Best City Cars

9 minutes Published: 14/04/2020
Emily Hanson

7:45am. You’re feeling optimistic today. You’re going to nab an on-street parking spot near your office. You’re not going to trek 25 minutes to the building from the nearest available space you’re usually lumped with.

Things are looking good so far as you reverse out of your spot in the underground car park in your flat block. So far so smooth down the street and around the corner. But your luck is about to run out. The traffic is already jamming up on the stretch into the city centre. You’re going to miss your slot to get your precious on-street spot.

Why oh why did you think that a crossover was a good idea for city driving?

If you’d just leased a city car, you’d be whizzing in and out of lanes, overtaking here and there, getting to that all-important parking space on time. This commute from the city outskirts into the heart of the hustle and bustle would be so easy to do in a nippy city car.

With that in mind, check out our best city cars!

A fan of small cars? Check out our Best Small Cars. And if you're after a sensible first car, check out our Best First Cars or our Best Cars for 17 Year Olds!

1. Renault Twingo

RRP: £9,440 - £14,085
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 0.9 - 1.6
  • Fuel: P
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 95 - 155g/km

Pros

  • Attractive curved design.

  • Cheaper than many competitors.

Cons

  • The best engine is quite pricey.

  • The boot is hot. Hope your journey back from the supermarket is short!

The Renault Twingo is the Clio’s chirpy younger sibling. It’s compact, comfy and an excellent small car to idle down narrow city streets in.

The Twingo has a very short bonnet compared to most cars. That’s because there’s no engine in there. It’s at the back of the car. Renault designed it like this so it was more manoeuvrable, shaving off 10cm exterior length, ideal for driving around town on busy, cramped roads.

It’s a four passenger car, so not ideal if you’ve got three kids to tow along, or a gang of pals who claim you’re a “better driver than them” so they can save money on taxi fares after a night out. The rear windows are only pop-out which is no good if you’re going for a long haul road trip, but it’s excellent for your general city driving.

2. Toyota Aygo Hatchback

RRP: £9,515 - £14,930 | From £128.11 per month to lease
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 1.4
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 93 - 109g/km

Pros

  • Efficient, making for cheap motoring.

  • A very reliable runaround.

Cons

  • Is there even a boot?

  • Its masculine, aggressive exterior is polarising.

The Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 are three peas in a pod, all developed alongside each other. The three manufacturers have put their own twists on the base design but we’re only going to focus on the Toyota Aygo here, because once you’ve reviewed one, you’ve reviewed them all.

The Aygo is Toyota’s smallest car and one of the best city cars on the market. Its compact size means you can zip along congested streets without having to look over your shoulder every 3 seconds to see if you’ve got enough space. You can enjoy low running costs with the Aygo’s frugal petrol engines but this comes at the expense of having reasonable room.

The boot is teeny, barely enough to pack a suitcase or a larger-than-normal weekly food shop, plus there’s only two seats. If you’re only looking for a set of wheels to get around town in and not for lugging the contents of your entire home, you are all set. One of its biggest selling points is its 5 year (or 100,000 mile) warranty. It’s a sturdy wee car!

3. Volkswagen UP

RRP: £8,940 - £16,310 | From £187.12 per month to lease
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 1.0
  • Fuel: P
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 95 - 110g/km

Pros

  • Highly customisable - you’ve got a choice of 12 dashboard colours.

  • Solid materials used.

Cons

  • No middle rear seat, so not great for bigger families.

  • Little bit pricier than almost identical C1 and Mii.

The VW Up is, like the Aygo, part of a development trio. Developed alongside the Skoda Citigo and the Seat Mii, you’d be hard pushed to differentiate the three if you took away the badges. So, we’ve picked the best-seller here: the Up.

The VW Up has had all the best bits of a Golf squished into a smaller city car. It’s only got four passenger seats but it makes up for this with one of the largest boot spaces of any city car on the market. It handles superbly, so you can enjoy a nice smooth ride - as long as you don’t take to the motorway for too long.

If you’re looking for something a shade sportier, the Citigo is a good alternative and the Seat Mii is cheaper, but the Up is more specced up and really worth the extra cashola if you have it. And you can nab an e-Up if you are looking for an eco-friendly electric version!

4. Kia Picanto Hatchback (2017)

RRP: £9,255 - £15,150
  • Doors:
  • Engine:
  • Fuel:
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive:
  • CO2:

Pros

  • It has a looooooong warranty - the best on the market.

  • Lotsa space.

Cons

  • Brace yourself on bumpy roads.

  • Slow to get up to speed.

The Kia Picanto is one of the best small cars around, and it makes its way on to pretty much every single best city car roundup, so it had to snag a place on our list too.

It shares some of its parts with the Hyundai i10, also on this roundup. It’s small petrol engine helps it zip along at motorway speeds, but you need to be a little patient for it to catch up speed with others on the road. If you’re looking for a sporty driving experience, this isn’t the car for you.

It’s a sporty model with a great amount of room. And it’s an incredibly reliable machine: it comes with a whopping 7 year (or 100,000 mile) warranty. That’s the best out of all the city cars here.

5. Hyundai I10

RRP: £12,290 - £16,965 | From £147.88 per month to lease
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 1.2
  • Fuel: P
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 141g/km

Pros

  • Roomy for a city car.

  • Great warranty.

Cons

  • In for a bouncy ride.

  • Steering is not great for twisty, fast roads.

Reliable? Check. Spacious? Check. Can you get out of the city in it? Check. The Hyundai i10 is a sturdy supermini that should definitely make your shortlist.

