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The Most Fuel Efficient Cars and Low Emission Cars Right Now

Car 5 min read

03 Feb 2021

When you’re buying a car for the first time, its running costs, specifically fuel, should be right at the top of your checklist as well as the car emissions. The good news is that there are more and more fuel efficient and low emission cars becoming available.

Until Dieselgate (i.e. the VW emissions scandal), diesel cars were viewed as one of the best options due to their combination of good fuel economy and low CO2 emissions, and if you did the mileage this would offset the initial higher cost of buying a diesel engine. Since then however, we are more aware of pollutants like NOx (oxides of nitrogen), PM (particulate matter) and CO (carbon monoxide) associated with diesel engines. 

Efficient petrol cars on the market deliver around 10mpg* less than their diesel-engined competitors but they have lower NOx and particulate emissions and they’re cheaper to buy from the outset – a consideration if your normal journeys are of a shorter distance. However, if you do regular shorter journeys you should consider going Electric or getting a Plug-in Hybrid especially from a low emission point of view.

Electric cars are of course the most fuel efficient and low emission cars on the road right now. What you’ll spend on charging an electric car is minimal compared to buying petrol or diesel over the long term. (Check out our blog for more on the savings you can make with an electric car).

The upfront cost of buying an electric car however, can be off-putting but there are deals to be had on the second hand car market if low emissions is your main goal. Plug-in hybrids are another great option if you’re looking for a fuel efficient car that won't break the bank in terms of purchase price. If you don't know your Hybrid (HV) from your Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) to your Electric car (EV) or what to look out for if you are buying second hand we've a blog that explains the differences and what to look for here.

That said, it is still possible to buy a low emission car without going full electric. According to Which?, an independent UK consumer watchdog, the car maker at the forefront of low emission vehicles is Toyota. They have tested hundreds of cars and have a handy car emissions checker which lists all the cars by make and model that they have tested.

Low Emission Cars

Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

Engine: 1.8 Plug-in hybrid (Euro 6b)
When looking across CO, NOx and CO2  the plug-in version of the Prius is one the cleanest cars. The only problem is that this is the Euro 6b version of the car and so cannot be bought new anymore - which means you'll need to look for it on the used car market.

Engine: 1.8 hybrid (Euro 6d-temp)
This is the same car and generation as the Toyota Prius above, but this version has the newer, Euro 6d-temp engine. This version has similarly low levels of NOx and CO to the older engine, but slightly higher CO2 but minimal compared to other cars tested by Which.

Image courtesy of Toyota.ie

Toyota Corolla - Hybrid

Engine: 1.8 hybrid (Euro 6d-temp)

The Corolla is making a come back and is replacing the Auris. For a petrol car, the NOx levels measured from the 1.8-litre engine are staggeringly low.

​Image courtesy of Toyota.ie

Toyota Yaris -  Hybrid

Engine: 1.5 Plug-in hybrid (Euro 6b)

Toyota’s Yaris is one of the more affordable hybrids on the market right now and small hybrids are rare. The Yaris is an ideal city car, and easy to manoeuvre into those tight parking spaces (for those among us not blessed with the parallel parking prowess!).

Image courtesy of Toyota.ie


Fuel Efficient Cars

According to Autoexpress.co.uk the most fuel efficient internal combustion-engined car based on mpg (the mpg is a measure of how far a car can travel with one gallon of diesel or petrol in the tank) is the Peugeot 208, whose 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine delivers 73.6mpg. The best-performing petrol cars are the Peugeot 108 and the Kia Picanto, which both deliver 58.9mpg, while the Mercedes-Benz GLE which returns 403.6mpg, is rated as the best plug-in hybrid.


Peugeot 208 – Diesel 

Engine 1.5 BlueHDi (100PS) Active manual

The 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine returns a claimed economy figure of 73.6mpg

Image courtesy of carzone.ie

Peugeot 108 – Petrol

Engine 1.0 (72PS) Active manual

The 108 returns a claimed WLTP* fuel economy figure of 58.9mpg and is great around town.

