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Economical used cars to buy in 2022

With the price of everything seemingly skyrocketing the one thing we’re looking for from our second hand cars is economy. Economical to buy, economical to repair – but most importantly, with petrol and diesel prices the way they are, economical to fuel.

Swapping your car for one that’s economical doesn’t have to involve any great sacrifice these days, either. With a budget of just £3,000 you can have a car that’s as efficient as most modern hybrids without any real compromise in drivability.

The majority of the most efficient cars are diesel, and they’re well represented in this list. But some petrol models get a look in too, and they’re especially useful for people who live inside London’s ULEZ (Ultra-Low Emission Zone) as most diesels older than a few years attract a £15 daily charge just to drive within it.

As with any used car purchase, buy an economical car carefully. Poor maintenance of the engine or drivetrain components could lead to premature wear, spoiling the headline fuel economy that was the reason you bought the car in the first place. Cars with good service history and traceable ownership are best, and don’t shy away from high mileage if the rest of the car is well looked-after.

Without further ado, here are some of the best and most economical cars available for less than £3,000…

Renault Clio 1.5 dCi

Official fuel economy: 83.1mpg

We’ll kick this list off with a very impressive official fuel economy figure from the Renault Clio when it’s fitted with the 1.5-litre diesel engine. Real-world economy is no less impressive, at an easy 60mpg.

The 1.5 diesel here is a very well-proven engine having seen service in Renaults before and after this model – in fact, it’s still in use today. It’s more than powerful enough to deal with this stylish little supermini, though those who like something to feel substantial may not enjoy the Clio’s rather cheap-feeling interior.

Hyundai i10 1.0 ‘Blue’

Official fuel economy: 67.3mpg

The original i10 was made very popular by the UK government’s used car scrappage scheme which means there are plenty around to choose from – often in exceptional condition having been used sparingly over the last decade or so. The i10’s a reliable little motor, a little short on charm but not short on space thanks to that tall body.

Opt for the 1.0 ‘Blue’ model for the best official fuel mileage, though drivers who often tackle motorways will appreciate the extra grunt of the 1.2-lire unit. Be wary of automatics, though, as they sap power and hurt economy.

Skoda Fabia Estate 1.2 TDI Greenline II

Official fuel economy: 83.1mpg

Another highly impressive fuel economy figure, but this time from a car with a truly enormous boot – the Fabia Estate is one of the most practical small cars around, squeezing van-like levels of boot space into a supermini-sized package.

The 1.2-litre diesel here gets the best oficial figures, but we suspect most will be better served by the more conventional 1.6-litre diesel that’s not only significantly more drivable and powerful but, we suspect, would achieve better real-world MPG as it wouldn’t have to work so hard.

Toyota Yaris 1.3

Official fuel economy: 54.3mpg

This is a bit of a rarer option on the used market because owners love the cars so much they don’t want to part with them. Yarises hold their value very well too, so expect to pay more or put up with worse condition or higher mileage for your money.

It’s well worth spending the extra, though. The baby Toyota is very practical, with a large boot and sliding rear seat, and it’s not bad to drive either. Better yet, Toyota’s reputation for reliability should mean it’ll outlive you.

Fiat Panda 1.2 Easy

Official fuel economy: 55.4mpg

The car that’s kept Italy mobile for decades is a rather charming addition to the UK’s roads. Still on sale today and feeling decidedly long in the tooth, the Panda makes an ace used buy for anybody who wants a bit of cheeky style on a budget. It’s not bad to drive, either.

The 1.2-litre petrol is very well-proven though you can opt for a diesel if you really want the best economy. Avoid the 0.9-litre ‘Twinair’ petrol, though – these promise impressive mpg but rarely deliver in the real world, with many owners reporting that they struggle to crest 40mpg.