For jaunts around town, the smallest 1-litre engine should power you through the streets just fine. If you want to take to the motorway, you might want to look into the larger engine. It’s obviously not designed for long haul journeys at top motorway speeds, so it can be a bit sluggish.

It’s got five seats and a spacious boot, so it could be a great family car. And to give you peace of mind, it’s got a very generous 5 year warranty with no mileage limit. Amazing.

6. Fiat 500 Hatchback

RRP: £10,835 - £18,860
  • Doors: 3
  • Engine: 1.4
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 149g/km

Pros

  • Very good looking and lots of personalisation options.

  •  Affordable - cheap to run.

Cons

  • Ride could be more cushioned.

  • Rear seat passengers better be kids. Small ones.

For those looking for something with a bit more of a retro feel, check out the Fiat 500. It’s been around for absolutely donkeys and its fresh new look retains some of that quirky 1950s charm.

If you want a new car to cart around the family, it can be a bit of a squish. There’s only a 2-door option and the back seats don’t have a ton of room, but you can convince yourself there’s enough when you let down the roof on the convertible version.

This little car is no slouch, and has two pretty punchy engines with really low running costs. Not bad!

7. Vauxhall Viva

RRP: £7,940 - £12,020
  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 1.0
  • Fuel: P
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 99 - 118g/km

Pros

  • Roomy for 3 folk in the back seat.

  • Plenty of standard equipment, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so there’s great value for money.

Cons

  • Noisy engine.

  • Constant gear changes on the motorway.

The Vauxhall Viva is the beloved Corsa’s little sister. It’s up there with other retro revamps on this list, having been released for the first time in 1963 and hailed for its practicality and affordability. Today, this still rings true.

It offers fantastic value for money - there’s loads of tech as standard and it has a lovely nippy engine that will take you through the city with ease. Running costs are low too. Fuel economy is great so you won’t have to worry about making several trips to the petrol station.

It’s one of the larger city cars on the market, which is good if you want something a little more versatile.

8. Smart Fortwo Coupe

RRP: £9,820 - £20,010 | From £132.28 per month to lease
  • Doors: 2
  • Engine: 1.0
  • Fuel: P, D, E
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: A, M
  • CO2: 127g/km

Pros

  • Easy to park.

  • Great fuel economy.

Cons

  • Interior materials aren’t all of a great standard.

  • Acceleration isn’t terribly smooth.

The Smart brand is a funky choice. The Fortwo is a teeny tiny city car. Others will look at you with envy as you glide straight into the tightest of parking spots that would take them several complicated manoeuvres. It has a tight turning circle, ideal for city traffic.

It’s an impressively frugal machine, so despite being a little pricier than larger city cars on this roundup, it’s got amazing fuel economy to make up for it. Plus, you don’t get that unique manoeuvrability with those other models.

It is a tiny car, so the boot is, to be honest, quite pathetic, but if you’re just taking your bag to work, that shouldn’t matter much. Just don’t book a 2-week holiday and expect to get your suitcase in there. There’s only two seats, but if you want four, go for the aptly named Smart ForFour instead.

And for fans of electric cars, you can get the Smart Fortwo (or ForFour) with an electric motor.

9. Ford Fiesta

RRP: £12,520 - £26,805 | From £171.41 per month to lease
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 179g/km

Pros

  • Fantastic fuel economy.

  • Handles really well.

Cons

  • Top models can get a little pricey.

  • Some of the safety features are optional.

When have you heard a bad word about the Ford Fiesta? It’s a great city car alternative to some of these more compact offerings with more versatility to hit top speeds on the motorway.

It’s a bit bulkier than other models in this roundup, but if you want bigger boot space and larger rear seats, there’s got to be a little give and take! Its SUV-inspired styling and wider wheel arches make it great for more rugged driving.

The Ford Fiesta delivers on all fronts. It’s not too big. It delivers great MPG. It’s comfy and easy to drive. And it’s packed with modern technology. It won’t break the bank and it’ll see you through your standard city driving plus more heavy-duty journeys when you need it to.

10. Mini Hatchback

RRP: £12,180 - £31,065
  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 2.0
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 216g/km

Pros

  • Loads of tech even on the entry-level trims and the infotainment system is good.

  • Classical good exterior looks. Inside, the build quality of the gearbox and steering wheel feel particularly nice.

Cons

  • Very popular. Good luck finding it in the car park.

  • Motorway driving can be a bit noisy. Whatever you backseat passenger said wasn’t important anyway.

The MINI is an absolute classic. And it lives up to its name, so it has to be on this list.

One of the nicest things about driving a MINI is its low centre of gravity handling. It’s smooth and perfect for navigating those narrow, cramped city streets.

Take your pick from a three or five-door model. Practicality is one of the major appeals of a MINI Hatch over other city cars on this roundup - you’ve got a very decent amount of rear seat and boot space.

It’s a name that’s been around for decades and we don’t see the British public’s beloved MINI going out of fashion any time soon.

Summary

Wading through the many car reviews on the many city cars on the market can be very time-consuming and confusing! We hope this roundup of our best city cars has cleared things up a bit.

Look forward to your stress-free commutes to work. Look forward to grabbing that teeny parking space your crossover would have no chance sneaking into. Look forward to those very infrequent trips to the petrol station. Lease a city car!

If you’re after your first car and want something easy to drive, check out our Best First Cars, or our Best Cars for 17 Year Olds. For a wider range of nice and compact cars, have a look at our Best Small Cars list! And we also have a full list of all of our available city car lease deals.