Somewhere new? Need to find the cheapest fuel in your area? Here’s our guide to tracking down the cheapest petrol and diesel
Fuel prices have hit highs not seen since 2014, but the AA says relief is on the way. Relief, it says, that could amount to 3p a litre – or £1.50 a tank.
Of course, there’s always a possibility that any savings consumers can look forward to may be dented by the rumoured un-freezing of fuel duty in the Autumn budget. It’s been held at 58p a litre since 2011.
Nevertheless, the AA predicts a forthcoming decrease in prices due to the strengthening of the pound, allied with a cut in the wholesale cost of oil. Such drops have triggered penny-by-penny falls in competing forecourts’ prices in the past, resulting in price wars at the pumps.
“In the past, such a significant drop in wholesale prices would have triggered a pump-price battle among the supermarkets” said the AA’s fuel price spokesman, Luke Bordet.
“For the moment, drivers should keep an eye out for competitive oil company sites, taking the opportunity to undercut expensive supermarket sites”.
A drop in fuel prices would follow a full 11 consecutive weeks of price rises to date. In that time, the national average for a litre of petrol has reached £1.31 a litre. Diesel is even more expensive, at £1.35 a litre on average. Contrast to July 2018, when the average cost for petrol and diesel was £1.28 and £1.31 respectively.
The dieselgate scandal rocked the world of diesel engines, shattering consumer confidence and renewing interest in petrol and hybrid models. With this in mind, we’ve selected 20 cars, all of which we prefer when powered by a petrol engine.
Citroen C4 Cactus 1.2 PureTech
Until the arrival of the new C3 supermini, the C4 Cactus is the most ‘Citroen’ Citroen you can buy. It’s packed with interesting features – most notably the Airbumps – while the 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine feels more in-keeping with the car’s lightness and joie de vivre.
Volkswagen Polo BlueGT
Shhh, nobody mention dieselgate. Fortunately, there’s no cloud of smog hanging over the excellent Volkswagen Polo BlueGT, which uses a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, yet can still deliver a claimed 60.1mpg on a combined cycle. With prices starting from £18,135, it’s not cheap, but when you think of it as a junior hot hatch, it begins to make more sense.
Porsche Macan S
It might be tempting to take advantage of the 427lb ft of torque and 44.8 – 46.3mpg offered by the Macan S Diesel, but our money would be on the Macan S, complete with 3.0-litre petrol engine. With 340hp on tap, 0-62mph is polished off in 5.4 seconds, while the top speed is nudging 160mph.
Fiat 500 TwinAir
Unlike many city cars, you can order a Fiat 500 with a diesel engine, but although it offers greater flexibility, we’d still recommend the petrol versions. The 1.2-litre is great in the city, but our money would be on the 0.9-litre TwinAir engine – a characterful unit that seems to suit the 500. Just don’t bank on getting anywhere near the claimed 74.3mpg.
Skoda Superb 2.0 TSI
Conventional wisdom would suggest the Superb is best served with an economical diesel engine, but we beg to differ. Having driven a 220hp Superb 2.0 TSI the entire length of the country, we were left impressed by its surprisingly sporty nature. Better still, opt for the blistering Superb Sportline, which offers a 280hp engine, 19-inch wheels and Alcantara sports seats.
Take a BMW 320i, add an electric motor and, hey presto, a 330e is born. If any car can render the 330d obsolete, this is it. Its CO2 figure of 44g/km puts it in the 7% company car BIK band, making it a real winner for fleet users. At £33,935 (before the government grant), it isn’t cheap, but the fact that it can cover 25 miles using electric power is a good enough reason to give the 330e some serious thought.
Toyota Auris Hybrid
On the face of it, the Toyota Auris offers little to recommend one over say a Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus. But the Auris Hybrid is worthy of consideration, not least because of the claimed 72mpg on a combined cycle. With CO2 emissions of just 79g/km, it’s also a good option for company car drivers.
Nissan Pulsar 1.6 DIG-T 190
On the plus side, the Nissan Pulsar is spacious, loaded with a decent amount of kit and is smooth-riding. But it is, how can we put this, a little lacklustre when it comes to style and performance. However, in the 1.6 DIG-T 190 version, the Pulsar has a hidden gem (of sorts). The 190 stands for 190hp, and it’s as bonkers as it sounds.
Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI BlueMotion
A 1.0-litre engine in a Volkswagen Golf – shouldn’t work, but it does. Its three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine emits just 99g/km CO2 and could return 65.7mpg on a combined cycle. OK, so you don’t get that huge dollop of torque offered by the 1.6-litre TDI BlueMotion, but if you travel fewer than 10,000 miles in a year, it could be worth a look. What’s more, the 1.0 TSI is £1,500 cheaper than the diesel.
We adore the 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine in the MINI Cooper, more so than the 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit in the Cooper S. There’s plenty of low-end torque, while the engine comes alive as you approach the rev limiter. It’s the same engine you’ll find in the BMW i8, so its credentials should be in no doubt.
Ford Focus ST
In 2015, Ford launched the first diesel-powered Focus ST, using the familiar 2.0-litre TDCi engine. As you’d expect, it trumps the petrol version when it comes to mid-range pull, with overall torque of 295lb ft – an increase of 30lb ft. We see no reason to dismiss the ST diesel, but the ST petrol remains just that little bit more fun.
Vauxhall Corsa 1.0 Turbo
While you were sleeping, the Vauxhall Corsa turned into a rather good supermini. The 1.0-litre turbocharged engine is an undoubted highlight, feeling both refined and remarkably quiet for a three-cylinder unit. It can also deliver up to 64.2mpg on a combined cycle, with CO2 emissions as low as 102g/km.
Dacia Sandero Access
Hear us out, because there’s some method in our madness. The ageing 1.2-litre engine found in the Dacia Sandero Access might not be the last word in refinement and efficiency, but if you want Britain’s cheapest new car, you’re kind of stuck with it. At £5,995 in basic UN-spec trim, the Sandero is at its most appealing.
Dacia Duster Access
It’s a similar story with the Dacia Duster. If you want to spend as little as possible, you’ll need the two-wheel drive Access with a 1.6-litre petrol engine, which is priced at £9,495. Spend an additional £2,000 and you can enjoy the benefits of 4×4. However, if you fancy a Duster that doesn’t look like you’ve got a job as a UN envoy, you’ll need something like the car pictured. But that will cost you more…
Fiat Tipo 1.4
With prices starting from £12,995, the Fiat Tipo offers excellent value for money. By our reckoning, the more you spend, the less appealing it gets, so we’d opt for the cheaper 1.4-litre 16v engine. It offers just under 49.6mpg on a combined cycle, plus CO2 emissions of 132g/km. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but the Tipo isn’t without appeal.
Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost
While the Ford Fiesta ST gets all the plaudits, it’s worth remembering the rather excellent 1.0-litre EcoBoost is also available. Opt for the Zetec or ST-Line Red and Black editions and you’ve got a Fiesta that’s almost as fun as the ST, but will be far more economical to run. Drive with a degree of restraint – which will be hard – and you could almost rival the diesel in terms of economy.
Admittedly, the 2.0-litre TDI Ultra engine and its 62.8mpg and 117g/km CO2 emissions is rather tempting, but when there’s a 230hp 2.0-litre TFSI engine on offer, why would you opt for the diesel? For us, the petrol engines are more in the spirit of the Audi TT.
Subaru Forester 2.0 XT
What car offers 240hp, 258lb ft of torque and is as good on the road as it is off it? The answer is the Subaru Forester 2.0 XT, which is a little like a WRX STI with 220mm of ground clearance. You just have to put up with 33.2mpg on a combined cycle.
Skoda Octavia vRS
Skoda was one of the first carmakers to offer a diesel-engined hot hatch in the shape of the original Fabia vRS. Back then, the Octavia vRS was strictly petrol only, but all that changed with the launch of the Octavia II. You can order a Octavia vRS 2.0 TDI today, but you shouldn’t, not when there’s a 230hp petrol version available. Who needs a Golf GTI?
Suzuki Vitara S
This thing is excellent, boasting a brilliantly named 1.4-litre Boosterjet engine, four-wheel drive and prices starting from £21,499. In manual guise it’ll ‘sprint’ to 62mph in 10.2 seconds, delivering economy of 52.3mpg. The 1.4-litre turbocharged engine is more flexible than the 1.6-litre diesel and petrol units, but it’s not available on the standard Vitara. But the Vitara S is so good, the others in the range could be rendered obsolete.
Around one in five city cars sold in the UK is a Fiat 500 – not bad for a car launched nine years ago. The 500 was updated in 2015, with minor styling tweaks and a new touchscreen media system. Can it still compete with newer, cheaper rivals? We drove the best-selling 1.2 petrol to find out.
