Top 10 most fuel efficient cars in South Africa

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Update: We have a list of the most efficient and economical cars for 2014. Check it out.

Buying fuel these days is about as enjoyable as going to the dentist without aneasthetic. It’s like airtime, electricity and phone bills – grudge purchases that we have to make in order to go about our daily lives. And with the price of fuel seemingly on an eternal climb to infinity, the fuel efficiency of your next car is a big deal indeed.

That said, the car you are driving right now can be more economical. The problem is not the car, it’s the driver. Fuel consumption is massively influenced by how you drive, and you could save a tonne of money by taking some driving tips from your grandparents.

But, there are some cars available with frankly exceptional fuel consumption claims. These figures are the result of very carefully controlled testing, to show the product in the best light possible. However, the lower the claimed figure, the lower the real world figure, as long as you’re willing to play ball and drive the car efficiently.

I’ve compiled a list of the most fuel efficient cars in South Africa. Bear in mind it’s all very close here, and some cars are just outside the top 10, by 0.1 of a litre. But a Top 10 sounds better than a Top 78, so in the interests of providing concise motoring information, I’ve literally picked the Top 10. I’ve also combined some cars where the same engine is available in two different models.

The great thing is, there is such a wide range of models, as the motorist you have great choice. And efficiency doesn’t mean you have to drive around in a white econobox, there are some very stylish fuel efficient cars here.

South Africa’s Top 10 Most Fuel Efficient Cars

Interestingly, all of these cars come in at under 4.0litres/100km, which means at current prices, it will cost you roughly R51 to cover 100km, or 50c a kilometre. Without trying to create peace in the Middle East, buying one of these cars is about the best thing you can do to lower your future fuel consumption.

VW Polo 1.2 TDi BlueMotion and VW Golf 1.6Tdi Bluemotion

The Polo wins it with an average of 3.4litres/100km, but I’ve added the bigger sibling from the group, which is astonishingly just behind its smaller counterpart at 3.8 litres/100km. The Polo will set you back R205,000, which isn’t exactly a cheap exercise, but it’s a well-built, comfortable run around. It is however the least interesting to drive of possibly all the cars here, but that’s the price you pay for ultimate efficiency.

Volvo V40 D2 Essential and Volvo S40 D2

Personally, I was stunned to see a brand like Volvo playing down here in the efficiency wars. The V40 is one of my favourite new cars – stylish, safe, comfortable and a great cruiser. At 3.6litres/100km, I would say you’ll only get close to that on the open road, as you’ll find yourself asking a lot of the engine in the urban environment. But at R286,000, this is a solid option packed with tech that ticks many, many boxes, and makes a handsome alternative to the usual C-Segment players.

Ford Fiesta 1.6TDCi

The new Fiesta is a very good little car indeed. Ford have ploughed money into their new 1.0litre petrol, which really is blazing a trail, but its diesel cousin still ousts it at an average of 3.6litres/100km. The Fiesta 1.6TDCi is also a very fun drive, although of course the more fun you have, the more fuel you burn. With great infotainment functionality as standard, at R184,100, the Fiesta is a companion you could get very attached to indeed.

Citroen C3 e-HDi 90 and Citroen DS3 eHDi 90 Seduction

The French do seem to be very good at small diesels. While the 90 is not a powerful motor by any means, at 230Nm it does have healthy torque, which should make it at least interesting in the acceleration stakes. At 3.7litres/100km on average, the DS3 in particular is a very stylish way of saving cash at the pumps, while the C3 with 5 doors is a lot more practical. Prices for the C3 start at R219,100, and the DS3 starts at R251,900.

Toyota Auris Hybrid Toyota Yaris Hybrid

The two Toyota’s achieve exactly the same figures on paper, at 3.8litres/100km. Having driven the Yaris HSD though, I would say you have a better chance of achieving that in the Auris. The Yaris has to work very hard to get up hills, and seems to rely on the petrol motor a bit more than I thought necessary. I may have a slightly heavier right foot, so perhaps if you do release your inner pensioner, you will do just fine. The Auris comes in at R273,000 with the Yaris at R230,600. If telling your drum circle that you’ve just bought a Hybrid is important to you, the Toyota is a winner.

Peugeot 208 1.6 HDi Active

More French efficiency from the Peugeot but from a bigger motor, which means the 208 has a bit more go to match the show. The new 208 is very handsome indeed, with a super modern touchscreen interface and great rear space that frankly embarrasses cars like the new Renault Clio. At 3.8 litres/100km, the little Pug is a super little run around. Prices start at R190,300.

Audi A1 1.6 TDi

With the same oily bits as the Polo, the A1 is a very stylish way of paying more for efficiency. If outright cost saving is important (which I suppose is the point of this article) you could just buy the Polo 1.6TDi (SA car of the year for 2011) for R235,900 and save a good few grand over the R249,500 Audi A1. The Audi on paper achieves slightly better consumption at 3.8litres/100km to the Polo’s 4.2litres/100km, but you’d have to drive to Melbourne and back (very slowly) to reclaim that price difference.

Renault Megane 1.6Dci

The Megane runs on a great, sporting chassis, it’s a big comfy 5 door and looks very good in my humble opinion. With fuel economy figures of 4.0litres/100km, this is a very attractive fuel saver at R274,900. You could very easily use this as a daily run around and as well as eat up the long-distance miles. The Renault comes with TomTom live navigation built-in, to help avoid those traffic jams.

Mercedes Benz A180 Cdi

Well this is interesting. A three-pointed star mingling with the fuel-sippers. But Merc’s new generation diesels are very good indeed, wrapped up in a seriously attractive package. The new A-Class is a super looking piece of kit, with a great sporting interior and loads of new tech as standard. At R300 000, its not the cheapest way to buy your way into fuel saving, but you’ll be chuffed with yourself every time you drive past a shop window. What a dilemma. No one said living for efficiency would be easy.

Lexus CT200h and Toyota Prius

Seems fitting that we’re wrapping up this list with the Prius. The car that invented economy-themed smugness is still mixing it with the best of them, but now you can buy the same tech in the form of the very stylish Lexus CT200h. Both provide that eerie but wonderful feeling of cruising around on full electric mode, while the petrol engine kicks in seamlessly when needed. Of all the cars here, the Toyota Hybrids make you feel most like you’re driving something from the future, and I suppose that has value in and of itself. The Prius comes in at R342,000 with figures of 4.1litres/100km, and if the CT200h achieves the same but will set you back another R28,000, which could be used to buy a lot of fuel for your Prius.

Ciro De Siena

Ciro started his first car website at the age of 19 and promptly dented his first ever test car. Surprisingly he’s still at this motoring journalism thing 7 years later. Ciro is a contributor to Cars.co.za’s content portal. Catch him present OverdriveTV on SABC3’s Expresso Show every Friday morning.

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