A few years ago, on work, I went to Dubai, a city that I otherwise wouldn’t visit off my own bat. There, I caught up briefly with a friend, who picked me up from my hotel in his car – a Jeep Cherokee with a V8 petrol engine.
Those engines aren’t exactly frugal, and when he stopped at a fuel station to fill up, I asked him how much petrol cost in Dubai. “I have no idea,” he said. “I just pay whatever the register shows after I’m tanked up.”
I wish we were able to nonchalantly say the same thing in India, but the truth is that every time we now pull into a fuel station here, our throats start to dry up, and our wallets shrink in abject fear. Fuel prices here aren’t just high – I would say they’re extortionate, bordering on usurious.
Consider this: a year ago, a litre of petrol cost roughly Rs 88 in Mumbai (that was a high enough number). Today, it’s Rs 111, with diesel coming in at Rs 102. Crude oil prices haven’t gone through the roof, either, so these ridiculous prices are the result of increased central and state taxes on fuel (low-hanging fruit and all that sort of thing).
Read More: Fuel prices on October 20: Petrol crosses Rs 106 in Delhi, Rs 112 in Mumbai
You can quite correctly curse the powers that be as you watch the numbers fly northward on the fuel dispenser, but that’s not really going to get you anywhere, so perhaps you can do something more constructive and read our list of the most fuel-efficient cars in India. Hopefully, it’ll help you make an informed decision about your next set of wheels and reduce heartburn.
The figures listed are ARAI-certified, but don’t expect these numbers in real-world conditions; in my experience, they can be as much as 40 per cent less, depending on climate, condition of roads/traffic, your driving style, quality of fuel and how well you look after your car, among others. Also, almost every car listed here has a diesel engine, because they tend to be more frugal than petrol engines.
The catch is that diesel cars cost more to buy, so you’ll have to do the math and see if you’re going to put enough kilometres on your car to justify the higher asking price, vis a vis the savings on fuel costs.
Model: Hyundai Grand i10 Nios (diesel, manual)
Fuel efficiency: 25.49 kpl
This segment attracts a lot of first-time car buyers, for whom frugality is extremely important. Not many manufacturers offer a diesel engine in this segment, but Hyundai does (as did Ford, with the Figo), and the Nios is an astonishingly efficient car. It’s also a great all-around vehicle and is well worth buying, even if you’re not going to be driving it around too much. If you want a petrol engine, the Maruti Suzuki Swift offers a claimed 23.76 kpl, with an AMT.
Model: Hyundai i20 (diesel, manual)
Fuel efficiency: 25.2 kpl
The cars in this segment tend to have the same (or similar) engines as the ones in the previous segment, but they’re differentiated by being bigger, more comfortable and more feature-rich. Many buyers here look for more than just fuel economy, but frugality never hurts, does it? The i20 ticks lots of boxes here; the most frugal petrol car in this field is the Maruti Suzuki Baleno, with a claimed 23.87 kpl.
Model: Datsun Go+
Fuel efficiency: 19.02 kpl
This segment wasn’t very significant not that long ago, but it’s seen a major uptick in recent years, with cars like the Renault Triber and Maruti Suzuki Ertiga leading the revival. Fuel economy and practicality are the two most important factors in this segment (which includes pricey options like the Toyota Innova and Kia Carnival), and the Datsun Go+ certainly has lots of both; it’s also a petrol-powered car.
Model: Hyundai Aura (diesel, AMT)
Fuel efficiency: 25.4 kpl
The sub-4 metre segment isn’t as hot as it used to be a few years ago, what with SUVs now being all the rage. That said, owning a sedan is still an attractive proposition for a lot of first-time car buyers, which is probably why diesel engines are so popular in this particular corner. The diesel Aura makes it a hat-trick for Hyundai – and the petrol version delivers a claimed 21 kpl.
Model: Hyundai Verna (diesel, manual)
Fuel efficiency: 25 kpl
C-segment sedans have also taken a back seat to SUVs in our automotive market since their characteristics – space, features, comfort, practicality – are also offered by SUVs, and with more ground clearance and presence as added bonuses. That said, these sedans still find plenty of takers among buyers who value the driving experience, and the Verna diesel is a great bet here (Hyundai seems to be on a roll in this particular list). The most frugal petrol option here is the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz, which is a tremendously good car and delivers a claimed 20.65 kpl.
Model: Toyota Camry Hybrid
Fuel efficiency: 22.8 kpl
This segment is not quite dead in the strictest sense of the word, but India’s fascination with SUVs has rendered it almost inconsequential. Nevertheless, the cars in it offer top-notch levels of luxury and performance, and the Toyota Camry Hybrid is near-unbeatable here in terms of overall value. The most frugal diesel offering here is the Hyundai Elantra, with a claimed 22.7 kpl.
Model: Kia Sonet (diesel, manual)
Fuel efficiency: 24.1 kpl
The hottest segment in the market is chock-full of some pretty great cars at the moment, with more to come (the Tata Punch was just launched today – read our review here). Since SUVs are bigger and heavier, they’re less frugal, but buyers in this segment aren’t too fussed about that. What they’re looking for is the SUV experience – presence, size, ruggedness, comfort, features and so on. The Sonet delivers all of these, although you may want to drive the Tata Punch before making a decision – it’s seriously good and is the safest car in its class as well. The Renault Kiger and Nissan Magnite are the most frugal petrol options here, both offering a claimed 20 kpl.
Model: Citroen C5 Aircross (diesel, automatic)
Fuel efficiency: 18.6 kpl
These are the bigger boys of the SUV game, and outright fuel efficiency isn’t that much of a concern among buyers in this segment. These vehicles are also much bigger, heavier, more powerful and sometimes have 4WD, all of which impact mileage negatively. The Citroen C5 Aircross is a left-of-field choice here, given the competition; it’s an excellent car with great ride quality, but if you want to stay with a ‘safe’ brand, a Hyundai Tucson (16.98 kpl) will do a good job too.
It goes without saying that you should do your own research before making a purchase decision, but the cars in this list make for sensible buys. You could also disregard all of them and bypass fuel-station fright altogether by buying an EV.