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The three-cylinder engine has revolutionized the modern car industry. With turbocharging technology, it powers everything from city cars to SUVs and even hot hatchbacks. Not only does it deliver impressive power comparable to larger engines, but it also offers excellent fuel economy. Ford’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost and BMW’s 1.5-litre hybrid have dominated the International Engine of the Year awards from 2012 to 2015. If you’re looking for a car that combines performance with cost efficiency, here are the best three-cylinder cars you should consider.

Best Cars with Three Cylinders

  • Renault Clio
  • Ford Puma
  • BMW 1 Series
  • Dacia Sandero
  • Volvo XC40
  • Suzuki Vitara
  • Mini Hatchback
  • Ford Fiesta ST

Renault Clio

Our Pick: Renault Clio 1.0 TCe 100 RS Line

In its latest iteration, the Renault Clio stands as one of the best superminis available. With a choice of non-turbocharged SCe 75 or turbocharged TCe engines, the Clio offers a great balance of performance and fuel economy. The turbocharged options come in various outputs: 90hp, 100hp, and 130hp. Expect an impressive 50-55mpg regardless of the power you choose. Plus, with Renault’s five-year warranty, buying a used Clio comes with peace of mind.

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Ford Puma

Our Pick: Ford Puma 1.0 EcoBoost MHEV ST-Line X

From an outstanding supermini to a highly-rated compact SUV, the Ford Puma offers a versatile driving experience. Powered by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol engine, it provides either 125hp or 155hp. The 125hp version boasts slightly better fuel economy at 52.3mpg. Both engine options are available with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission. For those seeking more excitement, the Puma ST features a robust 1.5-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost engine with 200hp and 42.8mpg combined.

BMW 1 Series

Our Pick: BMW 118i M Sport automatic

The BMW 1 Series offers a range of three-cylinder engine options: a 1.5-litre petrol with 140hp and a 1.5-litre diesel with 116hp, known as the 118i and 116d, respectively. Despite being entry-level choices, they provide impressive fuel efficiency and performance. The 118i achieves an average of 47.1mpg and emits just 114g/km of CO2. On the other hand, the 116d achieves 61.4mpg and emits 100g/km of CO2. The BMW 1 Series also excels in driving dynamics and delivers a high-quality interior.

Dacia Sandero

Our Pick: Dacia Sandero 1.0 TCe Comfort

The current Dacia Sandero offers an affordable supermini option without compromising on quality. The budget car reputation no longer applies to the Sandero, which stands as a great car overall. Equipped with the excellent TCe 90 three-cylinder turbocharged engine delivering 90hp, it achieves a fuel economy of 53.3mpg in daily use. Dacia has phased out the previous SCe 75 petrol engine, and the Bi-Fuel model’s future remains uncertain. Thus, the TCe 90 becomes the go-to engine for the Sandero.

Volvo XC40

Our Pick: Volvo XC40 T3 R-Design automatic

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The entry-level petrol versions of the Volvo XC40 feature a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine. With 163hp, this engine offers a choice between a six-speed manual gearbox and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Daily usage typically results in 35-40mpg fuel efficiency. In 2020, Volvo introduced a less powerful version, the T2, producing 129hp. The T2 offers slightly better fuel economy, but some buyers may prefer the extra performance of the T3 engine. The Volvo XC40 excels in safety, comfort, and its compact premium SUV design.

Suzuki Vitara

Our Pick: Suzuki Vitara 1.0 Boosterjet SZ-T

Despite its 2015 release, the Suzuki Vitara remains highly regarded in the compact SUV market. Powered by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder Boosterjet engine with 111hp, it offers impressive fuel efficiency, reaching up to 45mpg. Compared to the discontinued diesel engine, the Boosterjet engine provides similar economy while being smoother and quieter. The current Vitara offers a choice of mild hybrid or self-charging hybrid powertrains. However, there are plenty of used 1.0-litre versions available at affordable prices, starting from around £10,000.

Mini Hatchback

Our Pick: Mini Cooper Sport

If you’re considering a Mini Hatchback, you’re in for a treat. Not only is it stylish and fashionable, but it also offers an exhilarating driving experience. The Cooper and old One models feature a 1.5-litre petrol three-cylinder engine, while the Cooper D had a 1.5-litre diesel option (discontinued in 2018). The choice ultimately depends on personal preference, but all three-cylinder options provide an enjoyable ride. For those seeking used models, the BuyaCar website offers a range of Cooper D options.

Ford Fiesta ST

Our Pick: Ford Fiesta 1.5 EcoBoost ST-3

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For those looking for excitement, the Ford Fiesta ST tops the list as the best three-cylinder car available. Its high-tech 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine delivers an impressive 200hp, propelling this hot hatchback from 0 to 62mph in just 6.5 seconds, with a top speed of 144mph. Its brilliant cornering capabilities make it a joy to drive on country lanes, while its affordability adds to the appeal. The current Fiesta ST prices on BuyaCar start from around £15,000.

Source: Ratingperson

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