Good small cars can’t play the size or cheapness card – they need to do everything well. The best ones are good to drive, practical, spacious enough for four adults and have snazzy interiors with decent levels of tech. Not an easy brief, then, but a few hatchbacks nail it.
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[2018 update: A few recently released hatchbacks surge towards the top of our list in 2018. The upmarket VW Polo and sporty Ford Fiesta take first and third positions respectively while the facelifted Mini Hatchback scores fifth place.]
Here are the best small cars on sale:
- VW Polo
- Skoda Citigo
- Ford Fiesta
- Hyundai i10
- Mini Hatchback
- Mazda 2
- SEAT Ibiza
- Vauxhall Corsa
- Nissan Micra
- Suzuki Ignis
1. VW Polo
VW somehow always manages to make the Polo better than the car it replaces. This latest version looks smart, has a great interior, a range of strong engines and the ability to put a smile on your face through the corners. VW’s Active Info digital dials – like you’d find on an expensive Audi – are available, and the boot space is a massive 71 litres bigger than the old car (and bigger than some larger cars). In fact, it’s good enough to consider buying one over a Golf.
2. Skoda Citigo
The Skoda Citigo offers Tardis-like space in a super-small, well-built package. Four adults can fit in without having to be contortionists – just – and its boot is impressively roomy for such a small car. Sure, it’s not particularly wide but its loadbay is deeper than in many larger models. The Skoda’s small size means you can nip through packed city streets and park in the tightest of spaces without breaking a sweat.
3. Ford Fiesta
Like the Polo, the Fiesta gets better with every new model. The new one has big boots to fill because the last one was so good, but it’s even better to drive and the interior is a marked improvement over the old button-heavy cabin. There’s something for everyone in the range – economy-focused tiddly engines, diesels for great motorway performance, a posh Vignale model, an upcoming fast ST version with almost 200hp and sporty looks and there’ll even be an Active version able to do light off-roading. It’s no wonder the Fiesta is always one of the best-selling cars in the UK.
4. Hyundai i10
Is comfort one of the things you’re looking for in a car? Have a look at the bitesize Hyundai i10 – it’ll soak up all but the worst that British roads have to offer, and it’s quiet on a motorway schlep. It’s also available with a smooth automatic gearbox, which you won’t find on many small cars, and comes as standard with Hyundai’s impressive five-year warranty.
5. Mini Hatchback
It might focus on style, but that doesn’t mean the Mini Hatchback doesn’t have substance. It’s one of the best-handling cars in its class, has an interior like nothing else and there’s just enough space for four adults. It is a bit of a squeeze in the rear so passengers won’t be as happy on long journeys, the boot is a bit small and the opening is slightly impeded by the large brakelights. Not that you’ll mind too much once you’re driving it down a twisty B-road.
6. Mazda 2
The Mazda 2 is a sharp-looking, sporty hatchback that’s easy to drive, cheap to run and comes with lots of equipment as standard. Its minimalist cabin feels well built and everything’s easy to use but other small cars have more spacious back seats and bigger boots. That said, few alternatives are quite as much fun to drive as the Mazda, especially if you pick the most powerful 1.5-litre petrol engine.
7. SEAT Ibiza
SEAT’s latest Ibiza is based on the Polo and adds some Spanish styling flair to the mix. It’s one of the newest hatchbacks around and offers a blend of sweet handling, stylish design and amazing practicality – two adults can sit behind each other with no complaints, and the 355-litre boot is one of the biggest boots you can get for this price. Some critics say that the inside is lacking a bit of the outside’s verve, but the touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use and overall it feels very well-built.
8. Vauxhall Corsa
The Vauxhall Corsa is another car that is usually a best-seller, and this latest version offers more than ever. The interior feels solid and the touchscreen infotainment system has been thoroughly improved – it’s very easy to use and offers both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Space in the rear seats is better than the old car, and as an additional bonus it’s now got much more styling flair than previous models.
9. Nissan Micra
The new Nissan Micra certainly looks more exciting than most small cars on the outside and comes with a modern interior with plenty of high-tech toys (such as smartphone mirroring) as standard. There’s just about enough room for three adults to sit in the back and the Micra’s boot is more spacious than in most small hatchbacks. It’s reasonably quiet on the move too, but models with the 71hp petrol engine feel a bit sluggish.
9. Suzuki Ignis
Unlike the Skoda, you’ll certainly stand out if you drive a Suzuki Ignis – its chunky styling will catch people’s attention and divide opinion like Marmite. It’s boxy and tall so has lots of headroom and a higher driving position, and the 267-litre boot is just about big enough for suitcases and holiday gear. Four adults can fit into the Ignis easily, but the rear seats are a bit tight so passengers will be wanting to stop more frequently. You can even have a mild-hybrid Ignis to maximise fuel economy and minimise emissions.
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