Australia’s most frugal – and thirstiest – cars compared against rising fuel prices


If you’re in the market for a new car and want to compare the most fuel-efficient models in each category, we’ve crunched the numbers for you across a range of petrol price points.


The Toyota Yaris Hybrid is the most miserly city hatchback on sale today, sipping less than $30 per week – or $1188 per year – even with fuel at $2.40 per litre.

It tops the list of a range of hybrids, fuel-efficient cars – and gas guzzlers – compiled by Drive to illustrate just how much it pays to crunch the numbers when comparing your next new car.

At the other end of the scale, the Nissan Patrol V8 petrol four-wheel-drive costs just shy of $100 a week in fuel – almost $5200 a year – when the price at the bowser is $2.40 per litre, versus about $62 per week – or about $3200 a year – when fuel was $1.50 per litre, before the price hike.



Across all motor vehicle categories, Drive’s study of popular models among the Top 50 sellers revealed small differences in decimal places on the fuel rating label can make a big difference to your hip pocket.

While many people just want to know the cost to fill up their car now – versus back when petrol was $1.50 per litre – that’s not the most accurate guide.

Comparing the cost of topping up your tank only tells part of the story. Such a method rewards cars equipped with a small fuel tank, because that figure makes them look good on paper.



Vehicle Engine Fuel Consumption
L/100km
Weekly cost
@ $1.50 /L
Annual cost
@ $1.50 /L
Weekly cost
@ $2.40 /L
Annual cost
@ $2.40 /L
Toyota Yaris Hybrid hatch 1.5L 3-cyl auto Petrol 3.3 $14.28 $742.50 $22.85 $1188.00
Nissan Patrol Y62 5.6L V8 auto Petrol 14.4 $62.31 $3240.00 $99.69 $5184.00
Weekly and annual fuel costs are based on 15,000km per year, the national average distance travelled according to Census data.

Drive has gone a step further, exploring the official fuel consumption average – based on Green Vehicle Guide data compiled by federal regulators – calculating the cost of 50 popular cars and comparing their weekly and annual fuel bills when the price at the bowser is $1.50, $1.80, $2.00, $2.20 and $2.40 per litre.

As you might expect, the most efficient cars in each category pay greater dividends as the cost of fuel climbs.

Conversely, V8s and other gas guzzlers are not as heavily penalised by their thirst when fuel costs are low.



As expected, our study found Toyota’s fleet of hybrid cars topped the charts as the most miserly in each respective category.

Other surprises amid the data crunch: one of Australia’s cheapest new cars to buy – the MG 3 city hatch – is thirstier and costlier to run than cars in the next class size up. 



Customarily, city cars are among the most efficient cars on the road, but that’s not the case with the MG 3.

Vehicle Engine Fuel Consumption
L/100km
Weekly cost
@ $1.50 /L
Annual cost
@ $1.50 /L
Weekly cost
@ $2.40 /L
Annual cost
@ $2.40 /L
Toyota Yaris Hybrid hatch 1.5L 3-cyl auto Petrol 3.3 $14.28 $742.50 $22.85 $1188.00
Toyota Corolla Hybrid hatch 1.8L 4-cyl auto Petrol 4.2 $18.17 $945.00 $29.08 $1512.00
Toyota Yaris hatch 1.5L 3-cyl auto Petrol 4.9 $21.20 $1102.50 $33.92 $1764.00
Mazda 2 hatch 1.5L 4-cyl auto Petrol 5.3 $22.93 $1192.50 $36.69 $1908.00
Toyota Corolla hatch 2.0L 4-cyl auto Petrol 6 $25.96 $1350.00 $41.54 $2160.00
Mazda 3 hatch 2.0L 4-cyl auto Petrol 6.2 $26.83 $1395.00 $42.92 $2232.00
MG3 hatch 1.5L 4-cyl auto Petrol 6.7 $28.99 $1507.50 $46.38 $2412.00
Hyundai i30 hatch 2.0L 4-cyl auto Petrol 7.4 $32.02 $1665.00 $51.23 $2664.00
Weekly and annual fuel costs are based on 15,000km per year, the national average distance travelled according to Census data.

MG’s city hatch has a weekly fuel bill of $46.38 (or more than $2400 per year) when the price at the bowser is $2.40 per litre – versus about $29 per week (or $1500 per year) when fuel was at $1.50 per litre.

