The small car market is one of the most fiercely contested – great news if you’re after this sort of vehicle. It means not only that there are stacks of models to choose from, but also that standards are incredibly high.
To have a chance of topping the class, a small car must be as comfortable on the motorway as it is in the city. It must offer a decent amount of equipment, enough boot space for weekly shopping trips and an interior that’s practical enough to cope with the demands of families. And it must, of course, be competitively priced.
To help you find the right small car, we’ve picked out our top 10 – and we’ve also named the one you should avoid.
10. Honda Jazz
The Honda Jazz has long bridged the gap between small cars and mini-MPVs, and the latest version continues that tradition. It offers class-leading space and practicality and should outlast you with its outstanding reliability. It’s just a shame the ride is rather unsettled.
Our pick: 1.3 i-VTEC SE
9. Renault Clio
The Renault Clio is an established name in the small car world, and it’s still a popular choice in the UK. There’s plenty of scope to personalise this stylish hatchback, and while it’s a little bit behind rivals such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo when it comes to engine quietness, the diesel engine recommended here is a real delight. The interior is reasonably spacious, too, even if some of the fixtures and fittings feel a little cheap.
Our pick: 1.5 dCi 90 Dynamique Media Nav
8. Audi A1
The Audi A1 is the classiest of all the small cars, with a high-quality interior that’s pure Audi on a small scale. It has a strong range of engines in its line-up and offers an enjoyable drive. Go for the five-door Sportback version and there’s room for two adults to sit reasonably comfortably in the back, too, although there are still more practical choices.
Our pick: 1.4 TFSI 125 Sport
7. Mini hatchback
If you want a truly high-end supermini, then the Mini should be on your shortlist. The Mini hatchback offers stylish looks, a classy, tech-laden interior and plenty of personalisation options. Additionally, if you go for the Cooper version, you’ll get a great engine and all the technology you could ever want.
Our pick: 1.5T Cooper Chili Media 5dr
6. Volkswagen Polo
The VW Polo is a premium supermini in every sense. It’s got a classy interior, smart looks on the outside and a fairly hefty price tag to match. Don’t toss it aside just yet, though, because it has a broad mix of engines and trim levels, ensuring that there’s something for everyone in the range. Our advice would be to avoid the more expensive high-end models and instead stick to the economical 1.2-litre petrol option in Match trim.
Our pick: 1.2 90 Match 5dr
5. Kia Rio
The Rio has has always offered a big helping of practicality and competitive pricing, and the latest version adds a spark of desirability. Highlights include sprightly turbocharged engines and lots of technology including a touchscreen infotainment system and automatic emergency braking.
Our pick: 1.0 T-GDi 99 2
4. Hyundai i20
If you’re after a small car that will give you a load of space inside, then the Hyundai i20 should be on your list. Its interior space dwarfs almost any other car in this class, and because of that we’re inclined to forgive some of its foibles, such as its cheap-feeling interior. The i20 is good value for money, though, and the turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol we recommend here is perky and refined.
Our pick: 1.0 T-GDi 100 Turbo Edition
3. Skoda Fabia
The Skoda Fabia is a former What Car? Car of the Year and is still one of our favourite small cars. Materials and build quality are both top notch, and the Fabia should be affordable to run, with our favourite version averaging more than 60mpg in official tests. It’s also practical, well priced and both quiet and composed on the open road.
Our pick: 1.2 TSI 90 SE
2. Ford Fiesta
The Ford Fiesta is the best-selling car in the UK, and it’s easy to see why. It’s great fun to drive and is available with tempting discounts, while the Ecoboost petrol engines are punchy, quiet and frugal. The interior trim on the latest Fiesta feels upmarket for this class, and the touchscreen infotainment system brings it bang up to date.
Our pick: 1.0T 100 Ecoboost 140 ST-Line 5dr
1. Seat Ibiza
The Seat Ibiza is the best small car on the market; it has no major weak areas. Not only is it great to drive, it’s seriously spacious inside and even the lower-powered 94bhp version of the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine we’ve tried so far pulls eagerly from low revs. The Skoda Fabia may be cheaper to buy, but the Ibiza will hold its value better than the Fabia.
If you’re looking for a practical, value for money supermini, look no further.
The small car to avoid – Alfa Romeo Mito
Stylish though it may be, the Alfa Romeo Mito falls so far behind the best in this class in areas such as space, comfort and refinement that it’s near impossible to recommend.