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Despite the growing popularity of SUVs, small cars continue to be the bestsellers on the market. Typically, they’re cheap to buy, cheap to run and cheap to insure. Yet that’s only one side of the small car story. Proving that big things can come in small packages, this type of vehicle is:

  • Agile and nimble
  • Great for city driving
  • Easy to park
  • Fuel efficient
  • Good for building driver confidence
  • Fun to drive
  • Often surprisingly spacious inside

These vehicles are usually great for:

  • First-time drivers
  • Small families
  • First-time buyers
  • Smaller budgets

Buying New vs Used

One of the best things about small cars is their affordability. You can pick up a new compact vehicle from around £10K, and a second-hand model for half the price. Before deciding on whether you want to buy a used or new car, it’s always worth checking the market to see what’s available in both domains. You can often find:

  • Excellent finance deals for new cars
  • High spec used models with low mileage going cheaply
  • Brand new budget small cars that perform well at competitive prices

Top 10 Best Small Cars

For more on small cars, why not check out our Best Small Cars for First-Time Buyers and Best Small Family Cars lists?

Read on to discover our pick of the 10 best small cars.

1. Seat Ibiza

Whilst it might cost a little more than some of its rivals, the Seat Ibiza is a leader in the small car class. It offers 355-litres of boot space, excellent build quality and a spacious cabin for a car its size. You’ll find it’s good to drive with agile handling and eager acceleration, even with the 1.0-litre TSI engine with 94bhp output. It’s perhaps no wonder then that the Seat Ibiza was recently awarded the overall winner of the best small car in the What Car? Car of the Year Awards 2018. However, for good standard equipment, buyers will want to look to the mid-level SE Technology trim or above.

Best features:

  • Class-leading boot space
  • Pleasant to drive
  • Spacious cabin

2. Mini Hatch

Available as a three or five-door, the Mini hatchback was another winner in the best small car category in the What Car? Car of the Year Awards 2018. Without a doubt, it’s easily the most iconic vehicle in its class, offering a stylish exterior and a refined interior. Whilst the new Mini is neither as small as past incarnations, nor as cheap (those days are long gone), it still excels in its driving experience. As you’d expect from a Mini, it handles exceptionally well, with good acceleration. It’s not as practical as other cars on this list, but then other cars on this list aren’t as iconic or fun to drive.

Best features:

  • Most iconic small car
  • Fun to drive
  • Stylish inside and out

3. Volkswagen Polo

The Volkswagen Polo came in a close second to the Seat Ibiza in our top 10 list of The Best Small Cars for First-Time Buyers and here it is in third place, highlighting how good a car it really is. Firstly, the VW Polo offers a spacious interior for its class, with a 351-litre boot. Secondly, its overall build quality is excellent. You’ll also find there’s an excellent range of economical and powerful engines, as well as a good variety of trims to suit different needs and wants. However, like the Mini, it’s more expensive than some of its rivals and doesn’t come as well-equipped. Yet if you stick to a lower-spec trim with the economical 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine, it proves good value for money.

Best features:

  • Premium build quality
  • Very spacious, with 351-litre boot
  • Top quality interior

4. Ford Fiesta

If you’re looking for an involved and fun driving experience, then you should seriously consider the Ford Fiesta. In terms of the small car market, the Fiesta is a class-leader. It offers excellent handling, punchy acceleration, nippy agility and good levels of comfort. The car comes with a great range of clever turbo-charged engines to choose from too, like the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engines, which provide the right amount of power and very good miles per gallon. The low running costs and driveability are great selling points in themselves, yet the Fiesta also manages to provide a good amount of space in the interior. It’s clear why this car is one of Britain’s bestselling vehicles.

Best features:

  • Cheap to run
  • Excellent to drive
  • Spacious

5. Skoda Fabia

The Skoda Fabia proves great value for money. Putting some of its more expensive rivals to shame, you get a lot of interior space, as well as neat storage compartments and a good sized, practical boot at 330 litres. It’s also good to drive and cheap to run, and it does all this at a low starting price. The Fabia isn’t just a great budget car – it’s a great small car in general. It has some standout driver assistance technology and safety kit as well.

Best features:

  • Great value for money
  • Good to drive
  • Cheap to run

6. Skoda Citigo

If you’re looking for a compact city car, the Skoda Citigo is one of the best available. It also came first in our top 10 list of The Best Budget Cars for First-Time Buyers. Even if you’re not a first-time buyer, the Citigo is well worth a look. You’ll find it’s quite spacious inside, at least enough to fit four adults comfortably, and there are plenty of practical storage compartments. The car’s good to drive as well, with nice handling. If you like the look of the Citigo, check out the Volkswagen Up and the Seat Mii. These three cars use the same platform and are just as good as each other. The Skoda pips the others to this spot by being that little bit cheaper.

Best features:

  • Good to drive
  • Low running costs
  • Excellent value for money

7. Audi A1

The Audi A1 is a premium hatchback that offers the kind of refinement you’d expect from the Audi brand. For those extra pounds you’ll spend over rivals, you’ll get a high-quality interior with soft plastics and a nice finish, as well as an overall premium build quality. However, the A1’s not as spacious as some of its cheaper competitors, and adults will find the back seats cramped. Driving wise, the Audi performs much better. It’s balanced and nimble with firm suspension that helps with cornering, and the steering is light and responsive too. In short, it’s a fun car to drive.

Best features:

  • Upmarket brand appeal
  • Premium build quality
  • Fun to drive

8. Mazda 2

The Mazda 2 is a neat city car that’s a joy to drive. The cabin is roomy and comfortable and there’s a decent 280-litre boot, too. However, compared to its rivals, the rear seats aren’t as spacious and the entry level model is not that well-equipped. Yet upgrade to the SE-L trim with the 89bhp petrol engine and you get a lane departure warning system, smart city braking support assistance, cruise control, a DAB radio, Bluetooth and a 7-inch colour display. If you have the budget, it’s certainly good value for money – especially with that extra power from the engine. The Mazda 2 is also noteworthy for its excellent reliability rating.

Best features:

  • Fun to drive
  • Low running costs
  • Good reliability

9. Hyundai i10

Small and compact on the outside yet surprisingly spacious on the inside, the Hyundai i10 comfortably sits four adults (five at a push). It’s a great little car that’s cheap to run, with good fuel economy. It’s also pretty good to drive and cheap to service as well. To get the most out of the car, it’s best to opt for the SE trim. You’ll get basics like air-conditioning, electric windows, remote central locking, cruise control and more. If you go for the Premium SE trim, you’ll also get a brilliant, class-leading infotainment system (though for the extra price it’s not necessarily the best value).

Best features:

  • Cheap to run
  • Good to drive
  • Surprisingly spacious

10. Nissan Micra

The Nissan Micra is a stylish supermini that’s fun to drive, cheap to run and fuel efficient. The car is fairly spacious and comfortable too, though taller people may find the headroom a bit lacking in the rear seats. Where the Micra excels is with its excellent safety kit that’s fitted as standard, even in the entry level model. For your money, you get a lane departure warning system, intelligent emergency braking with pedestrian recognition and intelligent lane intervention. It’s certainly a big selling point for the small car. It’s also practical, with a big 300-litre boot.

Best features:

  • Stylish
  • Good to drive
  • Excellent safety kit
Back to articles January 3, 2019

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