Cheapest car to run | Auto Express

It’s all well and good looking for a cheap car to buy, but there’s a lot more to buying and running a car than bagging a bargain with a cheap price. A car that’s for sale at a bargain price won’t necessarily be a cheap to run, as it might not be the most economical model in the range or the cheapest to insure. And when you factor in the unseen outgoing that is depreciation, then that can have a detrimental effect on a car’s running costs, too.

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Put all those elements together, and you’re looking at a car’s total cost of ownership (TCO) as the ultimate barometer of whether a car is cheap to run or not. The cars we’ve listed below are the ones that offer the best running costs of any car for sale in the UK in 2019.

• Cheapest cars to insure

We have used figures from the industry experts at CAP to create our top 10. CAP is the industry-leading company for new and used car valuations, and its figures are used by the motor trade to calculate finance costs on new cars, as well as to value used cars.

CAP’s data lists individual cars in a model range, so to ensure there’s some variety in our list, we’ve picked the best performer for each model in our top 10, and we’ve used a three-year/30,000-mile ownership model to even out the effects of depreciation in the first couple of years. 

Our list has changed in recent times courtesy of a number of revisions to road tax and fuel economy tests. Now that all cars pay a flat rate of road tax from the second year on the road, rather than the old emissions-based system, it has shaken up the TCO rates for new cars. So while low-emitting models used to qualify for £30 road tax or even tax exemption, the new flat rate of £140 or more has bumped up their costs. In addition, new WLTP fuel economy tests have seen MPG figures downgraded across the board, which again has the effect of raising running costs on most cars.

• Best city cars to buy

With the clamour around electric cars and plug-in hybrids, you might expect their low running costs help them find favour in this list. But high initial purchase prices and relatively steep depreciation mean that these cars still have yet to break into the top 10 – it’s only a matter of time though. You’ll find that none of our top 10 cheapest cars to run costs more than £13,000, and that means depreciation losses are kept to a minimum. 

So, without further ado, here are the 10 new cars that cost the motoring equivalent of next to nothing to run…

The UK’s cheapest cars to run

  1. 1. Dacia Sandero 1.0 SCe Access
  2. 2. Dacia Logan 1.0 SCe Access
  3. 3. Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVTi X 5dr
  4. 4. Kia Picanto 1.0 ‘1’
  5. 5. Dacia Duster 1.6 SCe Access 4×2
  6. 6. Volkswagen Up! 1.0 Take Up! 3dr 
  7. 7. Citroen C1 1.0 VTi Touch 3dr
  8. 8. Hyundai i10 1.0 Play
  9. 9. Ford Ka+ 1.2 Studio
  10. 10. Mitsubishi Mirage 1.2 ‘3’

(Pence per mile (PPM) rates as of Summer 2019, with the figure quoted for the listed model)

1. Dacia Sandero

Model: 1.0 SCe Access
TCO: 30.5ppm

Somewhat amazingly, you can drive a Dacia Sandero for a week and it’ll cost you about the same as buying two loaves of bread. Of course, the Sandero is one of the most basic cars for sale in the UK, and the 1.0 SCe Access version is the most basic of the lot, with black bumpers, steel wheels, no radio and not even any rear headrests. You’ll be making a serious sacrifice by plumping for this model, but if you want to pay a few pence more (another half loaf?) then the slightly better equipped Essential model is less than 2ppm more to run, and at least you get a radio in that.

In fact, the whole Sandero range costs peanuts to run. The 1.5 dCi diesel in Essential trim is the UK’s cheapest diesel to run in terms of TCO, while the punchier 900cc TCe petrol isn’t much more expensive to run, either. What’s more, the rugged-looking Stepway models don’t suffer any real penalty in running costs, either.

2. Dacia Logan

Model: 1.0 SCe Access
TCO: 33.7ppm

It won’t come as any surprise to learn that the Dacia Logan is the UK’s second cheapest car to run when you know that it uses the same platform and running gear as the Sandero. List prices are only £1,500 more than for the Sandero, but the entry-level Logan 1.0 SCe Access will lose £500 less in depreciation over three years, which helps it close the gap on its supermini sibling.

But like the Sandero, the Logan Access is pretty basic in terms of kit. What you do get though is a huge boot with 573 litres of space at your disposal in five-seater mode. That’s competitive with estates based on compact hatchbacks, and means that as well as having a low TCO, the Logan also offers one of the best boot-space-per-pound ratios of any car for sale in the UK today.

3. Toyota Aygo

Model: 1.0 VVTi X 5dr
TCO: 34.1ppm

While the Toyota Aygo is built alongside the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108, its slightly better residual values help it jump ahead of its counterparts. Compared to the Citroen C1 in the list below, the Aygo ‘x’ loses £1,000 less than the C1 over three years. And despite its £300 higher price, the five-door version of the Aygo finishes slightly ahead of the three-door thanks to marginally stronger residuals, although there’s only £25 difference between the two.

As with the entry point to the Dacia range, the Aygo ‘x’ isn’t the most generously equipped. But you do get USB and Aux connections to listen to music, electric front windows and a raft of safety kit as standard. Even better is the revvy 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, while the Aygo’s compact shape and agile handling mean it’s a great car to drive in the city.

