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The best city cars 2023

  • Parkers list the best city cars available
  • They all promise low fuel bills and cheap tax
  • Cut your living costs with style

Written by Luke Wilkinson Published: 5 September 2023 Updated: 15 November 2023

City cars are great. They’re the smallest new cars you buy today without straying into quadricycle territory. These days, they’re normally around four metres long and powered by tiny 1.0-litre petrol engine, which makes them perfectly suited for urban environments. Because they’re cheap to run and insure, they also make ideal cars for newly qualified drivers.

Don’t be fooled by their size, though. City cars are no longer the slow, utilitarian means of transport they used to be. Modern turbocharger technology and featherlight kerb weights means they’re surprisingly nippy off the mark. They’re reasonably accomplished out of town, too, with enough pace and refinement to stand up to motorway traffic.

In the past, opting for a car this small also meant sacrificing cabin equipment and safety technology – but todays city cars can be specified with some impressive extras. For example, the Volkswagen Up can be equipped with a six-speaker Beats audio system and the Hyundai i10 features lane-keeping assist and autonomous emergency braking as standard.

There’s no getting around the size issue, mind. Tall drivers might find some of the cars in this to be a bit of a squeeze, and you wouldn’t want to use them for regularly carrying four passengers. The cost savings might just be worth the sacrifice, though. Browse our list below for some inspiration.

The best city cars for 2023

Still a brilliant city car after all these years

This plucky little city car has had a very long life. The Volkswagen Up! was launched back in 2012, which means it’s enjoyed a decade of sales. To put that another way, that’s three years longer than most larger cars last before they’re replaced. During that time, Volkswagen has released several iterations of the car, including a pure-electric model and a zingy GTI-badged hot hatch.

You can have the Up! with either three or five doors and, because it subscribes to the original Mini’s boxy-styling-wheel-at-each-corner design brief, its interior is surprisingly spacious. The boot’s a reasonable size, too, measuring 251 litres with the rear seats in place and up to 959 litres with the bench folded. Even the build quality is good, and the cabin is well-isolated from road noise.

Read the full Volkswagen Up review


  • Class-leading build quality
  • Peppy range of engines
  • Fabulous Up GTI model


  • Pricier than many rivals
  • Three-star Euro NCAP rating

Grown-up choice with excellent reliability

The Up! is good, but the Hyundai i10 is newer and cheaper. It stormed onto the market in 2019, offering sharp styling, solid build quality and competitive pricing. Yes, it’s not quite as fun to drive as Volkswagen’s effort, but it has a more spacious interior and a marginally bigger boot.

You’re not exactly short-changed on the equipment front either. Even the most basic SE model comes with autonomous emergency braking, cruise control, lane-keeping assist and air conditioning. Make merry with the options list and you can have such luxuries as an 8.0-inch infotainment system, a wireless smartphone charger, a heated steering wheel and a rear-view parking camera. You can even have a sporty N-Line model with 100hp and a racy body kit.

Read the full Hyundai i10 review


  • Exceptional interior space compared to rivals
  • Classy, easy-to-use dashboard
  • Lots of safety equipment


  • Optional automatic gearbox is atrocious
  • Higher trim levels are pricey

Still our favourite small electric car

Fiat did a great job with the new 500e. It’s effortlessly stylish and, because this new model is fully electric, you can drive it through your local town completely guilt-free. It isn’t even desperately impractical – the more expensive 42kWh model can travel around 200 miles on a single charge and it can charge to 80% capacity in around 30 minutes.

Those figures are encouraging enough to coax you away from the city and onto the open road – as are the 500e’s punchy electric motors. The base-model has 93hp, while the range-topper has 118hp. More importantly though, both cars have 210Nm of torque which makes them spring away from the lights like a startled rabbit. You can have it as a convertible, too.

Read our full Fiat 500e review


  • Wonderfully stylish inside and out
  • Quick and fun to drive
  • Long range for a small car


  • Entry-level version trades range for cost
  • Not particularly practical

Reassuringly reliable choice for two...

We had mixed feelings at Parkers when Toyota announced it was replacing the old Aygo with the SUV-ified Aygo X. It’s certainly on-trend – and that’s important for the city car segment, as lots of buyers are abandoning small cars and moving into larger and more fashionable crossovers. But the amount of legroom in the back an Aygo X is laughable and its puny engine struggles outside of town.

