15/01/2014 11:30

Best city cars to buy

A guide to our highest-rated small cars for all budgets

Kia Picanto (© Kia)

Budget - Kia Picanto -£7,795 - £12,295

Kia's new Picanto is still small and affordable but this new generation is more stylish than its predecessor and Hyundai i10 blood brother

We like: grown-up looks, excellent refinement for a small car, seven-year warranty, perky handling, cheap running costs

We dislike: narrow boot opening, some cheap cabin materials, perhaps not quite as cheap as you'd hope

Read a Kia Picanto review
Buy a Kia Picanto on Auto Trader

Volkswagen Up! (© Volkswagen)

Affordable - Volkswagen Up! (£7,995-£11,180)

An exceptional new city car from Volkswagen, the Up! offers impressive space for its size, VW build quality, economical petrol engines and there's some innovative high-tech kit available

We like: fun, frugal and full of character, roomier enough for adults in the back (just), city safety braking option, affordable

We dislike: Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii are the same thing, only cheaper (and without the cachet of a VW badge)

Read a Volkswagen Up! review

Fiat 500 (© Fiat)

Premium - Fiat 500 (£9,960-£16,861)

Fiat's 500 is cute as a button, but also intelligently thought out and surprisingly practical. Packed with airbags, it shares a chassis with the Ford Ka, so is fun to drive, and offers an ultra-eco two-cylinder petrol engine called TwinAir.

We like: all round package looks good, drives nicely, has plenty of standard safety kit, can be personalised to your heart's content, too

We dislike: Abarth hot hatch version fast but expensive, TwinAir engine characterful but not quite as economical in the real world as you'd like

Read a Fiat 500 review
Buy a Fiat 500 on Auto Trader

Also consider
Toyota Aygo
- sister car to the Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1
Smart ForTwo - small and perfectly formed
Nissan Pixo - Nissan's cheap new city car lacks fun but packs a spark
Vauxhall Agila - practical but dull city car motoring

Used cars

0-£3k: Suzuki Wagon R

Suzuki Wagon R (© Suzuki)

The old saying goes: "You don't look at the mantelpiece when you're stoking the fire'. Good job too, with the Wagon R. It may not be a looker, but it's pretty sharp around town. This price could put you in a 2007 example!

We like: big lights and high roofline, there to do a job. There's something proud about an honest car with no style pretentions. The looks won't get the girls but reliability will get you there and back, every time.

We don't like: No longer sold in the UK but that's not a deal breaker. Auto transmission makes it heavy on fuel: stick with the manual. Don't expect stunning economy: remember that lowly purchase price.

Buy a used Suzuki Wagon R on Auto Trader

£3k-£5k: Citroen C1/Peugeot 107/Toyota Aygo

Toyota Aygo (© Toyota)

A Midlands garage owner friend ran a 5dr C1 as a courtesy car. Lending it to a Golf diesel commuter one day, they filled up the tank and sent him off. When it came back from London, the C1 had done almost 90 mpg. He immediately sold the Golf.

We like: stunning fuel economy, nippiness, 5dr option, nifty colours on some. Costs almost zilch to run, generally reliable, looks well with lots of space.

We don't like: occasionally feeling vulnerable is part and parcel of driving something this size. Some add an Aygo premium when the C1 and 107 are essentially identical.

Buy a used Citroen C1 on Auto Trader

£5k+: Fiat 500

Fiat 500 (© Fiat)

Built for a country where style is the deciding factor, the original Fiat 500 was a city car par excellence. The latest incarnation has all the soul of the original. Let's not mention the overdubbed Alonso TV ad: poor Fernando.

We like: entry level S/S is all the car you need for 99% of jobs. Nippy engines, light steering, swish cabin: only Gwyneth Paltrow has more style around town than this bambinoccino.

We don't like: non-essential extras cost quite a bit more. Do you really need them? Simplicity is underrated!

Buy a used Fiat 500 on Auto Trader

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