Massive manoeuvrability and big practicality from Renault’s 2014 Twingo city car
Top 10: Cheapest cars to insure
The March license registration change is nearly here and dealers will be hoping that we flood into their showrooms and fatten their wallets in our desire to be the first on the roads with an '06' plate.
There are plenty of deals around to tempt buyers; with offers of low finance, one pound deposits and cashback available in many outlets but don’t forget to factor in the cost of running the car and one of the biggest regular outlays is insurance. But choose your new car carefully and you can save a bundle so here’s our pick of the bunch
Built in the same factory as its Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 106 siblings the Citroen is a similarly cheap and cheerful offering. Powered by an eager 1.0 litre petrol engine the C1 falls into the Group one insurance bracket, rising to group two if you opt for 1.4 diesel power. But there’s no need, as the petrol unit is sweet and eager to rev yet still returns over 60mpg on the combined cycle. Parts costs should be dirt cheap, helping keep insurance bills low because underwriters will factor the lower repair costs into your premium. It may be essentially identical to the Toyota and Peugeot offerings but Citroen’s keen pricing policy means the C1 should undercut the other two. If you need a bit more space, base models of the bigger C2 also fall into insurance group one.
Do we really have to dredge up all those dreary old Skoda jokes again just to make the point that the Czech firm is now a force to be reckoned with and no laughing matter as far as its opposition is concerned? Since the VW takeover in 1991, Skoda has gone from strength to strength and now offers a range of attractive, well built and great value practical motors. The little Fabia supermini is a case in point. Based on the VW Polo but substantially cheaper than the offering from its parent company, the Fabia is neatly styled, hardwearing and a safe, if not a thrilling, drive. Only the base 1.2 litre petrol-engined Classic falls into insurance group one but there are a smattering of models in the band above.
There is an all new model on the way, based on the same platform as the good looking new Fiat Grande Punto so only look at the existing Corsa if the dealer is prepared to offer you his firstborn to clinch the deal. Having said that, the little Vauxhall has been around for donkeys years and has evolved into a remarkably able product even if it’s never going to ignite your desire to jump in and drive just for the hell of it. Let’s face it, you’re most likely to see a Corsa bunny-hopping away from the lights with BSM branding all over it. But that tells you that the Corsa does exactly what it says on the tin, it is laughably easy to drive and tough enough to stand up to the abuse inflicted on it by learner-drivers. The three-cylinder, 1.0 litre petrol model is in insurance Group one.
Click here for spy shots of the new Corsa
The Panda is a brilliant return to form for Fiat as the troubled Italian giant remembers what it does well – build cracking cars that can’t fail but put a smile on your face. The Panda really is a grin inducing little thing to chuck around corners with engaging handling and a range of willing engines. Proof positive that fun doesn’t have to mean massive engines, tyres, weight and fuel consumption. The 4x4 is amazingly capable thanks to its light weight; it won’t get you to the top of the mountain but it should easily carry you to the ski resort. The Panda is also remarkably practical, spacious and seemingly well built. Only the 1.1 falls into the lowest insurance bracket but upgrading to the 1.2 petrol or 1.3 diesel only raises the car into group two so it is well worth it.
A firm British favourite, the Fiesta has been around for 30 years now and regularly tops sales charts. The current incarnation was given a lukewarm reception when it launched, the supermini sector has undergone a revolution in recent times and the Fiesta seemed a bit behind the times. But it has been recently facelifted and kitted out with lots of 'youth' features such as Bluetooth phone connectivity to boost its appeal. Above all the Fiesta is probably the most fun supermini to drive, even in its most basic guise. The 1.25 litre Studio model is in group two but this eager motor should still return 45mpg overall.
In its television advertising, Kia makes much of the fact that the Picanto is the only car at this price that comes with five doors and stresses the added convenience and practicality that goes hand in hand with that. And for £5,500, the Picanto really can’t be beaten if you simply must have a brand new car on an ‘06’ plate. OK, you’re not going to get much, a weedy 1.0 litre engine, a bouncy ride and decidedly archaic handling but the Picanto is reasonably cute, and comes in some eye-catching hues. The basic S model is fairly spartan, but spend a little more and you’ll get some creature comforts like a CD player, alloys and electric windows. Both one-litre models are in insurance group two.
Yes OK, it’s a Daewoo underneath and a rather long in the tooth one at that but the Matiz is still a decent little city car, with, like the Picanto, the added advantage of five doors. A recent facelift took the edge off the Matiz’s cute looks but should still keep it fresh for a few more years since Chevrolet claims 80% of the car is new. The tiny 0.8 litre, three-cylinder engine means the Matiz is definitely a city car, and with a 0-60 time of 18.2 seconds even taxis are going to beat you away from the lights but the engine is eager and the revamp considerably improved the ride and handling. Inside you will find acres of space both front and rear plus standard CD player and ABS brakes.
Now into its second generation, the Yaris remains one of our favourite superminis but with the launch of the Aygo, the original started to seem a bit, well, too mini, as it was barely any bigger than its younger sibling. So the Yaris grew up but sadly lost some of its joie de vivre and keenness to be driven. The fit and finish inside is as exemplary as you’d expect from the company that owns the Lexus marque. The 1.3-litre petrol is eager and revvy but lacks torque whilst the 1.4-litre diesel is unexpectedly noisy. The two engines return 47mpg and 63mpg whilst there is also the option of the one-litre, 52mpg, three-cylinder job from the Aygo.
For years the Micra existed in a sort of learner driver limbo, you knew that anyone you saw driving one without L plates had only bought it because they’d learned to drive in one and couldn’t think of anything else. But then Nissan came up with a rather radical redesign and a series of annoying advertising buzzwords to alert us to the fact that the new Micra was rather clever. Indeed it does offer features like keyless entry and go, parking sensors and air-con, which are usually the preserve of much more expensive motors. The interior doesn’t let the side down either, offering up an ivory, Bakelite style, dash that is a cut above the norm. The Micra also provides a decent driving experience with the 1.2-litre petrol offering a surprising 80bhp. Maybe that’s why you don’t see many in driving school livery these days.
Yet another grown up supermini on the list that proves that size doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it that counts. The third generation Clio is a world away from its predecessor in terms of build quality, driving position and refinement. You might struggle to describe the Clio as a supermini though these days, as it is less than afoot shorter than its big brother, the Megane. But that space has been put to good use, there is easily room for four adults plus their luggage and Renault has filled it to the gunwales with safety equipment, helping it score a full five star rating from Euro NCAP. However the growth has come with a weight penalty, a whopping 130kg over the outgoing model in fact and the 1.2 litre entry level will struggle but still returns nearly 50mpg combined.
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