Feature article

NZ’s top 5 most fuel-efficient cars

The cost-conscious want to get excellent fuel-efficiency from their vehicle. Here’s 5 of NZ's most fuel-efficient cars.

EVs are increasingly popular but still only account for around 2% of vehicles on our roads, hybrids even less, and diesel engines are dropping off in popularity. For now, petrol cars remain kings of the road. With the current economic uncertainty because of COVID-19, once we start freely driving around again, we’re going to need to be more cost-conscious than ever with fuel. Let’s look at some fuel facts and consider five of NZ’s best fuel-efficient car options.

Thirsty work

When it comes to petrol consumption, some cars are considerably more thirsty than others, and small hatches dominate the market for the most fuel-efficient options. Handily, all cars in NZ have a fuel economy label that’ll help give you an indication of gas consumption for the vehicle you’re considering. 

Actual fuel economy will be affected by your personal driving habits, the size and nature of any loads carried, the level of maintenance for your car etc, but it’s helpful to have a guide – especially when mulling over which car to buy. 

The full label will be physically attached to all cars for sale in a dealership, and when buying privately you can often view the fuel economy details for a car you're interested in online. 

Trade Me shows the key fuel economy label info on all car listings.

The full physical label shows you:

  • Vehicle info – make and model.
  • Star rating – goes up to six stars for the most fuel efficient vehicles. Use this to compare one car against another.
  • Estimated cost per year to run the car – based on the average fuel price and driving 14,000km per year.
  • Fuel economy in litres per 100km – this info is provided by the vehicle manufacturer via data based on performance of a new model of the car.
  • Reference number – confirming that the label refers to the vehicle it’s displayed with.
  • Average fuel price – used to calculate the cost per year for comparison purposes.

The info generally available online and what you really need to see to know if the car is fuel-efficient:

  • Star rating out of six.
  • Cost per year to run the car.
  • Its fuel economy in litres per 100km.

Fuel thrifty

Let’s use these statistics to look at five of NZ’s most fuel-efficient cars.

  • 2018 Skoda Fabia – The fabulous Fabia is arguably the most fuel-efficient, economically friendly car currently running in New Zealand. The manual transmission model has an impressive fuel economy rating of 4.4 litres per 100km. This car keeps up the traditional Skoda reputation for super practicality and has generous boot space to, erm, boot. It also features some cool mod cons like a rear-view camera and a touchscreen infotainment system. It’s currently unrated by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program, but achieves top-marks with a 5 star safety rating with the European equivalent New Car Assessment Programme.
  • Mazda2 – This characterful little car is also one of the most fuel efficient cars in NZ. The Mazda2 can travel 100km on less than 5 litres of fuel, whilst also being cute, versatile, practical, and fun. Newer models also have an excellent safety rating with ANCAP. No wonder Kiwis love the Mazda2 and we see so many on the road here.
  • Peugeot 2008 – The only SUV and non hatchback on our list, this funky little French car puts the ‘ooh la la’ into fuel-efficiency. Fuel la la anyone? Slightly confusingly named the 2008, considering that it launched in 2014, but keeps its thirst in check by only using 4.9 litres of fuel every 100km. Nice! Equally city and country friendly, stylish and good value for money, all while being a high quality vehicle – that’s a lot of boxes ticked.
  • 2018 Suzuki Swift – One of NZ’s traditionally best selling small cars has gotten even better. It’s now seriously safe, with a top-notch 5 star ANCAP rating, super spacious, and fantastically fuel-efficient by using only 4.6 litres of fuel per 100km. With those sorts of stats, we’re only going to see more and more of these little rascals on our roads.
  • 2018 Mini Cooper (three-door hatch) – Don’t let the robbery of the 2019 Cricket World Cup final, and events at the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final, put you off buying from this legendary British brand. Trail-blazing when launched back in the 1950s, the Mini Cooper continues to dazzle and impress. Boasting a 4 star ANCAP safety rating, the automatic version will also only guzzle 4.7 litres of fuel per 100km. The Mini Cooper will always be cool and eye-catching, but now it’s wonderfully fuel-efficient too.

Fill ‘er up

It always feels good to fill the tank of your car and not see the family finances being brutally depleted in the process. The above options give you some great choices of fuel-efficient, but safe and high-performing cars currently available in NZ. If none of these suit your needs but you want/need to be fuel consumption conscious, remember to check-out the fuel economy label on any car you’re considering buying.