The best small cars to buy in 2020

  • Parkers picks out our favourite small cars on the market
  • Something for everyone, with prices for all budgets
  • Check out our top 10 below

Small cars make up the majority of sales in the UK. In other countries petrol is cheap, the roads are as wide as they are long, and driveways are measured in miles, not inches. But here in the UK, people need compact, fuel efficent, and cheap to run modes of transportation. 

This doesn't mean small cars are cheap 'n' nasty, however. While just 10 or 15 years ago, opting for a small car meant forgoing luxury features, dealing with tiny, whiny engines and generally feeling like a second-class citizen, the small cars of today are remarkably good.

The bulk of this list are cars that fit into the supermini class, around the size of the Ford Fiesta. These cars can accommodate four adults – sometimes at a tight squeeze – but are ideal for a young family. A single person or a couple will find there’s more than enough space in the average supermini for just about anything they could throw at it.

We’ve also included a couple of city cars. These are a size down from superminis, and encompass anything around the size of the Fiat 500. City cars are, as the name suggests, ideal for nipping in and around towns and urban areas. But the latest crop are also well up to a long inter-city slog. You won’t find room for a massive haul at the flat-pack furniture stall, but as a second car, or a first car for a young driver, they make a lot of sense.

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Electric mobility is on the way, but embracing it has taken some time to filter down into small cars – mainly because EVs are expensive, and it’s immensely difficult for car manufacturers to make a decent profit margin on them while keeping the price at a level small car buyers are willing to pay. Despite that, you’ll find four cars on this list that are available as pure-electric, and a further two with hybrid technology.

>> Need an automatic? These are the best small automatic cars you can buy

Best small cars 2020

Renault Clio
Peugeot 208
Ford Fiesta
Volkswagen Up
Renault Zoe
SEAT Ibiza
MINI Hatch
Suzuki Jimny
Hyundai i10
Ford Puma

Renault Clio

Best small car for: new drivers

Best small cars - Renault Clio

We think this latest Renault Clio is a really excellent supermini – in fact, it’s so good that we awarded it the Parkers First Car of the Year award for 2020. We were particularly wowed by its interior, which blends high-end tech into a package that’s familiar, easy to use and spacious. It’s also extremely well priced, with some really tempting finance packages on offer.

The Clio’s engine line-up includes a diesel, which we don’t recommend, and a hybrid, which we do – but the bulk of the range consists of two turbocharged petrols, which are smooth, refined and powerful. A generous list of standard safety equipment and fuel economy of more than 50mpg in most models make it a fine all-rounder – and there’s loads of space in the boot for all your kit and clobber.**

Price new: £14,895 - £20,995
Leasing price: from £157 per month
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Peugeot 208

Best small car for: a techie cabin

2019 Peugeot 208

Like the Clio above, the Peugeot 208 comes very highly rated with a compact but impressive range of engines and good on-road manners. Where it stands out is on the inside – Peugeot’s unique styling and high levels of build quality conspire to make a cabin that’s a true pleasure to sit in. It’s also ideal if you need an automatic car – we think the optional eight-speed auto is the best supermini self-shifter on the market.

The 208 is also available as the all-electric e-208 – capable of more than 200 miles on a single charge. With a price tag on the high side, it’s not for everyone, but it could prove a really compelling reason to go electric for those who are capable of doing so. And the fact it looks almost identical to its petrol counterpart is great for slipping under the radar.**

Price new: £16,845 - £32,965
Leasing price:
 from £214 per month
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Ford Fiesta

Best small car for: ubiquity

2019 Ford Fiesta Trend front

There’s no hybrid or fully-electric Ford Fiesta just yet, but any other facet of motoring is just about covered by this supermini – which might account for it being the bestselling car in the UK. Entry-level models (like the Trend model pictured) are well priced and cheap to run, but if you want a bit of luxury there’s a range-topping Vignale model stuffed to the gills with leather and technology.

Fan of SUV styling? You can have a Fiesta Active, with jacked-up suspension and body cladding. And of course, we can’t forget the ST, which is our favourite hot hatchback – it’s so good, we awarded it our Car of the Year gong for 2019. Regardless of which Fiesta you opt for, they’re united by the best driving experience you’ll find in a small car.**

Price new: £16,140 - £24,325
Leasing price: from £197 per month
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Volkswagen Up

Best small car for: parallel parking

Best small cars - Volkswagen Up

Our next range is another one that offers quite a wide choice. You can have your Volkswagen Up with a 60hp, 1.0-litre petrol engine, and that’s the route most buyers will take. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – it’s an effervescent little thing, more than happy to keep up with traffic, but those wanting a bit more grunt can go one of two ways.

