With fuel prices rocketing, insurance premiums soaring and tax costs forever increasing, running a car is getting more and more expensive.
And these factors have contributed to a change in the car buying market, with a growing demand for small, economical cars that are cheap to own.
So to help you make your decision, here are our top 10 new cars with the lowest running costs.
We calculate the monthly cost of motoring using a combination of depreciation, tax, fuel consumption and servicing costs. We do not include insurance due to the difference in cost depending on driver age, background and location.
Renault Twingo (2007-)
Running costs per month: £191 – £355
The Twingo is the smallest car in the current Renault range, and with prices starting from under £7k, it’s the cheapest, too. Entry-level models lack some key equipment and the interior finish is extremely basic. However, it’s cheap to run, with the 60bhp 1.2-litre petrol model falling into insurance group 2 and returning a tested combined mpg of 45.6. The smallest capacity engine Twingo qualifies for car tax band C, which is free for the first year and £30 from then on. It scores well for safety, but a rough ride, noisy engine and poor driving position let it down.
Kia Picanto (2004-2011)
Running costs per month: £197 – £277
The first generation Kia Picanto is going out of production and will be replaced by a new model in May. And, although the current model has had a single facelift since its launch seven years ago, it remains one of the cheapest cars to own. Reliability is very strong and the insurance group band is small, from group 2 to 4. All engine specifications qualify for free tax for the first year, and a subsequent charge of £30 from then on. However, service costs aren’t the lowest, the Picanto depreciates rapidly and its safety kit lags behind that of newer cars. Fuel consumption is good, though, with a tested combined return of 47.1mpg for the 1.1-litre petrol.
Renault Clio (2005-)
Running costs per month: £204 – 471
The slightly larger sibling of the Twingo, the latest Clio comes in a range of engine variants including small capacity petrols, diesel versions and the 2.0-litre 200 Cup hot hatch. The smaller-engined models fall into insurance groups 2 and 4, and the smallest diesel is a group 2 car, too. And these more economical options will hold values better than bigger capacity engine models. The 1.5dCi returns 51.4mpg and falls into car tax band B, meaning just £20 a year after the first free year through the showroom tax.
Nissan Pixo (2009-)
Running costs per month: £218 – 267
The Nissan Pixo is the entry-level Nissan in the range. Built in India, it’s the sister car of the Suzuki Alto. There’s just the one engine option – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol, which returns 54.3mpg, sits in insurance group 1 and qualifies for tax band B (free for the first year, £20 a year after that). But stability control is not standard, the boot is small, there’s very little room in the back seats, and the small engine needs to be worked quite hard. It’s cheap to buy though, with prices starting from £6,995.
Suzuki Alto (2009-)
Running costs per month: £231 – £278
Essentially the same car as the Nissan Pixo, the Suzuki Alto has slightly different styling. It’s the cheapest in an already compact supermini offering from the Japanese carmaker, and like the Pixo only comes with a 1.0-litre petrol option. The top of the range SZ4 is the only model with stability control, which we believe is essential, but it does fall into insurance group 2 instead of 1 like the remainder of the range. Fuel consumption and car tax costs are the same as the Nissan Pixo.
Ford Ka (2009-)
Running costs per month: £232 – £284
You wouldn’t guess from the looks, but the Ford Ka is actually the sister car to the retro-styled Fiat 500. There are just two engine choices: a 1.2 petrol or 1.3-litre diesel. We tested the 69bhp petrol and it achieved a combined fuel consumption of 48.7mpg. Ford claims 68.9mpg from the diesel. The Ka is a group 1 or 2 insurance car depending on engine and spec, servicing is cheap, as are parts, and the diesel models are car tax band B. The petrol is tax band C, meaning £30 a year. Both qualify for free car tax for the first year if you buy new.
Smart ForTwo (2007-)
Running costs per month: £233 – £408
The Smart has a very good track record for depreciation, emissions are low and insurance is cheap. Much of the range, comprising of diesels and petrols emits under 100g/km of C02, meaning free car tax. Diesel options are slightly cheaper to insure, falling into insurance group 2 rather than 3 – for the petrols. A 0.8-litre CDI DPF diesel automatic returns a tested 70.6mpg, so you’ll be winning the fuel price battle. Servicing costs are high, although service intervals for petrol models are long at 12,500 miles.
Fiat Panda (2004-)
Running costs per month: £234 – £354
Although the 1.3-litre diesel Panda is more fuel efficient than the 1.1 and 1.2 petrols, although the additional purchase cost means it will take three years of above average mileage to recoup the extra spend. The 1.1-litre Active petrol is insurance group 1, while most of the others are group 2 or 3. All models qualify for free car tax for the first year if purchased new, with the diesel falling into car tax band B, meaning £20 a year afterwards, while the 1.1 and 1.2 petrols will cost £30 a year. Be aware that the smallest petrol engine is weak, and all models are noisy at speed.
Chevrolet Spark (2010-)
Running costs per month: £234 – £292
The Chevrolet Spark sits in the value-for-money supermini bracket, costing as little as £7,215 new. However, it’s not quite as frugal as some of the budget supermini competition, returning 46.3mpg in our test of the 1.0-litre petrol model. It doesn’t matter which of the 1.0 or 1.2-litre petrol specifications you choose: all qualify for car tax band C, resulting in just £30 a year car tax after a free first year. On the downside, the Spark doesn’t hold its value as well as some rivals seen here, and electronic stability control doesn’t come as standard.
Hyundai i10 (2008-)
Running costs per month: £235 – £271
The Hyundai i10 represents great value for money – that’s why the Korean manufacturer sold so many through the Scrappage Scheme in 2009. We’ve tested both the 1.1- and 1.2-litre engines, returning similar fuel consumption figures of 50.4mpg and 49.6mpg respectively. The 1.0-litre qualifies for free car tax with sub-100g/km CO2 emissions, and the five-speed 1.2-litre manual is free for the first year, then £20 a year afterwards. If you opt for the tax band D 1.2 automatic, you’ll get the first year of car tax free, but then have to pay £95 a year.
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