Car running costs 2021: Victoria's cheapest small cars

Blue MG3 hatch static

Tim Nicholson

Posted September 08, 2021

The smallest cars on the market are also the most affordable to own and run. 

Small cars are favoured by motorists for a whole bunch of reasons. They make an ideal first car, but they’re also perfect if you’re downsizing. A hatchback or light SUV makes a terrific second car for a family, and they are generally fuel-efficient. 

They are also super popular. Micro, light and small passenger cars and small SUVs make up about 35 per cent of all new-car sales in Australia. 

It turns out they are also the most economical vehicle type to own and run, according to RACV’s 2021 Vehicle Operating Costs survey. 

MG3 hatch.
Kia Picanto S.
Kia Rio S.

Most affordable light cars 

With an average monthly cost of $738.43, light cars – a size smaller than small cars – are the cheapest to own and run. Lower purchase prices help here, but generally, light cars have lower servicing costs and are cheaper to refuel.

Topping the list of the cheapest cars to own and run is the MG3 light hatch. MG Motor, which Chinese giant SAIC owns, has become a top-10 brand in Australia this year after pitching itself as a cut-price brand competing with the likes of Kia and Mitsubishi. 

The MG3 Core costs $626.50 a month to own and run thanks to low running costs, but its competitive $16,990 driveaway price also helped its placing. 

Kia’s funky Picanto S micro car slides into second place with a monthly cost of $662.93, undercutting its larger sibling, the Rio S hatch, which costs $705.71 a month.

Last year’s cheapest car, the Suzuki Baleno GL, has slipped to fourth this year with a monthly cost of $713.39, followed by its stablemate, the Swift GL Navigator on $727.13.

At the other end of the light car segment, the Mazda2 G15 Pure hatch will cost the most to own and run on $844.86 a month. The sole European offering in this category, Volkswagen’s Polo 70TSI trendline, is slightly cheaper at $830.95. At the same time, the RACV Victoria’s Safest Cars-winning Toyota Yaris Ascent Sport is the third dearest with a monthly spend of $795.97. 

See the full results of the light car category from this year's Vehicle Operating Costs survey.


Kia Cerato S.
Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport.
Honda Civic VTi.

Most affordable small cars 

If you need a little more space than a light hatch, then you’re probably after a small car. This segment has some of the most popular nameplates in Australia, and with an average monthly spend of $903.44, it’s the second most affordable vehicle segment.

Kia’s best-selling model, the Cerato, in base S hatch guise, is topping the small car category, costing $802.25 per month. The most popular small car in the country, the Toyota Corolla, is second on $851.12 for the Ascent Sport petrol hatch, while Honda’s Civic VTi hatch takes third with $858.81.

The hybrid version of the same Corolla model grade is about $15 dearer to run than the petrol version. 

The pricier models in the category include another hybrid, this time Hyundai’s Ioniq Premium hatch costing $1095.72 per month. It actually has one of the lowest servicing costs in this category, but its relatively high purchase price pushes it to the bottom of the pack. A newcomer this year, Skoda’s Scala Ambition hatch is the next most expensive on $992.39, followed by the Mazda3 G20 Pure on $915.11.

Sitting in the middle of the pack are the base versions of the Hyundai i30 and Subaru Impreza. 

See the full results for the small car category from this year's Vehicle Operating Costs survey.


Hyundai Venue.
Kia Stonic S.
Hyundai Kona.

Most affordable small SUV

With a combination of light and small SUVs, this is the busiest category in this year’s survey with 13 models, and the average monthly cost for one of these little high-riding hatches is $917.60.

It’s a battle of the Korean car-makers here, with Kia and Hyundai making up the top four placings. The entry-level version of Hyundai’s boxy but charming Venue leads the charge on $793.23 a month, matching last year’s top placing in its category. Not far behind on $816.36 is the Kia Stonic S, a new entry after launching earlier this year, followed by the base Hyundai Kona on $857.09. The excellent Kia Seltos S costs $858.53, about $1.50 more a month than the Kona. 

Mazda’s CX-3 Neo Sport is next on $877.04, and the Toyota Yaris Cross GX petrol is on $883.28. Once again, it’s cheaper than the equivalent hybrid version, this time by about $17.

MG makes its second appearance in this year’s survey, sitting in the middle of the pack with the ZS T Excite on $925.37, just ahead of the Mitsubishi ASX ES on $932.56.

The three most expensive picks are the Subaru XV 2.0i ($1033.50), Toyota C-HR GXL turbo ($1029.41) and the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross ES ($1021.12). 

See the full results for the small SUV catgeory from this year's Vehicle Operating Costs survey.