>> Watch our video review of the Volkswagen Up GTI here

First there’s the all-electric e-Up – with a range of 186 miles on a full charge and impressive performance. Or, there’s the 115hp Up GTI, which has a character rather like a little puppy: well-meaning, full of energy and incredible fun. Any of these three models has the benefits of Volkswagen build quality and an impressive level of interior space for such a small car, too.**

Price new: £12,485 - £16,320
Leasing price: from £198 per month
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Renault Zoe

Best small car for: emission free motoring

2020 Renault Zoe side

Unlike the Clio at the top of this list, Renault’s Zoe is all-electric, all the time, and it’s all the better for it – providing a really accessible driving experience in a practical package. The Zoe looks almost exactly like a conventional supermini, with only a slightly high seating position and EV-specific instruments giving it away.

With more than 250 miles available on a full charge, opting for a Zoe need be no less convenient than a petrol car – and if you don’t do extreme distances and charge up at home, you may never have to trouble a public charging bay.**

>> We ran a long-term Renault Zoe - check out our thoughts here

Price new: £26,195 - £30,695
Leasing price: from £179 per month
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SEAT Ibiza

Best small car for: value for money

Best small cars - SEAT Ibiza

A former Parkers First Car of the Year award winner, the SEAT Ibiza offers Volkswagen build quality without the Volkswagen price, plus a really great range of engines and gearboxes.

We’re always impressed at how practical this little car is too, with loads of space for adults in the rear and a massive boot that will dwarf the weekly shop.**

>> We ran a long-term SEAT Ibiza - check out our thoughts here

Price new: £15,850 - £22,045
Leasing price: from £189 per month
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MINI Hatch

Best small car for: the image conscious

Best small cars - MINI Hatch

The Mini is the most recognisable small car of all time, and though the current model may be a lot bigger in size, it’s kept the same personality. In fact, today’s model remains a standout hit thanks to its classic pastiche looks and impressively agile handling.

>> We ran a long-term MINI Cooper S - check out our thoughts here

With a vast array of personalisation options – and engines ranging from sedate to superb - there’s a MINI to suit everyone. You can have one with three or five doors, depending on your needs, and there’s a MINI Electric on the way too if you’re intent on going zero-emissions.**

Price new: £16,240 - £29,760
Leasing price: from £238 per month
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Suzuki Jimny

Best small car for: offroading

Best small cars - Suzuki Jimny

The Jimny is definitely an outlier in this list. Every other car here’s been designed for the tarmac but for this Suzuki, paved roads were more of an afterthought. The tiny Jimny’s designed to stick it to the big boys and go anywhere a Range Rover or a Toyota Land Cruiser can go.

As a result it’s unrefined and dated but hugely characterful, with adorably boxy looks and more body lean than an old Citroen. These factors make it brilliant fun to drive in town, though longer journeys will be a struggle. Want one? You’ll have to hurry up. Emissions regulations mean it’s headed off sale very soon, and most of those that are still being sold are already spoken for by eager buyers on a very long waiting list.**

Price new: £19,249
Leasing price: from £267 per month
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Hyundai i10

Best small car for: city drivers

2020 Hyundai i10

The latest Hyundai i10 doesn’t exactly do anything new with the city car formula, but it improves it in almost every way. Think a tiny car can’t be spacious? You’ll find more room in the back seats of the i10 than in many cars from the class above.

You won’t have to suffer without all the luxury equipment you’ve got used to in your large car, either – the i10 can be had with an impressive connected infotainment system and more safety kit than you can shake a stick at. In fact, just about the only thing you’ll have to deal with is a weedy engine – but both options are more than enough if you go gently.**

Price new: £12,820 - £16,120
Leasing price: from £186 per month
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Ford Puma

Best small cars for: mini-SUV vibes

2020 Ford Puma

The Ford Puma is the biggest car on this list, but it’s still pretty small for an SUV – and exceedingly practical. Many may bemoan the Puma name – previously used on a Fiesta-based coupe – being used on an SUV, but look past that and you’ll find a car that’s very practical and immensely good to drive.

A series of mildly electrified engines bring good performance, and the Puma’s high-set seating position and chunky styling are very in vogue. If you fancy a crossover with a small footprint, we reckon this is one of the best.**

Price new: £20,710 - £23,770
Leasing price: from £228 per month
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Looking for your next car?

** These deals are indicative examples of some packages available as at 27 April 2020, but are subject to change without prior notice. Everyone's financial circumstances are different and the availability of credit is subject to status. Terms, conditions and exclusions apply. Parkers cannot recommend a deal for you specifically.

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