Best small cars to buy in 2023
High quality small cars from rated and reviewed dealers
Best small cars of 2023
Small cars might just be the best cars money can buy, because while there is undoubted appeal in a big SUV, they are often completely unnecessary. A car’s primary job is to get you from A to B, and if you don’t really need to carry loads of people and stuff with you, a small car will do the job just as quickly while being cheaper to buy, cheaper to run and generally less polluting, too.
And if it’s safety you’re worried about, small cars are just as capable of scoring full marks in Euro NCAP safety testing as larger cars, and these days many come packed with the latest driver assistance technology too.
On top of this, many of the cars listed below are quiet and refined while driving on the motorway. Small cars might be at their best in the city, where their dinky dimensions make manoeuvring in tight spots easier, but they’re generally capable of road tripping with little compromise on comfort.
With all this in mind, our team of expert reviewers have put together this list of the best small cars on sale in the UK right now.
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The lightest small cars are just under the tonne mark, with the Peugeot 208 dipping down to 980kg. Most others — the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, SEAT Ibiza, Honda Jazz, Dacia Sandero — cluster around the 1,100kg mark. A MINI — ironically — is a little heavier, at 1,200kg. Electric power (or more accurately the battery pack) adds a lot of weight, though. A Peugeot e-208 weighs 1,455kg, while the Renault Zoe is 1,502kg.
It’s a pretty simple answer — the Toyota Yaris Hybrid. The Yaris has an official figure of 68.9mpg, and some independent tests have found that it can reach 80mpg if driven gently around town (where its hybrid system is at its most efficient). In electric terms, a Renault Zoe, Mini Cooper S E, or Peugeot e-208 should all average around 3.0 miles per kWh.
To find out how to improve the fuel efficiency of your car and save money at the pumps, take a look at our guide on ways to get better MPG.
There are a few cars vying for the title of Britain's cheapest car, but each are great little motors that mean you don't need to sacrifice too much quality to save cash. the Kia Picanto is the cheapest, followed closely by the Dacia Sandero, MG3 and Citroen C3. The MG is the weakest of this quartet, but you can't really go wrong with the other three.
Generally, small cars will be more reliable on average than bigger, more technically complex cars, and there’s no hard-and-fast rules about an individual brand’s reliability. After all, Peugeot topped the JD Power reliability survey just a couple of years ago. That said, if you want to play it safe in reliability terms, it’s always best to buy Japanese, so the Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris should be your first ports of call, here.
While this is something of a subjective thing, there are a couple of stand-out performances here. The Peugeot 208 has fantastic seats, which are really comfortable and supportive, while the new Skoda Fabia scores highly simply because it’s a little roomier inside than some others, so you have more stretching-out space.
Many drivers will feel more comfortable in a small car, especially in town. Certainly, all of the cars on this list are far easier to drive and park in urban areas than, say, an SUV, and these days there’s no penalty on the open road in terms of refinement nor stability. The key to ease of driving is good visibility, so the likes of the Honda Jazz and MINI Hatch score highly.
Easy answer here — it’s the Skoda Fabia, which has a 380-litre boot, easily eclipsing the luggage space of any other car here (even the roomy Honda Jazz only offers 304 litres). For reference, the Fabia’s boot is the same size as that of the larger Volkswagen Golf hatchback.
Yes. New small cars will generally be safer than older smaller cars. Over time, cars tend to become safer as more safety tech is developed. Also, in Europe the crash testing procedure, conducted by crash test safety organisation Euro NCAP, has become more rigorous. So a small car with a five star 2022 star rating will have more safety features than a small car with the same star rating but tested in 2016, for example.
But these are generalisations. Safety kit varies between models in a range and across different cars. To see just how much safety kit a new small car has make sure you check out the ‘Prices and Specs’ section for the review, where you can see the different safety features each model has.
Of course, it's impossible to overcome the laws of physics - a three-tonne SUV will have more impact-absorbing structure around it in the event of a collision than an 1,100kg supermini - but sophisticated electronic safety kit is now mandatory on even the smallest new car, helping avoid collisions in the first place, while crumple zones, airbags and other safety developments mean modern small cars are pretty safe in general.
Different cars have different characteristics and talents. The Fiat 500e is stylish, nippy and cute, but it's also relatively small and impractical and doesn't have the biggest range. The Renault Zoe, meanwhile, is a little bit anonymous to look at, but has a much better range than the Fiat.
The Toyota Yaris and Renault Clio hybrids are both great little cars, with relaxing driving experiences and reasonable prices.
Most small cars are available with an automatic gearbox, so your best bet here is to shortlist a few great small cars from the list above, then go test drive automatic versions of these to see which you prefer. A VW Polo with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox is hard to beat, though.
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