Best Petrol Cars

7 minutes Published: 12/03/2020
Alasdair Cherry

One of the first decisions you’re going to have to make in your pursuit of a brand new car is whether you fancy a diesel, petrol, or even an electric/hybrid engine.

You’ve got to have a think about what’s best for your type of journeys, the environment and your wallet.

For many, hybrids and electrics are not good enough yet. Range anxiety is a very real thing, and many don’t want to stress about finding a charger. For traditional combustible engines, the general rule of thumb is that short city journeys are more suited to petrol cars, whereas long motorway journeys work out cheaper using a diesel engine.

Petrol is cheaper than diesel fuel and petrol cars also tend to wear a cheaper initial price tag than their diesel equivalents.

So, if you’ve decided on a petrol engine, check out some of the best petrol cars around!

Fancy a petrol for the punchy performance? Check out our affordable sports car list. If you're concerned about your carbon footprint, consider trying one of our best hybrid cars, or even our best electric cars!

1. Ford Fiesta

RRP: £12,520 - £26,230 | From £120.73 per month to lease
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 179g/km

Pros

  • Incredibly fun to drive.

  • Cheap to run considering performance.

Cons

  • Not as practical as alternatives.

  • The larger wheels make for a bumpy ride.

A member of the hot hatch hall of fame, the Ford Fiesta ST has a stunning reputation alongside its bitter rival, the VW Golf GTI.

Short for ‘Sport Technology’, the Fiesta ST is the gutsiest version of the Fiesta thanks to its compelling, turbocharged engines. The powerful engine, combined with finesse handling, provides a real show-stopping driving experience. Ford’s EcoBoost petrol engines are always very fuel-efficient, and the ST is no different, despite its performance.

The Fiesta ST’s dashboard is smartly laid out and kitted out to the rafters - the only slight issue we have with the cabin is that it could have a little more personality.

2. Seat Ibiza

RRP: £12,915 - £22,300
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 193g/km

Pros

  • Brilliant looking.

  • Spacious for a small car.

Cons

  • Interior is boring.

  • Engines are noisy.

The Seat Ibiza may not prioritise pace and power, but this all-rounder shines as bright as its namesake. If you’re predominantly sticking to city roads, the turbocharged petrol options are peak performers. The entry-level model however, is noticeably sluggish and won’t fill you with too much joy.

Arguably one of the best small cars on the market these days, it’s genuinely hard to pick out the Ibiza’s faults. The composed handling and light, accurate steering makes the Ibiza a breeze through corners and narrow city streets. The Ibiza also offers practical boot and rear space.

You won’t struggle to get comfortable either - you’re well positioned for a small city car and the seats are exquisitely comfy with spongy under-thigh support. There may be a few hard plastics dotted around the dashboard, but the steering wheel, handbrake and gear level are layered in leather which definitely isn’t the norm for a car this cheap!

3. Volkswagen Golf Hatchback

RRP: £17,570 - £37,245 | From £272.40 per month to lease
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 3.2
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 278g/km

Pros

  • Great to drive.

  • Interior is lovely.

Cons

  • Expensive for what you get.

  • Rivals offer more space.

The Volkswagen Golf R is an excellent hot hatch and deserves its place as one of the best petrol cars around. Boy, can this thing move.

The Golf R is a seriously quick family hatchback that outpaces a number of more expensive sports cars. That being said, don’t assume that the Golf R sacrifices the build quality that we’ve come to love from a Volkswagen car for the sake of pure power.

Gaze around the cabin and you’ll soon find a soft and squidgy spot to prod. The carbon-fibre effect trim on the dashboard gives the Golf R a business/pleasure feel.

Every Golf model is graced with a HD 8.0-inch colour touchscreen as standard with touch-sensitive shortcut buttons on either side of the screen as well as on the steering wheel too so you’re always in control.

4. BMW 5 Series Saloon (2017)

  • Doors:
  • Engine:
  • Fuel:
  • Body: Saloon
  • Drive:
  • CO2:

Pros

  • Petrol engines are so smooth.

  • Spacious - would suit a family.

Cons

  • Some of the best features cost extra.

  • Rivals are more fun to drive.

It’s unfair to refer to the BMW 5 Series as the 3 Series’ older brother, because it deserves to have its own share of the limelight.

The 5 Series has a wealth of high-tech features and quality that gives it that extra wow-factor. This car is available with a choice of three excellent petrol engines, that all come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard.

If you’re generally going to be sticking around town, our most efficient drive has to be the BMW 530i model with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. It’s a far more fluid drive than the similarly priced diesel models and returns you a decent MPG if you drive sensibly.

5. Toyota Prius

RRP: £23,240 - £34,040
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 1.8
  • Fuel: H
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: A
  • CO2: 28 - 104g/km

Pros

  • Unbelievably low running costs.

  • Really comfortable to drive.

Cons

  • Styling not for everyone.

  • Quite expensive.

The Toyota Prius may look like it’s just rolled out of Area 51, but its low running costs, bags of interior space and ultimate ride comfort tick all the boxes for family car buyers.

