Pennies per mile: the 20 cheapest cars to drive

Running a car is an expensive business. Once you’ve come to terms with the purchase price, you need to factor in the cost of depreciation, tax, insurance, maintenance and fuel. 

Here, we reveal the cheapest new and used cars to drive on a cost per mile basis according to Choose My Car. The figures are based on the average fuel economy, the tank capacity and how much it costs to fill the tank. The results are presented in reverse order.

ALSO SEE: Search for a new or used car on AutoTrader

  1. Mazda CX-3 – 13.04p per mile

In all cases, the figures should be used as a guide. The costs will fluctuate depending on the driver and the cost of fuel. The majority of the cars in the top 20 are powered by a small petrol engine, but the Mazda CX-3 bucks the trend by boasting a 2.0-litre unit. Thanks to Mazda’s Skyactiv technology, the fuel should cost 13.04p per mile.

  1. Citroen C3 – 12.89p per mile

It’s important to note that it’s not just brand new cars in the top 20. Take the Citroen C3. We’re not talking about the current model with the Airbumps, rather the original C3 sold between 2002 and 2010. More specifically, the Citroen C3 powered by the 1.1-litre petrol engine. Used prices start from around £1,000.

  1. Vauxhall Corsa – 12.83p per mile

Next up is the Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 Easytronic, which is about as exciting as it sounds. ‘Easytronic’ is Vauxhall-speak for ‘power-sapping automated manual transmission’, which is hardly a match made in heaven for a 1.2-litre engine. Auto Express used words like ‘jerky’, ‘blunts’, ’frustrating’ and ‘modest’ in its review. You have been warned. Still, think of the pennies you’ll be saving.

  1. Skoda Octavia – 12.69p per mile

The second-generation Skoda Octavia arrived in 2004, by which time it was cementing a reputation for offering practical motoring on a budget. In truth, the entry-level 1.4-litre 16v petrol engine is the weakest of the units offered, but it’s the one you need if you’re hoping to save money. Prices on Auto Trader range from £500 to £2,500.

  1. Mini Cooper – 12.69p per mile

With one or two exceptions, the majority of cars in this top 10 are about as exciting as a night in with a cash flow statement. But do the sums and you’ll see that the Mini Cooper adds up to being a great buy. It’s fun to drive, good to look at, and boasts a brand as strong as any other at the small end of the market. All this for 12.69p per mile.

  1. Renault Clio – 12.56p per mile

When Renault launched the third-generation Clio, the outgoing version remained on sale badged as the Campus. Even with a budget price, it was hard to recommend the Clio Campus, because the supermini had moved on. Today, that’s less of an issue, which makes the Clio Campus 1.2 16v a cost-effective used buy.

  1. BMW 2 Series Active Tourer – 12.42p per mile

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is one of only two premium models to make the top 20 – not to mention the only MPV. Its inclusion is a little odd, because the 225i xDrive automatic was the least efficient engine available on the 2 Series Active Tourer. The 225i is no longer available to buy new and there are just four for sale on Auto Trader.

  1. Honda Jazz – 12.39p per mile

“If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife.” Jimmy Soul’s advice might seem a little misguided in 2020 – especially if you read the rest of the lyrics. In reality, the secret to leading a happy life is to buy a Honda Jazz. Satisfaction, dependability and reliability are (almost) guaranteed.

  1. Ford Fiesta – 12.34p per mile

When talking about the Ford Fiesta, most used car guides reference the fact that there’s plenty to choose from so you can afford to be picky. But how many used examples are on sale today? Right now, Auto Trader has 13,300 listings, with prices ranging from £250 to £26,500. According to Choose My Car, a Fiesta 1.0 built between 2013 and 2017 will be the most frugal.

  1. Skoda Fabia – 12.26p per mile

Wouldn’t it be neat if we could sneak a Ford Mustang onto the list? You could use it to convince your better half that running a V8 is a cost-effective and sensible thing to do. Instead, you’re faced with the prospect of running a Skoda Fabia 1.2 with a measly 75 horses on tap. Still want that Mustang, etc?

  1. Kia Picanto – 12.19p per mile

A top 10 finalist in the list of cheapest cars to run – and if you buy a used Kia Picanto aged younger than seven years, you’ll still get some of the manufacturer’s amazing seven-year new car warranty, for ultimate budget motoring peace of mind.

  1. Fiat 500 – 12.03p per mile

The Fiat 500 is the automotive equivalent of having your cake and eating it – it’s fun to drive and cheap to run. That said, the cake phrase has always seemed a little odd. What’s the point of having a cake and not eating it? You buy or bake a cake with the intention of eating it. Unless you’re a baker, in which case you plan to make money from it. Perhaps that’s the point. Moving on…

  1. Seat Arona – 12.03p per mile

Although it’s fashionable for motoring writers to pour scorn on compact crossovers, the Seat Arona is actually rather good. It boasts a spacious cabin, it’s pretty decent to drive, and some of the trim levels offer premium levels of equipment. Opt for the 1.5-litre TSI engine to save money on fuel.

  1. Audi A3 – 11.98p per mile

The Audi A3 is the first car on the list to drop below the 12p mark. People like the A3 because it feels like an upmarket Volkswagen Golf. It also wears an Audi badge, which means it looks good parked in the office, gym or Starbucks car park. Choose My Car says the 1.2-litre TFSI engine is the one to go for.

  1. Volkswagen Polo – 11.56p per mile

How long do you reckon it takes the 60hp Volkswagen Polo 1.0 to hit 62mph? The answer is 16.5 seconds, which is roughly the time it will take you to realise that you should have bought something a little quicker. Like a push bike.

  1. Volkswagen Golf – 11.46p per mile

The Volkswagen Golf with a 110hp 1.0-litre TSI makes more sense than the Polo. Not only is it bigger, but good fuel economy will be easier to achieve as you won’t be pushing the engine to the limit in order to make swift progress. It’s also a Golf, which will impress your neighbours. Probably.

  1. Seat Leon – 11.31p per mile

Alternatively, you could buy a ‘Spanish Golf’. The Seat Leon shares its platform with the Volkswagen Golf, but offers better value for money and an improved look. According to Choose My Car, the 130hp 1.5-litre TSI is the best engine on a cost-per-mile basis. It’s worth noting that the Leon will depreciate faster than the Golf.

  1. Peugeot 208 – 10.90p per mile

Into the top three we go. We start with the outgoing Peugeot 208. When powered by the 1.0-litre Puretech 68 engine, the little Pug will cost 10.90p per mile to run. Not bad, eh?

  1. Toyota Yaris – 10.60p per mile

Toyota dominates the top two positions, with the Yaris 1.0 grabbing second spot. The current Yaris has been on sale for nearly a decade, but a new model will arrive in 2020. It’s coming to a bingo car park near you.                                                     

  1. Toyota Aygo – 10.55p per mile

The little Toyota Aygo shares its platform with a Citroen and a Peugeot, but while the French pair are absent from this list, the Aygo 1.0 grabs top spot. Choose My Car says it will cost 10.55p per mile. Out of curiosity, do you want to know the figure for the Range Rover 5.0 V8? Of course you do. It’s 36.25p per mile. Ouch.

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