese clones. Horrifying maintenance costs. Often only through dealers or specialists due to the tools and parts availability.

    Ditto the trade/resale cost – the market sets trade in / resale prices and for many European vehicles the price reflects the expense associated with ongoing maintenance.

    It would be interesting to see an analysis of the target group at say 60 or 80,000 km to find what owners have spent to gain their fuel savings. In a Peugeot as an example that’s probably two sets of disc rotors for starters. Many of the Euro vehicles still have cambelts with expensive replacement costs – as the Japanese move away from cambelts to timing chains again.

    People love to drive these cars but they should at least be aware of the maintenance impact before the event.

    July 13th, 2010 at 1:21 pm

  2. graeme says:

    do you have the prices in WA as an estimate for these vehicles or the ones under $30k

    July 13th, 2010 at 1:24 pm

  3. bruce hennessy says:

    what, nothing on mazdas third biggest selling car in australia

    July 13th, 2010 at 1:38 pm

  4. Peter Baker says:

    As an owner of diesel powered vehicles for thirty years I am pleased to see the Australian motoring world is starting to appreciate what some of us have known for a long time. Unfortunately the oil companies are quicker than most and have capitalised on the growing trend. In 1980 I was paying 13 cpl for diesel while petrol was 30 cpl. I am about to purchase my 8th diesel vehicle and I hope the cost of diesel fuel does not deter new owners.

    July 13th, 2010 at 1:46 pm

  5. Justin says:

    I’m not sure where Wheels mag got their mileage figures from of under 5 for the Actyon, but, when I went to look at the Ssangyong Actyon SUV, all i could find was 7.8 and 8.5 for the manual and auto respectively.

    July 13th, 2010 at 2:21 pm

  6. Ken Pavy says:

    This is a great, straight to the point report on the fuel efficiency of some of the superb vehicles available today. I myself drive the Hyundai i30 crdi SLX auto and find it a great vehicle. In the auto transmission model, it constantly returns an average of 6 ltrs for every 100 km travelled.

    July 13th, 2010 at 3:12 pm

  7. Anthony says:

    Due to not everyone wanting a small car that is generally suited to only commutting from one place to another and not much else, how about showing some well desired medium, large, 4wd’s, commercial utes/vans and sports cars for those who need to carry families,tow trailers, carry tools/equipment or just like the look and drive of that sports car when the kids leave the nest. As those of us needing or wanting these cars are also fuel contious too.

    Some that might fit the bill – medium family; mazda 6 TDI, large family; falcon egas; sports convertibles VW Eos TDI and even the supercar stacks have the Porsche.

    Very interested to here you feed back on those wild cards?

    July 13th, 2010 at 6:01 pm

  8. Marilyn Obersby says:

    Thanks for the list. I’ve been looking for a comparison like that. The only thing missing is the price of each vehicle! That would be helpful as well, since cost can be a big factor in choosing between 2 or 3 cars.

    July 13th, 2010 at 8:44 pm

  9. Max Harris says:

    How about the mazda 6 diesel wagon. I have a 2007 model with 150,000kms on it and it consistently uses 6.0-6.4l/100km and it is a middle sized or nearly big car; takes a full single mattress in the back at a pinch; lots more room than the little ones and can cope with full sized passengers in the rear. 360 nm of torque. I can imagine what the 2.2 litre motor is like.

    The total running costs on this car have been very low even using the dealer servicing. Tyres even last 40-50,000kms

    Cheers from Max

    July 13th, 2010 at 9:13 pm

  10. Mike Taylor says:

    Can you advise how the Subaru Imprezza RX Hatch rates for economy?

    July 13th, 2010 at 9:22 pm

  11. Dee Lehman says:

    Can you do the same research on the 4WD’s?

    July 14th, 2010 at 7:29 pm