- The best small cars to buy in 2019
- From BMW to Volkswagen, with monthly prices to suit all budgets
- Do you want a petrol, hybrid or electric small car?
Thinking of buying a new small car? There are plenty of city cars and superminis on the market these days, with a variety of styles and practicality.
Small cars need to be practical despite their size, they need to be economical with space and offer options for storage and flexibility. There are so many small cars on the market - because so many people buy them - which means there's a lot of choice for you. Whether you're looking at the ever-popular Ford Fiesta and VW Polo, or alternatives such as the Smart Fortwo EQ and Renault Zoe, there are plenty to choose from.
Deciding on buying a small car means you also have the choice between regular petrol and diesel cars, or alternative options such as hybrid or electric cars. If you're looking to get a city car for short journeys, then an alternative-fuel car might be the most cost-effective option for you over time. You might be paying more upfront, but with lower running costs and cheaper tax this might work out for the best for you.
Browse through our list and see which characterful small car would suit your needs. Obviously you're not going to get a really roomy, practical family car from any of these choices, but there are some with decent-sized boots, and surprisingly roomy interiors too. Scroll down to read about them all, or click on the quick links below to jump to your favourites.
BMW's small electric car is a rival to the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe, but is much more polished than either (and far pricier, too). Remember, with it being a low-emission electric car, you'll qualify for the government's plug-in car grant, which takes £3,500 off the list price. Its style is a bit futuristic, and the electric drive is smooth and easy - it's certainly one of the most interesting small cars on the market.
If you want a city car that's full of character and retro style, then the Fiat 500 might be the best option for you. It's a big seller and deservedly popular. The engine is nippy but do remember that this is a really small car - the boot isn't big at all, and adults probably won't want to sit in the back seats for anything but a short drive. There are plenty of options to personalise your car with different colours and design elements, and the interior is suitably quirky. The basic styling remains from 2008 but it still feels fresh thanks to regular tech updates.
Quite possibly still the best small hatchback around, even after all these years, the Fiesta remains popular with new and experienced drivers alike. It's great fun to drive, cheap to run, and has loads of the latest technology. The latest version is still roomy inside, although some of the materials don't feel as high-quality as some of its rivals on this list.
The Picanto is the smallest Kia available, but comes packed with kit and a decent boot for its size. There are plenty of trim levels to choose from and three petrol engines, although they do need to be worked hard. It's a really rational choice - especially with Kia's seven-year warranty - but it's also one you can really enjoy driving.
The MINI is such an icon that you couldn't compile a list of the best small cars without including it. It's fun to drive and all of the engines are impressive - this little car is rewarding to own and drive. It might not be the most practical car, and certainly isn't spacious, but if you're reading this list then you don't want roomy. If you want character, fun, and instantly recognisable brand power, then this is the city car for you. Traditionally an expensive choice, but competitive lease deals puts a MINI easily within reach for those on a tighter monthly budget.
This all-electric car is super quiet, with zero emissions and a claimed range of 250 miles. It's great for driving around town, with immediate acceleration, but it does tail away from the pack on the motorway. To look at the Zoe, you wouldn't realise this was any different from a standard small car. The ride height is a bit odd, though, and the ride isn't great - but for zero emissions, this is a winner.
It was the winner of the Best First Car award in the Parkers New Car Awards 2019. It's sharp-looking, very practical, comes with lots of kit and is fun to drive, so it's no wonder we rate it so highly. There is genuine space for four adults inside, and the range of nippy, frugal engines is impressive. No longer can the Ford Fiesta rest on its laurels...
Excellent value for money with this small car - the Skoda Citigo feels surprisingly grown up for its size. It shares underpinnings with its cousins, the Volkswagen Up and the SEAT Mii. Running costs are pleasingly low, and it is practical for its size. The interior quality is high, but there isn't a lot of personalisation available, especially compared to some of its rivals.
New price: £8,890 - £11,890
Used price: £1,955 - £10,280
Fuel economy: 62 - 68 mpg
Insurance group: 1 - 4
The electric version of the Smart Fortwo is better than the petrol variety, in our opinion. It's super nippy around city roads, and the turning circle is tiny at just 6.95m. The claimed range is just 99 miles, which doesn't sound like much but if you want a small city car then you probably won't need a bigger range.
If you want a sporty small car, consider the Swift; it's fun to drive, and there's a mild hybrid version too - although there's no three-door available. It's more economical than its predecessor, but the interior quality isn't quite as good as most rivals on this list. Try and spend a little extra to get one powered by the brilliant BoosterJet engine.
One of the most spacious small cars on the market, the Polo is sophisticated with good looks and lots of technology. It's not the most exciting to drive, however, but it is easy to drive. The interior is high quality and vibrant if you add one of the colour packs to the dashboard trim and door cards, but you can have a more restrained colour scheme if you prefer.
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