City cars always used to be incredibly basic and suitable only for pootling around town. Even think about venturing onto an A road and you’d get buffeted about by an off-roader, let alone a lorry, and motorways were a recipe for disaster.

Not any more however. Gone are the days when city cars were cramped, noisy, uncomfortable and slow. More than that, the latest batch of small cars are not only sophisticated machines, but they’re also desirable vehicles than many motorists may choose to buy out of want rather than need; downsizing doesn’t have to mean compromising on luxury or equipment.

Low prices needn't mean low expectations

The latest of these cute, compact models is the Renault Twingo. Starting at less than £10,000 this model doesn’t skimp on style or equipment and buyers can tick dozens of boxes to personalise their car to their heart’s desire, with lots of colourful interior and exterior trim to choose from.

It comes with plenty of big-car kit on the options list including sat nav, a reversing camera, premium audio system, heated front seats, climate control and automatic lights and wipers. Even if you opt for the top-of-the-range model, which accelerates with more verve than your average supermini, you won’t have to stump up more than £12,000.

And don’t think that the Twingo is the only city car that will get you reaching for your credit card; the Toyota Aygo is similarly small and nippy around town and prices start at a mere £7,995, though you’ll want to dig a little deeper to get a better equipped mid-range model. Styling is striking with a large ‘x’ motif emblazoned across the car’s nose, while its light weight makes it speedy to thread through urban streets. Citroen’s C1 and Peugeot’s 108 are closely related to the Aygo and provide similar fun for similarly low prices.

Well under £10,000 can buy a good city car

The Skoda Citigo, Seat Mii and VW Up triplets – which are nearly identical under the skin – are also available from just over £8,000 and give you attractive looks, comfortable interiors and engines which can return over 60mpg if you driver sensibly. £8,600 is also enough to get you the keys to the Hyundai i10, which makes an equally strong claim of being the only car you need, with a reasonable amount of space and refinement on the motorway.

In contrast, you can easily spend £25,000 on a well-equipped new diesel medium-sized family car like the Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra – and while these are appealing machines you no longer need to think about downsizing and spending less on a city car as taking a step down the ladder.

With many car buyers queuing to buy upmarket off-roaders, which can cost more than most conventional models to fuel, tax and service or cars from ‘premium’ brands which come with hefty list prices, those heading the opposite direction down the car price lists can bag a bargain.

Even the previous generations of these city cars are more than spacious and refined enough to satisfy a number of car buyers. Take a look at the Renault Twingo, Toyota Aygo, VW Up and Hyundai i10 to find an affordable city car to suits your needs.

Pictures: Manufacturers