Prices and deals
The 500 isn’t cheap to buy. Prices start at £11,050 for the 69hp 1.2 Pop, rising to £15,350 for the 95hp 1.3 S. There’s a big premium of nearly £3,000 for the 500C convertible, too.
Fortunately, there are plenty of discounts available. The 1.2 Lounge model we tested retails at £12,800 before options, but the same car is just £9,908 from online car broker, Drive The Deal. Equally, ‘reverse auction’ website Auto eBid offered a price of £10,056.
What are its rivals?
In terms of style and emotional appeal, the 500’s closest rival is the MINI. However, BMW’s retro-remake is larger and more expensive: a supermini rather than a city car.
The Toyota Aygo, Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Up are all direct competitors. The Toyota – along with its near-identical sisters, the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 – also majors on style and is usefully cheaper than the 500. The Hyundai also plays the value card, and is fun to drive.
The Up, meanwhile, offers Germanic build quality and plenty of interior space. It’s also one of triplets: the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo are the same under the skin, but cheaper to buy.
What engine does it use?
Our test 500 is powered by a 69hp 1.2-litre petrol engine. You can also opt for the noisy but zesty two-cylinder, 0.9-litre Twinair – available in 85hp and 105hp outputs. Unusually for a car this size, Fiat offers a diesel engine, too: the 95hp 1.3 Mulitijet.
Fancy something sportier? The Abarth 500 hot hatch produces up to 180hp and costs from £15,090.
Back in 2014, the Fiat 500 1.2 was featured on BBC Watchdog, amid allegations that it could “barely get to the tip of a hill.” It showed a presenter driving up a one in 10 incline in (what appeared to be) second gear, claiming she could “feel the lack of power.” Former Stig Ben Collins reached a similar verdict.
Fiat has since applied a software update, which is claimed to improve driveability. Nonetheless, this still isn’t a fast car. The 0-62mph dash takes a leisurely 12.9 seconds and maximum speed is 99mph.
Is it comfortable?
Park a 500 next to an original (1957-1975) Cinquecento and it looks huge. However, it isn’t as efficiently-packaged as many rivals – not least the mechanically-similar Fiat Panda.
We found it comfortable in the front, although the driving position is very upright: you feel like you’re sitting ‘on’ the car, rather than in it. Rear-seat passengers are likely to complain about the lack of headroom. Blame that cute-and-curvaceous roofline.
Will I enjoy driving it?
The 500 is a very easy car to drive, particularly in town. Its controls are light (the steering even has a ‘city’ mode for fingertip-twirling) and the lofty driver’s seat offers good visibility. A compact footprint makes it a doddle to park, too.
Escape the urban jungle and the little Fiat is less convincing. Its over-assisted steering doesn’t inspire confidence and there’s lots of body-roll in the corners. The 69hp engine hardly fizzes with enthusiasm either, particularly when it comes to steep hills…
Fuel economy and running costs
Official fuel economy for the 500 1.2 petrol is a thrifty 60.1mpg, with CO2 emissions of 110g/km. The latter equates to free car tax (VED) in the first year, and just £20 per year thereafter.
Both versions of the two-cylinder Twinair petrol are more efficient on-paper: 74.3mpg and 67.3mpg for the 85hp and 105hp engines respectively. However, the Twinair rarely gets anywhere near these claimed figures in independent tests. Perhaps its rev-happy nature encourages lead-footed driving?
The 95hp 1.3 diesel manages 83.1mpg – but you’ll need to drive a very long way to justify the upfront cost (around £3,500 more than a similar-spec 1.2 petrol).
What’s the interior like?
The 500’s characterful cabin sets it apart from more strait-laced superminis. We love the body-colour dashboard, retro steering wheel and quirky seat fabrics. There’s seemingly endless scope for customisation, too.
The entry-level Pop comes with remote locking, electric front windows and a radio with USB and Aux sockets. Upgrading to Pop Star adds air conditioning, electric mirrors and a split/fold rear seat. The Lounge seen here has the Uconnect touchscreen (more on that shortly), a leather-wrapped wheel and rear parking sensors.
Is it practical?
Not particularly. There’s no five-door version, so rear passengers must clamber behind the front seats. And lifting child seats in and out is hip-twistingly awkward.
Luggage space is a modest 185 litres: enough for a weekly supermarket-shop, but much smaller than the 251-litre Volkswagen Up.
