If you want a small car that's cheap to buy and run, fun to drive and suitably high-tech, you'll want to check out our top 10 list of the best small cars you can buy or lease today.
Wondering why small cars - or superminis as they are also known - aren't as cheap to buy or lease as they used to be? Well, inflation is mostly to blame, but it's also because the best small cars are a lot more talented and capable than even a few years ago.
Small cars of a decade or two ago used to have lower list prices, yes, but they were also much more basic on the inside, slower and less refined, less comfortable and had less space for passengers and luggage. What's more, you wouldn't come off anything like as well in a crash, while the best small cars of 2023 also come with lots of technology to help you avoid a crash in the first place that didn't exist back then.
Nowadays, small cars are much more talented. Yes, they're not THAT small anymore in terms of physical size, but most are as comfortable and as safe as bigger and more expensive cars as a result.
Not only that, but they are fun to drive, with punchy yet refined and efficient engines. Some are available as hybrids, too, making them extremely cheap to run. What's more, they feature more clever features and tech in them than most luxury cars had ten years ago.
Our team of car experts have tested every model on sale in the UK and shortlisted the top 10 best small cars. Most are similarly affordable to buy and run, with plenty of choice available on both the new and used markets.
If you don't really want a small hatchback, why not check out our list of the best small SUVs on sale? Many of them are based on these small cars but are more spacious and stylish.
If you're ready to buy we've got over 18,000 Used Small Cars for Sale, while if you want more choice, we have over 70,000 Used Cars for Sale. If you're looking to save money, check out our guide to the Best Car Deals.
Best small cars 2024
1. Volkswagen Polo
Year launched: 2017
The Volkswagen Polo is a resounding success. In fact, other than the Ford Fiesta, it’s the only small car to get a full 10 out of 10 in our eyes. Effortless to drive, spacious and backed by an excellent range of petrol engines - the Volkswagen Polo is the best excuse you’ll ever need for downsizing your daily driver.
Admittedly, it’s a bit pricier than many of its talented rivals, but the refined and practical Polo is one of the most accomplished small cars in its class. It’s also pretty much identical underneath to the latest SEAT Ibiza small car - but feels distinctly more upmarket, with higher quality materials and better soundproofing. You also get more choice when it comes to tech.
It offers a Tardis-like interior that provides comfortable transport for up to four large adults and the boot is huge, too. Downsides? It isn't as fun to drive as the Fiesta, but it’s safe, predictable and comfortable on the move. The 1.0 TSI is also one of the best turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engines you can buy.
2. Toyota Yaris
Year launched: 2020
The Toyota Yaris used to be reliable and worthy, but dull to look at and to drive. All of that's changed with the latest model.
Not only does its butch stance and curvy look make it more distinctive than the boxy old car, but it's also much better to drive. Using a shrunken-down version of the excellent Toyota Corolla's platform means it's composed and corners well, but is also pretty comfortable.
Like the Honda Jazz, the Toyota Yaris is now hybrid-only (if you ignore the bonkers GR Yaris). It uses a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine mated to an electric motor, giving surprisingly peppy performance and impressive real-world economy. And even though it uses a CVT gearbox, the engine's fruity thrum means its revving isn't unpleasant.
Combine that with a solid (if slightly plasticky) interior and Toyota's famed reliability reputation, and it's clear that the Yaris is one of the most complete small cars around.
3. Honda Jazz
Year launched: 2020
Over the years the Honda Jazz has quietly become one of the small cars to beat. Quiet, comfortable, practical and high quality - the Jazz was replaced by a newer generation in 2020. And we rate the latest model as the best yet.
On the road the Jazz is a well-balanced car, blending ride comfort, secure handling and impressive refinement. Practicality is good, too - with three-door and five-door options available. While it isn’t the most exciting small car, the Jazz gets a sensibly designed interior with a sizable boot - making it ideal for pootling around town or cruising on the motorway.
It may not break any boundaries but it does everything you want it to and it does it very well. As an all-rounder it can't be better. In fact it's pretty much perfect.
4. Peugeot 208
Year launched: 2019
With a lion-inspired exterior look, comfortable ride and plenty of infotainment on the inside, the Peugeot 208 comes well equipped to deal with the day to day trials and tribulations of a small car.
Peugeot has thought about the interior and provided large pockets in all four doors, two sizeable cup holders in the front, and a dedicated space to place your phone safely out the way - plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are supported in all trims.