As a city car, though, the Aygo X works very well. Its taller suspension means it rides better than the old Aygo hatchback, which is handy when it spends all day dealing with potholes, speed bumps and stray footballs. It’s also packed with technology. The most expensive model comes with a 9.0-inch infotainment system, heated seats, a retractable canvas roof and a wireless smartphone charger.

Read the full Toyota Aygo X review


  • Ride quality improved over Aygo
  • Cabin stylish and functional
  • Decent around town


  • Puny engine struggles on the open road
  • Terrible rear legroom

Sportier i10 with a longer warranty

The Kia Picanto is what you might call a grown-up city car. Since it was launched in 2017, it’s always been available with five doors, a good range of standard safety equipment and a competitive seven-year warranty. It even has a 255-litre boot, which is class-leading in the city car segment. More expensive models even get creature comforts such as automatic air conditioning, a wireless smartphone charger and an 8.0-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The entry-level, naturally aspirated 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine is a little underpowered, but the range-topping turbocharged version fitted to the GT-Line S model is plenty spritely enough, serving up 100hp and 172Nm of torque. Both come with a snappy manual gearbox as standard.

Read the full Kia Picanto review


  • Well-equipped, well-made interior
  • 1.0-litre turbo is excellent
  • Easy to drive


  • Basic engine needs working hard
  • Optional automatic is awful

You won't mistake it for any other car

Like the Aygo X, the Suzuki Ignis is a city car that’s cashing in on the SUV fashion trend. However, the Ignis was around long before Toyota cottoned on – and it’s arguably a much more interesting car. It’s an unusual micro-SUV that’s fun to drive, spacious and incredibly light, which means it doesn’t take a lot of fuel to haul it around. Sure, some of the interior finishes are a bit cheap, but you can’t really gripe when prices start from less than £15,000. It’s a cheap car. It’s supposed to feel cheap.

We also haven’t addressed the Ignis’s trump card. Unlike anything else in the city car class, you can take it off-road because it’s available with four-wheel drive. We’d say it’s an option box well worth ticking if you live somewhere rural. Its 83hp 1.2-litre four-cylinder mild-hybrid petrol engine also is entertaining on a B-road, although it starts to labour once you hit the motorway.

Read the full Suzuki Ignis review


  • Unique hybrid and 4x4 offerings
  • Cheap to buy and run
  • Fun to drive in the city


  • Safety kit lacking
  • High insurance grouping

Low in price, high on value

Strictly speaking, the Dacia Sandero is too big to fit into the city car class. It’s sized to compete with the likes of the Skoda Fabia and SEAT Ibiza, but its starting price puts it in the same bracket as all the cars in this list. It’s staggeringly good value for money when you consider the amount of space you get – there’s room inside for five (just) and the boot can carry 328 litres of luggage. The only other way you can get that sort of practicality at this money is to buy used.

It isn’t even that spartan inside. Sure, the base-models don’t have a fancy infotainment system or lashings of leather trim, but we think modern buyers have learned to expect a little too much from new cars. The Sandero’s a perfectly comfortable place to be with air conditioning, electric windows, cruise control and privacy glass fitted as standard. Compare it to what you were driving 20 years ago and the consider recalibrating your understanding of the word 'utilitarian.'

Read the full Dacia Sandero review


  • Big enough for a family
  • Small enough for cities
  • Well judged interior and quality


  • Not the last word in refinement
  • Low price can be undercut by rivals on finance

Taking city cars to the extreme

Okay, so this one technically isn’t a car; it’s a pure-electric quadricycle. But now isn’t the time to argue over definitions – and you can’t dispute how good the Citroen Ami is in a city. It’s only 2.41 metres long, which means it’s a doddle to thread through busy streets. And, because it’s so short and narrow, you can park it almost anywhere. You can get two of them in a standard parking bay.

It’s powered by a tiny 5.5kWh battery pack that can store enough electricity for a maximum range of 43 miles. Power goes to a dinky 8hp electric motor mounted on the rear axle, which can push the Ami up to a top speed of 28mph – so you’ll never get a speeding ticket. Also, because the battery is so small, it’ll recharge fully in just three hours when connected to a three-pin socket.

Read the full Citroen Ami review


  • Fun, funky urban transport
  • Drier and safer than a moped
  • Cheap to buy and lease


  • It’s a quadricycle, not a car
  • Very few frills or safety kit