Zimbabwe is no stranger to fuel woes. From fuel shortages and queues to the much-maligned ethanol blending. It’s no surprise that the humble ‘fuel saver’ is a very desirable car in Zimbabwe. So much so that these fuel-sipping vehicles often hold their values as well as any classic or luxury car. The Honda Fit, Nissan March and Toyota Vitz were popular choices for importers. But with the new import regulations, buyers have had to look to newer fuel savers.
Below is our list of fuel savers on the market today; some of the above mentioned can be found on the local used car market and others meet the new 10-year import regulations. And with the popularity of EVs and hybrid fuel saving is no longer limited to just small-displacement engines. Without further ado, here’s our list of 15 Zimbabwean fuel savers.
The Original Fuel Savers
Toyota Vitz – 18km/L
The classic Toyota Vitz is available in two different generations on the local used car market. The first generation(XP10) was produced from 1999 to 2006. It was available in both three and five-door configurations and the less-than pretty wagon variant called the Fun cargo. The Vitz was powered by a range of petrol engines from 1 litre up to a more sporty 1.5L turbo engine in the peppy RS model. The middle of the pack 1.3 litre powered model could achieve a fuel consumption of 18km/litre.
The ‘new shape’ Vitz, also known as the XP90; brought a more bubble-shaped appearance and was available from 2006 to 2011. Along with the new body came a new line-up of engines ranging from 1.0 litre to 1.8 litres. In this updated model Toyota claims the 1.3L model can achieve 19.6km/litre.
Nissan March – 15.8km/L
The third generation K12 Nissan March was not as popular as the Honda Fit or the Toyota Vitz; but was widespread enough to justify its entry on this list. The little Nissan moved its rounded body via a 1.2 or 1.4litre engine powering the front wheels. These engines give the Nissan an average fuel consumption of 15.8km/litre.
Honda Fit – 18.1km/L
The Honda Fit, like the Vitz is available in two older generations on the local used car market. The first is the GD produced from 2001 up until 2008. This model is particularly popular with Mshika-shika for its award-winning interior space. I doubt it’s what Honda had envisioned for this little hatchback; but with an average fuel consumption of 18.1km/litre and versatile interior, it was/still is a popular choice. This model was powered by a range of 1.3 and 1.5L I-VTEC engines.
The ‘new-shape’ GE6+ was in production from 2009 to 2014, powered once again by 1.3 and 1.5L I-VTEC providing a similar fuel economy as the first-generation model. The most fuel-efficient model, however, was the Hybrid which will appear in more detail further down our list.
2012+ Petrol Fuel Savers
Chevrolet Spark / Daewoo Matiz – 19.6km/L
This one is a bit left-field but the Spark/Matiz is a handy little city car with decent fuel economy. If you’re a fan of the Transfomers movie you may remember the Autobot Skidz that turned into a green Chevrolet Spark. While this little car lacks the firepower of its movie counterpart; it packs an efficient little 1.0 litre engine that returns an average of 19.6km/Litre.
Honda Fit – 21.7km/L
The third-generation Honda Fit debuted in 2013 and can therefore be imported; for those worried about the life it may have led locally. Like previous generations, the vehicle has a roomy interior and a variety of petrol-sipping engines. The 1.3L inline-4 engine returns a healthy average fuel economy of 21.7km/Litre. Bettered only by its hybrid version below.
Toyota Passo – 27km/L
The third-generation Toyota Passo also known as the Daihatsu Sirion was produced from 2010 to 2016 and is powered by a 996cc engine. The fourth-generation Passo is also powered by the same engine but with some updated interior technology and bodywork. What the little Passo lacks in size it makes up for with its frugal fuel consumption. The Passo averages a claimed 27km/Litre for the front-wheel-drive version.
VW Up! – 22.7km/L
The Up! and it’s rebadged brethren the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo were introduced as VW’s new small city runabouts that sat below the VW Polo. The Up! was powered by a series of 3 cylinder 1.0L litre engines both naturally aspirated and turbocharged returning an average of 22.7km/Litre.
