Owning a car requires a lot out of any driver. There's the emotional bit, for example when you call it your baby or give it an exotic name, or when you speak to it, pleading with it to move forward just that extra mile before it concludes its days as a roadworthy vehicle. Then there's the financial part, because well like any other baby, it needs that kind of support. Its food – to keep it going throughout its lifetime – is fuel, in the form of petrol, diesel, and increasingly electricity. And being as economic as possible with its fuel, is what's on most South African driver's mind right now. Vehicle fuel economy is how best the car utilizes its fuel. Simply, a car that can travel 100km on 1 litre of fuel (the fossil type), offers more vehicle economy than one that travels the same distance on 2 litres. However, that being said, our top 12 best fuel efficient cars available in South Africa reflect fuel economy numbers as stated by the manufacturers. When you and I (who are not professional drivers in a controlled environment) drive these cars, we tend to use more fuel.

Top 12 Cars for Fuel Economy

Nissan Leaf – 0L/100km

The Nissan Leaf, which was launched in 2013 in South Africa, and with a rather bizarre commercial, is the only 100% electric car in our shores. Its a zero carbon emissions and 0L/100km economy city car. I make emphasis to city car because it would be very troublesome to drive and electric car on long distances outside the city. That is the major downside to owning this car – you can't just stop on your way between Cape Town and Johannesburg and pour some petrol. What consumers fear even more is the thought that they might not even make it to their destinations because the power might run out. Else, the Nissan Leaf is a brilliant motor vehicle, and hopefully more and more electric cars will be made available to South Africa.

Porsche Panamera S e-Hybrid – 3.1L/100km

Porsche started out on racetracks, and in its 80-year history, the Volkwagen-owned marquee has never lost its allure. Before the release of the Panamera, many enthusiasts disliked the fact that such a “fat” car was getting the Porsche stallion. However, the Panamera has been very lucrative for Porsche, that now every luxury sports car maker wants its own version. Porsche took things a step further with the Panamera S e-Hybrid – that step is actually having the bravery to fit a hybrid engine in a car known the world over for its fuel-sipping racetrack shuttering history. Luckily, it still fulfils buyers' need for speed, and able to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in just 5.5 seconds, and reaching a top speed of 270km/h. And luckily, since you own a Porsche, traffic fines and e-Tolls shouldn't be a problem. The Porsche Panamera S e-Hybrid comes as such a surprise on our list for the cars currently available in South African showrooms. Granted, it's a hybrid and not a fully CO2 emitting motor vehicle.

VW Polo 1.2 TDI Bluemotion – 3.4L/100km

Volkswagen claims that their 1.2 litre engine on the Polo TDI Bluemotion is superior than many of the 1.6 litre engines in production right now. It's a bold statement that one can really only prove by taking one of these cars for a ride. Nonetheless, on the fuel economy side, the Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TDI Bluemotion comes in at 3rd position on our list, and is the most efficient all-petrol motor vehicle in South Africa. Since it first replaced the VW Citi Golf, the cute Polo has been a favourite among first time buyers, such that it's always in the top 5 list of the best selling cars in the country. The South African market is so important for VW because (apart from China and Russia), ours is the biggest market for the Polo. The BlueMotion technology in VW cars is said to deliver up to 10% in fuel and CO2 reductions, which is great for a country with the world's single biggest air polluter (Eskom). Stop/start technology is another element indicated as helping drive fuel efficiency. The TDI (and TSI) engines are smaller and lighter, but provide the vehicle with maximum pulling power.

Volvo V40 D2 - 3.6L/100km

The Scandinavians are more popular for their salmon and icy weather more than anything else, but they also make cars. The Volvo V40 D2 is one such automobile. At just 3.6L/100km of fuel consumption, the V40 D2 is quite frugal in its fuel consumption. The V40 D2 first arrived in South Africa as a replacement for the Volvo S60. However, as impressive as the car is, it hasn't dented our love affair with German cars, which the V40 was supposedly made to compete with. Volvo has won the “best green car” title against its Northern European rivals in the B-Segment, but that hasn't done much to break sales records. Granted, the worldwide Volvo Group is still in financial recovery, so development has been less aggressive than many of the bigger car makers. The Volvo V40 D2 is a superbly finished car for any serious car buyer, but it may just have the wrong type of badge.

Ford Fiesta 1.6TDCi - 3.6L/100km

A new look and more efficient engine. The Ford Fiesta 1.6TDCi clocks in a mere 3.6L/100km of your fuel, which is just enough to beat out 7 other cars in our top 10. A distant cousin, the legendary Ford Mustang, recently made its way to South Africa and with much funfair. And just like the “environmentally friendly” Fiesta 1.6TDCi, the Mustang has been fitted with the award-winning EcoBoost technology that makes Ford's car very efficient.

Citroen C3 eHDi and DS3 eHDi (both at 3.7L/100km)

Coming in at a claimed average of 3.7L/100km, we asked ourselves how the Citroen C3 eHDi engine managed to be so frugal with its fuel-sipping? Well, it came down to a couple of things, namely the stop/start function (which can be found on a couple of the cars in our list), a micro hybrid battery pack, and an ultra capacitor which ultimately facilitates a regenerative charging ability for the C3 eHDi when the accelerator is lifted. The C3 eHDi is an impressive little car, and the French have done a clever move by fitting this same engine in the Citroen DS3 eHDi.

Toyota Yaris HSD and Auris HSD (both at 3.8L/100km)

These Toyota Yaris and Auris HSDs come in 1.5 and 1.8 litre engines respectively. Toyota's forerays into cleaner cars became mainstream with the Prius, but they've expended their hybrid line-up to include the Yaris and Auris, and we're definitely not complaining. Consuming 3.8L/100km of fuel easily adds these two cars on our list. Strangely, the current rendition of the Toyota Prius available in South Africa consumes more than its younger cousins. We reckon the Auris stands out aestheticly more than the Yaris does, and we completely forget that it's a Corolla inside. Nonetheless, either car makes for a great buy for any buyer looking for Toyota's outstanding reliability and fuel economy.

Audi A1 1.6TDi and A3 Tdi (both at 3.8L/100km)

Renault Megane 1.6dci - 4L/100km

Mercedes-Benz A200 CDI - 4.1/100km

Author: Pierre Theron