4. Kia Picanto

Model: 1.0 ‘1’
TCO: 35.5ppm

While the Picanto is at number four in our top 10, it only just makes the top 10 of individual variants for sale in the UK, with 7 Dacias and two Toyota Aygos ahead of it. Still, a TCO rate of 35.5ppm is low by anybody’s standards, and the Picanto feels a bit more upmarket than the Dacias, and is better than the Aygo when driving out of town, too.

Go for ‘1’ trim, and you get auto lights, USB and Aux connections and remote central locking. But then there are basics such as manual mirror adjustment, two speakers and steel wheels with plastic trims. However, as mentioned, the Picanto feels a bit more grown up than some of its city car contemporaries, while the reassurance of Kia’s seven-year warranty is sure to hold plenty of appeal, too.

5. Dacia Duster

Model: 1.6 SCe Access 4×2
TCO: 35.5ppm

The biggest model in our top 10 is also one of our favourite cars for sale in the UK right now. The second-generation Dacia Duster builds on the back-to-basics appeal of the original model with a bit more kit and plenty of user-friendly features. However, if you want the best TCO model, then like the Sandero and Logan, you need to choose the basic Access trim with power from Renault’s 1.6 SCe petrol engine.

While it looks pretty basic, there’s plenty of space, and that means it’s a genuine five-seat family car, and no other rival comes close for space and comfort. Unfortunately, you can’t get the lowest TCO if you want four-wheel drive, but in every other respect, the Duster offers outstanding value for money as an ownership prospect.

6. Volkswagen Up!

Model: 1.0 Take Up! 3dr
TCO: 36.9ppm

The Volkswagen Up! has upmarket appeal, which is why it makes the top 10 cars with the lowest cost of ownership, while the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo sister models do not. Stronger residual values help the VW break into the top 10, so while it loses around £6,500 in value after three years, its siblings lose more. 

Helping to contribute to the Up!’s low TCO figure is its low running costs, with fuel economy of 54.3mpg on the WLTP cycle, as well as emissions 95g/km. Once again, the TCO applies to the cheapest model in the range, and the Take Up! is pretty basic when compared to the rest of the range. You still get electric windows, USB and Aux connections and a 12v socket, but if you want CarPlay, Android Auto, air conditioning or alloy wheels you’ll need to change grade, with a rise in TCO to go with it.

7. Citroen C1

Model: 1.0 VTi Touch 3dr
TCO: 37.4ppm

The running theme with these cars that are cheap to run is that if you’re not looking at a Dacia, then you’re going to have to make do with a city car. The Citroen C1 is very similar to the Toyota Aygo at number three, and if you want 37.4ppm motoring, then you’re looking at the entry-level Touch in three-door guise as the Touch model doesn’t come as a five-door.

Again, you get the basics such as electric windows, USB and Aux connections and a 2 speaker stereo, but at least the most basic C1 doesn’t compromise on safety. It has the same six airbags as the higher-spec models, plus two sets of Isofix mounts in the back electronic brake force distribution and hill hold assist.

8. Hyundai i10

Model: 1.0 Play
TCO: 37.9ppm

Another grown-up city car is the Hyundai i10, and like its sister model, the Kia Picanto, it’s a better choice if you’re going to be doing any significant miles on the motorway. It’s just that bit more refined than its contemporaries, meaning longer distance trips aren’t as much of a chore.

One big difference between the i10 and Picanto is the fact that the model with the best TCO is the mid-spec i10 Play. It has better residuals than lower spec models in the range courtesy of the attractive kit it has. It sees kit such as alloy wheels, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat-nav and tinted rear windows added from higher spec models, yet a price of £11,195 is only £1,300 more than the entry level car, making it an attractive upgrade.

9. Ford Ka+

Model: 1.2 Studio
TCO: 38.1ppm

Mainstream makes such as Ford don’t always have the best residual values which can peg back their TCO figure. However, as the Ford Ka+ is so cheap, it overcomes this hurdle quite easily. Yes the Ka+ is yet another city car, but it’s based on the Fiesta supermini, so it’s one of the more spacious models in the class.

Power comes from a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which means the Ka+ is another small car that won’t be out of its depth on the motorway. But again, the Studio model is the entry point to the range, so it’s not as well equipped as other models in the range. However, it does come with Bluetooth, a DAB radio, speed limiter and an alarm, so it’s not as sparse as some of our TCO champs.

10. Mitsubishi Mirage

Model: 1.2 ‘3’
TCO: 38.3ppm

Here’s a left-field choice – how many of you knew that the Mitsubishi Mirage was still in existence? The city car is a bit of an also ran in the class, as there are far better rivals for sale, but hardly any can come close to its combination of a low TCO and the amount of kit on offer.

If you’re willing to sacrifice driving enjoyment and comfort at the altar of TCO, then the Mirage 3’s kit list will likely hold some appeal. There’s Bluetooth, keyless entry and starting, electric folding wing mirrors, auto lights and wipers, alloys, trip computer, air conditioning, USB, 12v and Aux connections and even a leather-trimmed steering wheel. All of this is offered for an asking price a quid short of 10 grand, which helps to mitigate depreciation over a three-year period.

Is TCO something that you look for when buying a car? Tell us your stories below…

source: AutoExpress Best Car Reviews (

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