Image courtesy of  peugeot.ie

Kia Picanto - Petrol

Engine 1.0 MPi (67hp) 1 manual

The Kia is aso capable of returning up to 58.9mpg, courtesy of the city car’s low weight and its tiny 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine.

Image courtesy of kia.com/ie

Mercedes-Benz GLE 350de Plug-in Hybrid

According to the WLTP figures, it’s capable of returning an incredible 403.6mpg but it's a heavy car weighing in at 2.6 tonnes!

The big battery allows for an electric-only range of up to 41 miles (circa 66kms)

Image courtesy of autoexpress.co.uk

Electric Cars

Electric cars produce none of the harmful exhaust emissions of their petrol and diesel-powered counterparts and they offer much lower running costs too but alot of people have "range aniexty" i.e. how far the car will go on one charge.

The manufacturer’s official electric car ranges are calculated through testing in a controlled environment set by WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure) rules. Although WLTP is realistic it doesn't account for all possible variations, individual driving styles, traffic and weather conditions from country to country, so there will still be a difference between WLTP and real-world range. The below are some of the most highly rated electric cars for range according to WLTP testing.

Telsa Cars - hard to beat for distance range

The Tesla Model S Long Range and Tesla Model 3 are hard to beat when it comes to range with both respectively coming in with ranges at 379 miles (610kms) and 348-miles (560 kms). The Model X is an SUV and has a range of 314 miles/505kms (WLTP). While impressive, the distance range of these cars do come with hefty price tags.


Jaguar I-Pace SUV

The Jaguar I-Pace has picked up a whole host of awards including the World Car of the Year 2019. This is down to its 90kWh battery which Jaguar claims could get you as much as 292 miles/ 470kms WLTP on one charge. 

Image courtesy of jaguar.ie


Volkswagen ID.3 Tour

Available since last Autumn, Volkswagen’s ID.3 models come with three different battery options. The long-range "Tour" version claims an impressive 295 miles (475kms) of range on one charge - WLTP.

Image courtesy of volkswagen.ie

Kia e-Niro 64kWh

Something that is much easier on the pocket is the new electric offering from Kia. For the cost, this is a great option for those wishing to make longer electric journeys with a WLTP of 282 miles (454 kms). The e-Niro made it to the top spot of What Car? Car of the Year 2020. This will be in hot demand for 2021.

Image courtesy of kia.com/ie

Hyundai Kona Electric

The Kona gets a five-year warranty, while the battery is covered for an impressive eight years. Demand for this more affordable long-range electric SUV has been high and Hyundai has increased capacity to meet the need - it has a  WLTP range of 278 miles (447kms) for the 64k battery model.

Image courtesy of hyundai.ie

Skoda Enyaq IV

Due to be launched this year, with a prebooking system in place since last November demand, as expected, has outstriped supply for Skoda's first EV. Production was limited and all vehicles due to go on sale in Ireland are now allocated - maybe next year! Range, depending on the model go from 340 kms to 500kms (WLTP).

Image courtesy of skoda.ie

Remember, in the UK, the Government announced plans last November to bring forward its ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 to 2030 while the Irish Government aims to have 950,000 electric cars on the road by 2030. Just something to bear in mind when choosing your engine type.

So if you’re in the market for a car loan why not contact your local credit union who will come back to you with details on the interest rates they currently offer? Alternatively, to see what the average car loan rate will cost you – check out our handy loan calculator

Keep an eye out for #4WheelGuide across  FacebookTwitter, or Instagram for more great advice on budgeting, choosing and buying your car as well as design and style ideas and inspiring stories – so you can gear up for the car of your dreams. 


*The mpg is a measure of how far a car can travel with one gallon of diesel or petrol in the tank. 
^ WLTP (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicle Test Procedure) is used to measure fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from passenger cars, as well as their pollutant emissions.