This makes the MG 3 thirstier and costlier when it comes to fuel compared to the roomier and more powerful Mazda 3 hatch – and just shy of the Hyundai i30’s consumption – both of which are bigger cars.



However, it’s important to note the difference between the two most popular diesel engines offered in the Ford Ranger.

The Ford Ranger’s old-school 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel – favoured by fans who want cubic capacity and gruffness to go with their pick-up – will in the long run be paying significantly more at the bowser than their mates in Ford Rangers powered by the newer twin-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel.

Vehicle Engine Fuel Consumption
L/100km
Weekly cost
@ $1.50 /L
Annual cost
@ $1.50 /L
Weekly cost
@ $2.40 /L
Annual cost
@ $2.40 /L
Nissan Navara STX 4WD 2.3L 4-cyl auto Diesel 7.8 $33.75 $1755.00 $54.00 $2808.00
Toyota HiLux SR5 4WD 2.8L 4-cyl auto  Diesel 8 $34.62 $1800.00 $55.38 $2880.00
Ford Ranger XLT 4WD 2.0L 4-cyl auto Diesel 8 $34.62 $1800.00 $55.38 $2880.00
Isuzu D-Max XT 4WD 3.0L 4-cyl auto Diesel 8 $34.62 $1800.00 $55.38 $2880.00
Mazda BT-50 SP 4WD 3.0L 4-cyl auto Diesel 8 $34.62 $1800.00 $55.38 $2880.00
Mitsubishi Triton GLX+ 4WD 2.4L 4-cyl auto Diesel 8.6 $37.21 $1935.00 $59.54 $3096.00
Ford Ranger XLT 4WD 3.2L 5-cyl auto Diesel 8.9 $38.51 $2002.50 $61.62 $3204.00
LDV T60 Max 4WD 2.0L 4-cyl auto Diesel 9.2 $39.81 $2070.00 $63.69 $3312.00
Great Wall Motors Ute 2.0L 4-cyl auto Diesel 9.4 $40.67 $2115.00 $65.08 $3384.00
Toyota HiLux Workmate 2WD 2.7L 4-cyl auto Petrol 10.9 $47.16 $2452.50 $75.46 $3924.00
Ram 1500 DS Limited 5.7L V8 auto Petrol 12.2 $52.79 $2745.00 $84.46 $4392.00
Ram 1500 DT Express 5.7L V8 auto Petrol 12.2 $52.79 $2745.00 $84.46 $4392.00
Chevrolet 1500 LTZ 6.2L V8 auto Petrol 12.8 $55.38 $2880.00 $88.62 $4608.00
Weekly and annual fuel costs are based on 15,000km per year, the national average distance travelled according to Census data.

Figures compiled by Drive show when the cost of fuel hits $2.40 a litre (it had already topped $2.30 a litre along east-coast Australia as this article was written), the 3.2-litre Ford Ranger will cost $61.62 per week (or $3200 per year) to run versus the 2.0-litre’s total of $55.38 per week (or $2000 per year).

These figures are a guide only and will vary depending on distance travelled, and how much a vehicle consumes depending on use and driving styles.

For this study, Drive calculated fuel costs over 15,000km a year – the national average distance travelled according to Census data.



If you cover less than this distance, your fuel costs will be less than what is shown. 

If you travel further than 15,000km a year, your fuel costs will be higher than what is shown.

To compare like-for-like we calculated the cost of fuel per litre based on the fuel rating label figures for each car, regardless of whether a particular vehicle is diesel or petrol.

Actual fuel consumption can vary depending on driving styles, traffic, and the use of the vehicle – including variations in passengers and cargo. 

In the case of unleaded petrol, premium 95-octane and 98-octane fuels will go further than regular 91-octane unleaded or E10 – but will cost more at the bowser.

The fuel rating label figures used are derived from laboratory tests that aim to compare vehicles in identical conditions.



Nevertheless, the Drive data revealed some surprising statistics.

For example, among double-cab utes, although Chinese brands such as GWM and LDV are cheap to buy, they are in fact the costliest to run versus their direct rivals.

And it turns out choosing the all-wheel-drive version of the Mazda CX-9 versus the front-drive version will also be felt in the hip pocket every time you pull up to a fuel bowser.