Ok, so the Prius isn’t technically a fully fledged petrol-head as it gains a helping hand from an electric motor. However, it still has an excellent petrol engine so we’re counting it due to popular demand!

Both engines combine to produce a decent amount of power and return an impressive MPG, will save you megabucks down the line.

6. Audi TT Coupe

RRP: £26,965 - £53,600
  • Doors: 2
  • Engine: 3.2
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Coupe
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 254g/km

Pros

  • A blast to drive.

  • Seriously stylish.

Cons

  • Cramped interior, not practical.

  • Sat-nav costs extra - a bit cheap from Audi.

The Audi TT is an iconic feature of the car industry’s family tree. Let's be honest, it's the original modern coupe, so there’s no surprise that the TT easily outsells many rivals.

Even the entry-level is no slouch and offers a really exciting driving experience. More importantly, it's also the most economical TT you can buy.

Simplicity is king inside the TT and it looks absolutely brilliant. You won’t need to worry about any sporadic features on the dashboard as the minimalist approach ensures a neat and professional feel. The TT is simply one of the best petrol cars on the market.

7. Honda Civic Hatchback

RRP: £18,180 - £32,960
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 2.2
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 215g/km

Pros

  • Extremely fast.

  • Practical for day to day life.

Cons

  • Four-wheel-drive competitors offer better performance.

  • Design choices are a hit or a miss.

Don’t lie - we know you’ve walked past a souped-up Honda Civic Type R and thought to yourself ‘gosh, I bet that’s a rush’. Pat your subconscious on the back, because you’re not wrong.

The Honda Civic Type R combines the performance of a racing car with the practicality and comfort of an everyday car to stand it in good stead against hot hatches like the VW Golf R and the Ford Focus ST.

The Honda Civic Type R has the pace to match its bold racing car looks. The turbocharged, four-cylinder engines have a ridiculous amount of power. As you’d probably expect, fuel efficiency isn’t the top of the league. The Civic Type R will return a pretty measly MPG, but we’d assume you’re not buying this voluptuous beast on account of its fuel economy figures.

8. Skoda Octavia Estate (2017)

  • Doors:
  • Engine:
  • Fuel:
  • Body: Estate
  • Drive:
  • CO2:

Pros

  • Incredibly practical.

  • Low running costs.

Cons

  • Suspension is just okay.

  • A bit dull.

The Skoda Octavia Estate is flying the flag for practical, budget-friendly petrol family cars this season.

The Skoda Octavia Estate shares the same engine as the Volkswagen Golf, so you know it’s going to be a solid performer. It has decent acceleration but the main appeal is the excellent fuel economy. While there’s diesel options available, you’ll get a much smoother and calming drive than you would in the diesel car equivalent.

The build quality of the Octavia Estate can’t be faulted, even if the interior cabin lacks a touch of flair and flamboyance. The dashboard is adept and resourceful, without showing any real character. Regardless, the Octavia is one of the best cars around at this price point.

9. Peugeot 3008

RRP: £21,740 - £46,695 | From £231.34 per month to lease
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D, H
  • Body: Crossover SUV
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 36 - 182g/km

Pros

  • Cabin quality is excellent.

  • Cheap to run.

Cons

  • Manual gearbox isn’t great.

  • Seating position should be more adjustable.

If you’re looking for a new car to accommodate your growing family, the Peugeot 3008 is a stylish SUV with an excellent efficient petrol engine, massive boot and great build quality.

You’ve got two options to consider when it comes to 3008 petrol options. Even the cheapest petrol engines offer enough punch to get you and the family around. The MPG on all models is great, but particularly good on the smaller engines.

Naturally, the more powerful the petrol engine you choose, the higher your running costs. It’s nice to know there’s a more powerful petrol engine available, though.

10. Volkswagen UP

RRP: £8,940 - £16,310
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 1.0
  • Fuel: P
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 95 - 110g/km

Pros

  • Well designed interior.

  • Built like a tank.

Cons

  • Automatic gearbox is grim.

  • Only got four seats, so not too practical.

The Volkswagen Up is one of the most desirable city cars on the market, thanks to it’s excellent efficiency and powerful (for a city car!) petrol engines.

Once you stick the prestigious Volkswagen badge on the front and spruce up the interior cabin, you’ve got yourself a masterpiece that the likes of Skoda and SEAT can’t compete with.

The two lower powered engines are adequate if you’re sticking to city roads, but if you plan on venturing onto the motorway, we recommend the far punchier and smoother turbocharged option. All petrol engines are available in stop-start form which will improve your car's fuel economy and slash CO2 emissions by cutting off the engine whenever the car comes to a halt.

Summary

Petrol cars continue to be the most popular choice of engines.

Offering excellent performance, decent efficiency, and a cheaper price than diesel, petrol engines suit the majority of drivers well.

If you're after a more efficient driving experience, consider trying one of our best hybrid cars, or even our best electric cars! If you’ve decided on a petrol for performance reasons, have a look at our affordable sports car list. You can also check our full list of petrol car lease deals.