Datsun Go – 19.2km/L
Datsun was revived in 2013 by Nissan as a low-cost brand. However, the brand struggled. The Go was produced from 2013 until Datsun’s demise in 2022. A city car, the Go, uses the same 1.2L straight-3 engine found in the Nissan Micra/March (2010+) and Note. The Go returns a claimed 19.2km/Litre.
Mazda Demio – 19.6km/L
The Demio is also known as the Mazda 2 from 2019 is powered by a Skyactiv 1.3litre engine. Models from 2013+ are still eligible for importation. The Demio with famed Mazda dynamics and bold styling should make any owner proud. As should the claimed fuel consumption of 19.6km/Litre.
Suzuki Swift – 20.4km/L
The Suzuki Swift is another uncommon choice of vehicle for the local market. The Japanese marque has been known for its fun engaging handling in Swift specification. The entry-level model with the 1.2litre engage may not provide hot hatch thrills but the joys of not having to visit the petrol station may be enough. The Suzuki returns a claimed 20.4km/Litre.
Hybrid Fuel Savers
With the world moving towards more environmentally friendly technology, hybrids bridge the gap between the old school Internal Combustion Engines and full Electric Vehicles. Several models from well-known manufacturers are already available on the local and import used car market. You can think of these as the updated versions of the beloved original fuel savers above.
Toyota Aqua – 35.4km/L
The Toyota Aqua is also known as the Prius C in other markets is a compact version of the Prius. The Aqua went into production in 2012 and is powered by a 1.5L petrol engine and an electric motor with a small 0.9kwh battery under the rear seat. The engine and battery pack work in tandem to provide the most fuel-efficient power to drive wheels in all conditions. The Aqua returns a claimed 35.4km/Litre.
Honda Fit Hybrid – 37km/L
The second-generation 2012-13 Honda Fit Hybrid was powered by a 1.3L petrol engine and an electric motor capable of providing an estimated 30.3km/Litre. The third-generation Honda Fit (2014-2020) is powered by a slightly larger 1.5L petrol engine and an updated Hybrid system that allows the Fit to travel in electric-only mode. This updated drivetrain gives the newer model an estimated fuel economy of up 37km/Litre.
Nissan Note e-Power – 35.7km/L
Unlike the Toyota and the Honda hybrid systems in the vehicles above; Nissan’s e-Power system completely disconnects the 1.2-litre petrol engine from the wheels. The only purpose of the engine is to power a generator to recharge the batteries that power the motor. The Note actually uses the same motor as the Nissan Leaf paired with a 1.5kWh battery. This system allowed a team to achieve a real-world return of 35.7km/Litre.
Electric Vehicles (EVs)
It is a little cheeky to place EVs on a list of fuel savers but if you’re using zero fuel then you must be saving fuel right? The reality is that an EV is not a one size fits all and you really do need to consider your particular use case, and ability to charge during the inevitable load-shedding/faults we experience regularly in Zimbabwe. That said there will be those that are fortunate to be in a situation to use an EV comfortably.
The first-generation Nissan Leaf was in production from 2010-2017 and was available with a 24 or 30kWh battery. This means you will have about 100-120km of range per charge. This definitely is not ideal with our current charging infrastructure but if your daily commute is less than 80km round trip this could make the first generation leaf an effective runabout. You can read about our experience behind the wheel of one here.
The second-generation leaf updated the styling and the battery to give a much-needed jump in range. The 2018+ model is available with either a 40kWh or a 62kWh battery pack. This boosts the Leaf’s range to 243-364km respectively. ZERA currently has one of these 62kWh models locally and has taken it around the country to Victoria Falls, Mutare and Bulawayo.
BYD has taken a journey similar to that of Hyundai or Kia. In Zimbabwe the vehicles are available from EVC Africa. The BYD e6 is a compact MPV and so offers more interior room than the Leaf. While the interior and materials may not be luxurious the 60kWh – 80kWh batteries and 300-400km claimed range more than make up where they may lack. The e6 has become a popular model for use as an airport shuttle or taxi. The 2021+ model claims to further increase it’s range to 500km.
Do you drive any of these or should we add more to this list? Do you have an underrated fuel saver? Let us know in the comments below!