Vehicle Engine Fuel Consumption
L/100km
Weekly cost
@ $1.50 /L
Annual cost
@ $1.50 /L
Weekly cost
@ $2.40 /L
Annual cost
@ $2.40 /L
Toyota Kluger Hybrid AWD 2.5L 4-cyl auto Petrol 4.7 $20.34 $1057.50 $32.54 $1692.00
Hyundai Santa Fe AWD 2.2L 4-cyl  auto Diesel 6.1 $26.39 $1372.50 $42.23 $2196.00
Kia Sorento AWD 2.2L 4-cyl  auto Diesel 6.1 $26.39 $1372.50 $42.23 $2196.00
Mazda CX-9 2WD 2.5L 4-cyl auto Petrol 8.4 $36.35 $1890.00 $58.15 $3024.00
Toyota Kluger Petrol 2WD 3.5L V6 auto Petrol 8.7 $37.64 $1957.50 $60.23 $3132.00
Toyota Kluger Petrol AWD 3.5L V6 auto Petrol 8.9 $38.51 $2002.50 $61.62 $3204.00
Mazda CX-9 AWD 2.5L 4-cyl auto Petrol 9 $38.94 $2025.00 $62.31 $3240.00
Kia Sorento 2WD 3.5L V6 auto Petrol 9.7 $41.97 $2182.50 $67.15 $3492.00
Hyundai Santa Fe 2WD 3.5L V6 auto Petrol 10.5 $45.43 $2362.50 $72.69 $3780.00
Weekly and annual fuel costs are based on 15,000km per year, the national average distance travelled according to Census data.

The other surprise: the Mitsubishi Outlander was among the least fuel-efficient among its peers – and therefore costlier to run – despite being the second-newest vehicle in the mid-size SUV segment.

Vehicle Engine Fuel Consumption
L/100km
Weekly cost
@ $1.50 /L
Annual cost
@ $1.50 /L
Weekly cost
@ $2.40 /L
Annual cost
@ $2.40 /L
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2WD 2.5L 4-cyl auto Petrol 4.7 $20.34 $1057.50 $32.54 $1692.00
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD 2.5L 4-cyl auto Petrol  4.8 $20.77 $1080.00 $33.23 $1728.00
Mazda CX-3 2WD 2.0L 4-cyl auto Petrol 6.3 $27.26 $1417.50 $43.62 $2268.00
Mazda CX-30 2WD 2.0L 4-cyl auto Petrol 6.5 $28.13 $1462.50 $45.00 $2340.00
Toyota RAV4 Petrol 2WD 2.0L 4-cyl auto Petrol 6.5 $28.13 $1462.50 $45.00 $2340.00
Mazda CX-5 2WD 2.0L 4-cyl auto Petrol 6.9 $29.86 $1552.50 $47.77 $2484.00
Toyota RAV4 Petrol AWD 2.5L 4-cyl auto Petrol 7.3 $31.59 $1642.50 $50.54 $2628.00
Mazda CX-5 AWD 2.5L 4-cyl auto Petrol 7.4 $32.02 $1665.00 $51.23 $2664.00
Mitsubishi Outlander 2WD 2.5L 4-cyl auto Petrol 7.5 $32.45 $1687.50 $51.92 $2700.00
Mitsubishi Outlander AWD 2.5L 4-cyl auto Petrol 8.1 $35.05 $1822.50 $56.08 $2916.00
Weekly and annual fuel costs are based on 15,000km per year, the national average distance travelled according to Census data.

We have not covered every model on sale, but we selected 50 of the most popular examples sold in Australia – including different variants of the same vehicle – so buyers could compare the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in fuel costs as prices rise.



As for how long these record high fuel prices will last, industry analysts say it’s anyone’s guess.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury, a regular commentator on petrol prices, told TV media: “These prices are completely off the scale, more than twice what (motorists) were paying in April 2020.”

When asked if petrol prices would stop at $2.40 per litre or keep climbing toward $3 per litre, Mr Khoury said: “We have no idea where we would set the ceiling at this point.”

Explore the table below for all categories and price points.

Joshua Dowling

Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years, spending most of that time working for The Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and one of the early members of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice / Drive in late 2018, and has been a World Car of the Year judge for 10 years.

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