This paper presents an experimental, numerical and theoretical study of the performance of the same spark ignition engine running on four different gaseous fuels: hydrogen, two synthesis gases and natural gas. Measurements of the brake thermal efficiency, the combustion variability, the engine out emissions and the indicated, pumping and friction mean effective pressures are first presented, with particular interest placed on the lean burn performance. Combustion analysis is then undertaken, with the crank angle resolved in-cylinder turbulence and the flame propagation plotted on the so-called ‘Bradley diagram’ for turbulent premixed combustion. The loci of the combustion events on the Bradley diagram are then used to explain the observed, relative performance of the engine running on these four fuels. In particular, turbulent flame stretch is argued to play a significant role in determining variations in engine performance on these four fuels, and also appears to explain the ability of hydrogen-rich fuels to perform well over a relatively wide range of lean engine operating conditions.