With light controls and decent visibility the 208 is great to drive in town, allowing you to nip in and out of spaces with ease. There is a range of engine choices, but we’d recommend the 100PS PureTech petrol which has a pleasing growl under acceleration and quieter running when up to speed.
And with the new 208 having been available for a few years, there are some decent savings to be had on the second hand market with prices for the face-lifted model now starting at around £11,000.
5. SEAT Ibiza
Year launched: 2017
Smart, stylish and backed by a range of fine petrol engines, the Ibiza feels more grown up and better rounded than ever before. Factor in the huge boot and refined ride, and the SEAT Ibiza has bags of appeal.
Mechanically speaking, the SEAT Ibiza is almost identical to the Volkswagen Polo, so it’s also not that compelling to drive. But if you prioritise refinement and practicality over cornering dynamics then this will very much be the small car for you. The cabin is large enough to fit four adults and storage around the cabin is also plentiful.
The only area that lets the side down is the spec. Standard equipment levels are meagre, which means you’ll have to pay extra or spec up to get essentials like DAB audio, touchscreen navigation and cruise control. Like-for-like, the Ford Fiesta and Suzuki Swift represent better value for equipment, though the SEAT does balance this with low running costs.
6. MINI Hatchback
Year launched: 2014
The MINI Hatch trades heavily against its classic roots, with its compact size and retro styling giving a notable nod to the 1950s’ original. However, it has a bang up-to-date interior, plenty of tech and lots of standard equipment even on the cheaper models. We rate it as a modern masterpiece.
The MINI Hatch isn't as at home on the motorway as some of its rivals here, instead focusing on being fantastic fun to drive around town and on country lanes. It's even more enjoyable than the Fiesta, although the trade-off is a firmer ride than most cars here and some road noise.
The interior is also fresh and as premium with lots of retro touches - albeit less fancy than a Mercedes A-Class. Rear space is best described as ‘limited’, which means large adults will find it a squeeze.
Overall, the MINI is a classy hatchback that's packed with kit. It's more expensive than alternatives like the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, but with a superb cabin you can see where your money's going.
7. Renault Clio
Year launched: 2019
French car companies know how to make a good small car - it's their bread and butter. And the latest Renault Clio is a stylish and likeable all-rounder.
You can forget Renault's flimsy and cheap-feeling interiors of old, as the Clio has a real injection of quality and good amounts of technology, too, particularly on higher-end models with the portrait-angled infotainment touchscreen.
There's plenty of space for a small car, too, with the Clio giving even the Skoda Fabia a run for its money with its 391-litre boot. You really could (just about) use this as a family car if you have a couple of small children.
Although the Renault Clio isn't as fun to drive as the Ford Fiesta, and the ride is quite firm with larger wheel options, it still offers a decent all-round driving experience with a range of engine options and a competitive self-charging hybrid version.
8. Fiat 500e
Year launched: 2021
Fiat’s popular pocket-rocket is available in a fully electric guise, and it’s really rather good. It keeps the dinky dimensions and cutesy styling (albeit with a few cosmetic tweaks) while ditching the engine in favour of an electric motor.
If you do lots of short journeys mainly around town and can charge a car at home, the Fiat 500e is an ideal choice. It will suit retirees and makes an ideal second car too, something for the school run (if the kids can fit) and nipping to the shops.
Similarly if you have a regular commute and can charge at work, then the Fiat 500 with its range of 118 miles or 199 miles, will make for a cheap to run choice. It's cheaper to buy new than a Renault Zoe, Honda e and MINI Electric too.
While not exactly spacious, you do get a little more room inside with the floor between front and rear wheels being extended for the electric model and you sit higher too thanks to a raised floor which accommodates the batteries. Fiat has also improved the interior with a slick trim and solid feel making for a pleasing experience.
9. Audi A1
Year launched: 2018
The Audi A1 is one of Audi’s most popular cars. Is it the most interesting in the brand's line-up? Probably not. But is it a good choice for small car buyers? You bet.
Audi replaced the A1 in 2018 and the latest model is proving just as popular. Firstly, it has a level of dynamic polish that many more expensive cars could only dream of. But, even more impressively, the A1 manages to combine this handling prowess with a level of ride comfort that’s a match for just about anything else in the class.
Combine that with a range of excellent engines and the A1 doesn't feel like Audi's cheapest model. The only downside is that there's no hybrid option.
As well as being very desirable, the A1's interior is smart and comfortable, feeling more upmarket than its more affordable German siblings. It isn’t the cheapest small car of its type, then, but such desirability always commands a premium.