Tell me about the tech
Fiat’s latest Uconnect touchscreen ‘infotainment’ system is mounted high on the dashboard and proves straightforward to use, despite a small, five-inch screen. The TomTom sat nav (£350 – with DAB radio included) is particularly good, with bold graphics and live traffic data.
Our car also had the option seven-inch TFT screen in the binnacle behind the steering wheel (£350). It displays lots of useful driving data, along with a neat graphic of the car itself.
What about safety?
Euro NCAP awarded the Fiat a full five stars when it crash-tested one back in 2007. Standard safety equipment includes seven airbags and Isofix mounting points for child car seats.
Which version should I go for?
Simple is often best when it comes to small cars – and so it is with the Fiat 500. The 69hp 1.2 engine might struggle to pull skin off a panna cotta, but it’s peppy enough for pottering around town and decently economical. The 500 isn’t sporty, or even particularly fun to drive, so why pay more?
Likewise, we’d go for the mid-range Pop Star, rather than the fully-loaded Lounge seen here. With all the options fitted, our test car came to a faintly ludicrous £15,950. You could (and should) get a nice Ford Fiesta for that much.
What’s the used alternative?
The 500 has been on sale since 2007, so there are plenty in the classifieds. Prices start at around £3,000 for an early example with 80,000-90,000 miles on the clock. Just bear in mind that the three-year warranty will have expired and Fiats aren’t renowned for reliability; the brand is always among the backmarkers in the annual Which? Car Survey.
Should I buy one?
The 500 has been a sales phenomenon for Fiat. Indeed, the Italian marque has ended up modelling most of its range on it: witness the 500L and 500X.
Despite its faults, the 500 is classless and effortlessly cool. Yes, the VW Up is a better car in most respects – and cheaper, too. But many 500 customers simply won’t care. We wouldn’t buy one, yet even after nine years on sale, we’re sure thousands will.
More than 1.5 million examples of the current Fiat 500 have been sold since 2007. That puts it well on the way to catching the original 1957 500, which took 18 years to sell four million.
Will cheaper diesel fuel counter the effect of the VW scandal?
The #dieselgate Volkswagen emissions scandal may be in full swing, but there is some good news for drivers of diesel-engined cars.
Data from used car experts Manheim shows a rise in used diesel car prices of 3.1% (£242.44) in August, compared to the first half of the year. The average value of a second-hand petrol car rose by just 1.1% (£37.97) over the same period – a difference of more than £200.
Manheim attributes the increase to the drop in the price of diesel fuel, which fell below that of petrol in late July.
Michael Buxton, CEO of Manheim UK, commented: “Although there are many variables around prices changes, including volume mix, age and mileage, it appears that the fuel price drop – the first time diesel has been cheaper than petrol since 2001 – may have already had an impact in the used car market.”
It will be interesting to see if this trend is maintained, following the negative publicity for diesel in recent days. There is no evidence that the VW Group scandal affects any other car manufacturers, but the news has not done the public perception of diesel any favours.
Keep visiting motoringresearch.com for the latest news as the #dieselgate story develops.
Despite the wholesale price of diesel being less than petrol throughout June, reveals the RAC Fuel Watch report, pump prices of diesel have barely budged.
Most fuel retailers maintain a price premium for diesel, sometimes of up to 5p a litre.
The RAC says this could be because fuel retailers are trying to ‘balance the books’ on wafer-thin profits by keeping petrol prices competitive and making bigger margins on diesel.
It’s time things were rebalanced, says RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams. “While retailers are obviously free to choose how much they charge for petrol and diesel, we believe that motorists deserve to be treated fairly and that means forecourt prices that reflect the wholesale market.”
5p a litre price cut for diesel?
The RAC Fuel Watch tool predicts that diesel should fall by around 5p a litre within the next two weeks, due to falls in the price on the wholsale market.
However, the motoring organisation is doubtful this full saving will be passed onto motorists: the same thing happened in June, but pump prices barely budged.
Williams suggests that under-pressure fuel retailers are more interested in keeping prices competitive for Britain’s 20 million petrol car owners than the 10 million diesel car drivers.
“We need greater transparency and a fairer pricing model for both petrol and diesel,” he said.
There is some good news for diesel drivers though: pump prices are 15p cheaper than 12 months ago. But petrol prices are also 14p a litre less – although both have risen since February 2015’s recent lows…
Motoring costs are one of the most expensive factors in bringing up a child, new research has found, with the cost of chipping in to your son or daughter’s fuel bills once they’ve passed their test amounting to over £3,000 on average.
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