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The most fuel efficient cars detailed

​The definitive guide to the most fuel efficient cars on sale in Australia

As petrol prices continue to fluctuate, fuel efficiency in cars is just as relevant as ever - and with continued doom and gloom surrounding the planet, the greener the car, the more beneficial it could be to society as a whole. 

Fuel economy plays a big part in why we buy the cars that we end up buying, and lower fuel consumption is certainly a reason to choose one particular car over another. 

Even though new cars have never been more fuel efficient, it still pays to do your research to determine the most fuel-efficient cars available for your budget. Understandably, smaller cars tend to perform better at the pumps than larger cars, but you’d be surprised at how well some larger cars perform thanks to hybrid technology.

We’ve collated a list of the most fuel-efficient cars in Australia in their respective size categories to give you a snapshot of how you can drive your dollar further.

How we calculated our figures

To make it easy to compare costs, we’ve included the official combined cycle claimed average fuel consumption of each vehicle and calculated the price of fuel over 15,000km (widely considered an average year’s driving in Australia). 

We chose automatic transmission-equipped cars, as it is the most popular transmission choice in Australia by far, and comparing manual versus automatic cars is unfair.

Prices are based on the type of fuel required, with pump prices set at $1.41 for 91 octane, $1.53 for 95 octane, $1.59 for 98 octane and $1.51 for diesel - based on figures from June 2019 averaged across all fuel brands in NSW, sourced from www.fuelcheck.nsw.gov.au. All car prices listed below are before on-road costs (unless stated otherwise), and all fuel figures are quoted are manufacturer-supplied combined fuel economy figures. 

Electric cars were calculated using manufacturer-supplied charging and range information, and cost calculated at 34c/kWh (the Australian average) in off-peak time for electricity.

City cars

  • Renault Zoe Life Renault Zoe Life
  • Audi A1 Audi A1
  • The Skoda Fabia The Skoda Fabia

Lighter cars require less force to move, and therefore less fuel. Of course, that size comes at the cost of practicality for luggage and people, but on the whole, the most efficient city cars are actually pretty useful.

Small-capacity petrol engines rule the roost in the battle for the most economical small cars on the market; diesel engines are too heavy for such small cars. 

 Renault Zoe LifeAudi A1 1.0TFSI S-TronicSkoda Fabia 81TSI DSG
Price$47,490$28,900$19,990 (drive-away)
EngineElectric motor1.0-litre turbo 3-cyl1.0-litre turbo 3-cyl
Fuel typeElectric95RON95RON
Thirst13.6kWh/100km4.4L/100km4.7L/100km
Fuel cost over 15,000km$697$1010$1079

Small cars

  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric Hyundai Ioniq Electric
  • Hyundai Ionique Plug-In Hyundai Ionique Plug-In
  • Hyundai Ionique Hybrid Hyundai Ionique Hybrid
  • Toyota Prius Toyota Prius

The recent added affordability of hybrids, EVs and plug-in hybrids means that both petrol and diesel fuels are no longer the most efficient for small car motoring.

 Hyundai Ioniq ElectricHyundai Ioniq Plug-in HybridHyundai Ioniq HybridToyota Prius
Price$44,990$40,990$33,990$36,590
EngineElectric motor1.6-litre 4-cyl plug-in hybrid1.6-litre 4-cyl hybrid1.8-litre 4-cyl hybrid
Fuel typeElectric91RON91RON91RON
Thirst12.1kWh/100km1.1L/100km3.4L/100km3.4L/100km
Fuel/charging cost over 15,000km$490 $531$720$720

Family cars

  • Toyota Camry Hybrid Toyota Camry Hybrid
  • Peugeot 308 Touring Peugeot 308 Touring
  • Lexus ES300h Lexus ES300h

The medium segment continues to decline in sales thanks to the rise of the SUV, but there are still a number of buyers, and a number of models, competing in this segment. 

 Toyota Camry Hybrid Peugeot 308 Touring dieselLexus ES300h Luxury
Price$29,990$37,990$59,888
Engine2.5-litre 4-cyl hybrid2.0-litre turbo 4-cyl2.5-litre 4-cyl hybrid
Fuel type95RON/hybridDiesel95RON/hybrid
Thirst4.2L/100km4.6L/100km4.6L/100km
Fuel cost over 15,000km$964$1042$1056

Sports cars

  • Alpine A110 Alpine A110
  • Mazda MX-5 Mazda MX-5
  • Porsche 718 Boxster Porsche 718 Boxster

You don’t buy a sports car expecting good fuel economy, but these three options give thrills and decent economy in normal driving. 

 Alpine A110 PureMazda MX-5 1.5 RoadsterPorsche 718 Boxster
Price$99,000$36,890$119,932
Engine1.8-litre turbo 4-cyl1.5-litre 4-cyl2.0-litre turbo 4-cyl
Fuel type95RON95RON98RON
Thirst6.2L/100km6.4L/100km7.0L/100km
Fuel cost over 15,000km$1423$1469$1607

SUVs

  • Hyundai Kona Electric Hyundai Kona Electric
  • Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
  • Toyota RAV4 GX Toyota RAV4 GX

With new car buyers continually gravitating towards SUVs, one might expect to pay more to fuel them - but not these options. 

 Hyundai Kona Electric EliteMitsubishi Outlander PHEV ES ADAS Toyota RAV4 GX hybrid 2WD
Price$59,990$47,490$35,140
EngineElectric motor2.0-litre 4-cyl plug-in hybrid2.5-litre 4-cyl hybrid
Fuel typeElectric91RON/plug-in hybrid 91RON
Thirst14.2kWh/100km1.7L/100km4.7L/100km
Fuel/charging cost over 15,000km$665$598$995

Luxury

  • BMW 530e BMW 530e
  • Audi Q7 e-tron Audi Q7 e-tron
  • Mercedes-Benz E350e Mercedes-Benz E350e
 

Just because luxury cars can cost buyers significantly more to buy doesn't mean fuel consumption is not worth considering, and with these three contenders, some of the lowest running costs in the whole country are on offer. 

 Audi Q7 e-tronBMW 530eMercedes-Benz E350e
Price$139,900$111,900$133,400
Engine3.0-litre turbo V6 plug-in hybrid2.0-litre turbo 4-cyl plug-in hybrid2.0-litre turbo 4-cyl plug-in hybrid
Fuel typeDiesel95RON95RON
Thirst1.9L/100km2.3L/100km2.4L/100km
Fuel cost over 15,000km$1058$750$810

How important is fuel economy in your purchasing decision? Tell us in the comments below.