10. Hyundai i20
Year launched: 2020
The Hyundai i20 is one of the fresher-faced models in this list, with an exterior design that's pretty striking and bold. But there's more substance to the i20 than meets the eye - not least its comprehensive five-year warranty.
The Hyundai i20 can't quite match the Volkswagen Polo for material quality inside, but if you can overlook that you get a very spacious cabin with an awful lot of standard equipment inside. Features like a heated steering wheel and seats, plus a feature-packed 10.25-inch infotainment system - don't require you to splash out for the very top-spec model.
The Hyundai i20 is also a strong all-rounder when it comes to the driving experience. Granted, it isn't quite as fun to drive as the Ford Fiesta, nor is it as plush-riding as the VW Polo, but it's a nice compromise between the two. We really like the punchy little three-cylinder turbo petrol engine with 48v mild-hybrid tech, too, making it more efficient. Oh, and if you're looking for ultimate fun the fantastic Hyundai i20N is one of our best hot hatchbacks.
Best Small Car FAQs
According to the 2021 HonestJohn.co.uk Satisfaction Index, the most reliable small car is the last-generation Dacia Sandero. The low-cost model has proved a hit with buyers, and its simplicity has meant less to go wrong. Other highly rated models include the Toyota Yaris and Honda Jazz.
There's a wide range of excellent small cars on sale today so you have plenty of choice whatever your budget. The Ford Fiesta is a perennial best-seller and for good reason – nothing else combines value for money, stylish design and a fun driving experience quite as convincingly as the small Ford.
If you're looking to buy an affordable small car, you should also look at city cars like the Volkswagen Up, Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10. Not only are the latest city cars great around town, they're also surprisingly competent on the motorway and come loaded with the latest safety kit.
An increasing number of small cars come with automatic gearboxes - the most popular models, such as the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Vauxhall Corsa, are available with one as an option. Hybrid models such as the Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris come with an automatic gearbox as standard.
What's the cheapest small car on sale in 2024?
The cheapest small car on sale isn't actually that small. It's the Dacia Sandero – a Fiesta-sized hatchback available for less than a city car. Prices have gone up quite a bit because the entry-level models have been removed, meaning you'll need £12,595 to get in one. But that's not a lot for a roomy hatch with cruise control, air-con, Bluetooth and the latest safety kit.
What do small cars cost?
Prices for new small cars usually start from £15,000 to £20,000 these days, although a very high-spec model can breach the £25,000 mark. As a used buy, you’ll be looking at around £12,000 for a car that’s one or two years old and from £2500 for something that’s ten years old.
Hybrid and electric small cars
The best small cars can be incredibly economical, but if you're going to be doing a lot of short journeys, then it's worth considering either a hybrid or electric small car. Most small hybrid cars can only do short distances on electric power alone, but combining a tiny petrol engine with electric power results in a seriously efficient car. We reckon the Toyota Yaris is the best small hybrid car, while if you're looking for something fully electric, then the Volkswagen e-Up is the best small electric car you can buy.
Small cars heycar recommends
1.0 TSI 115 R-Line 5dr DSG
More small car guides
Whether you're looking for advice on what first car to buy or looking to find your next small car, we've got the answer
- Best Small Cars
- Best Small SUVs
- Best Small Automatic Cars
- Best Small Electric Cars
- Best Small Hybrid Cars
- Best Small 4x4s
- Best Small MPVs
- Best First Cars For New Drivers
- Cheapest Electric Cars
- Cheapest Cars To Run
- Cheapest Cars To Insure For 17 Year Olds
- Cheapest Cars To Insure For New Drivers
- Cheapest New Cars
- Cheap Small SUV Cars
- Most Reliable Small Cars
- Best Cars
- New Cars 2024
- Used Cars For Sale
Popular small cars for sale
- Audi A1 for sale
- Citroen C1 for sale
- Citroen C3 for sale
- Fiat 500 for sale
- Fiat Panda
- Ford Ka for sale
- Ford Fiesta for sale
- Honda Jazz for sale
- Hyundai i10 for sale
- Hyundai i20 for sale
- Kia Picanto for sale
- Kia Rio for sale
- Mazda 2 for sale
- Nissan Micra for sale
- Peugeot 108 for sale
- Peugeot 208 for sale
- Renault Clio for sale
- SEAT Ibiza for sale
- Skoda Citigo
- Skoda Fabia for sale
- Suzuki Swift for sale
- Suzuki Ignis for sale
- Toyota Aygo for sale
- Toyota Yaris for sale
- Vauxhall Corsa for sale
- Vauxhall Adam for sale
- VW Up for sale
- VW Polo for sale