Spacious small cars

Small can indeed be mighty. Here are the most spacious and practical small cars

Chris Rosamond
Dec 3, 2021

Carmakers have spent decades figuring out ways to maximise the amount of space that they can get out of their smallest cars. With modern drivers requiring more and more out of these compact superminis and city cars, they need to be able to carry four people up front, as well as shopping, prams and furniture (within reason) in the boot, just to name a few.

Technical features up-front such as a sideways-mounted engine and front-wheel drive help to free up cabin space, while a hatchback means more access to the boot. Pick the right model and a small car can prove surprisingly spacious, as well as big value.

Small cars are typically cheap to buy, fuel and maintain. Thanks to their compact stature, they’re easy to drive and to park and can often be fun to drive, too. They’re also roomier and more practical than ever before, in no small part because ‘small cars’ are generally a lot bigger than they used to be…but we’ll skip that bit.

The demand for small cars has often challenged the smartest people in the car industry, and as a result we’ve seen impressive developments across the board. Maximising practicality and space for passengers and luggage is often at the forefront of the design process, but, as you’d expect, not all small cars roll out of the factory equal in that important respect.

If you’re looking for a spacious small car, then check out the selection of Tardis-like contenders we’ve rounded up for you here. From city cars to superminis, small SUVs and compact people carriers, there’s something for everyone looking to get the most out of their next used car purchase.

Read on for some great deals on some terrific small cars that somehow stretch the laws of physics, and take the lead in the small car space race.

Most spacious small cars

1. Skoda Fabia Estate

Used deals from £9,890
Monthly finance from £187*

Estate cars haven’t been quite as much of a priority for manufacturers since high-riding SUVs have become so popular - and even fewer make estate versions of their small cars.

While the craze for SUVs and crossovers has sounded the death knell for the estate version of the next Fabia, the practical appeal of the current Fabia Estate means the Czech company continues to offer it. It’s a good value purchase when new, and makes even more sense on the used market for drivers who rate the Fabia’s superbly roomy interior and focus on practicality over fashion.

The car’s boxy shape means there’s lots of space for four full-size adults - five at a pinch - as well as tonnes of luggage. With a huge 530-litre boot, the Fabia Estate can haul almost as much gear as the far larger Ford Mondeo - not bad for a supermini, we think you’ll agree.

Only petrol versions have been available since 2018, but earlier cars were also offered with diesel power. We’d recommend a petrol, as these are more refined and still impressively economical. If you chalk up many tens of thousands of miles every year, however, having the choice of a diesel in a small estate could be the better choice for cutting your fuel bills.

SKODA FABIA BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Volkswagen Polo

Used deals from £11,375
Monthly finance from £208*

The Volkswagen Polo has always been a byword for practicality and space, and the latest version doesn’t disappoint. As well as offering sophisticated up-to-the-minute engineering and in-car tech, the Polo has also grown a bit to boast an even roomier interior and improved boot space.

When the latest Polo launched, VW made the point that it was as big as the fourth-generation Golf hatchback - a car from the class above - which was launched in 1997. It’s normal for car model ranges to get bigger over successive generations, and the Polo now sits between the Up and the Golf, so the playing field has changed a bit too.

The result is a car that nowadays is impressively practical, and offers almost as much room as the notably spacious Honda Jazz for rear-seat passengers. The boot is very roomy too at 351 litres, which is very nearly as much as the previous generation Honda Jazz - the one-time undisputed leader in the supermini space race.

VOLKSWAGEN POLO BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Honda Jazz

Used deals from £8,129
Monthly finance from £156*

While the latest Honda Jazz retains the tall profile and clever packaging, it can’t quite match the previous model for overall spaciousness. That's good news for drivers on a budget, as the new model has resulted in used versions of the previous car being even more affordable.

This version of the Jazz, launched in 2015, was a supermini class-leader for boot space and offered loads of room for rear seat passengers too. Thanks to its high roofline and people carrier style profile even taller adults can sit comfortably in the back.
To help you make the most of all that potential space, the Jazz deploys Honda’s patented ‘Magic Seat’ system. This enables the rear seats to fold into the floor to provide a completely flat luggage deck for the largest loads, but you can also tip them up like cinema seats making room to stand things up in the footwell - perfect for your potted yucca plants or other hard-to-stash items.

With the rear seats in use, the last generation Jazz offers a substantial 354 litres of luggage volume, which is 50-60 litres more than conventional rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Peugeot 208. The latest Jazz offers only 304 litres, so stick to this older version for maximum practicality.

HONDA JAZZ BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Dacia Sandero

Used deals from £5,945
Monthly finance from £111*

Most of the cars in our list have an array of attractive features which make them enjoyable as well as practical to own. However if your budget demands a ruthless focus on value for money and space for hauling people, pets or personal effects, then the Dacia Sandero has to get a look-in.

The Sandero is the UK’s cheapest new car for a reason, it’s a back-to-basic, no-frills experience that offers little in the way of sophisticated creature comforts or sporty driving pleasure. What’s better is that with the new model being released, the older Sandero can be bought used for very little money.

If all that’s of little consequence, the chances are you’ll be much more impressed by the Sandero’s interior as it’s basically a roomy supermini for the price of a smaller city car. Leg and headroom in the back are admirable and the Sandero’s ample 320 litres of boot space beats most of the more mainstream supermini rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa.

DACIA SANDERO BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Honda HR-V

Used deals from £10,698
Monthly finance from £189*

There’s plenty of options when it comes to relatively small compact SUVs - often referred to as 'crossovers' and while the Honda HR-V isn’t one of the most wacky, it does offer lots of room inside.

The HR-V sits below the CR-V SUV in Honda’s line-up, and takes on rivals like the Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008. It may not offer quite the same level of contemporary style - though it's more conventional looks will undoubtedly appeal more to some drivers - but when it comes to practicality and roominess the HR-V is hard to fault.

As well as remarkably roomy rear seats with ample leg and headroom - watch out for glass-roofed versions which lower the ceiling height considerably and reduce headroom - the HR-V is notable for an extremely practical boot.

Open the tailgate and the cavernous space before you measures almost 450 litres, which is usefully more than you’ll find in the Nissan Qashqai, a much bigger car. The HR-V boot also outsizes the Captur, and thrashes its Jeep Renegade and Ford EcoSport rivals by around 100 litres.

HONDA HR-V BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Citroen C3 Aircross

Used deals from £10,890
Monthly finance from £167*

If the HR-V is a little too conservative in its styling for your tastes, the quirky Citroen C3 Aircross could be the answer. This funky crossover isn’t just a looker, either, in fact the designers placed a lot of focus on comfort and practicality.

A tall roof makes for plenty of headroom for four adults, while the clever folding rear seats make for an adjustable-sized boot. With the seats in the normal position, you will already have a decent 410 litres of space but slide them forward and this increases to 520 litres. Fold them down entirely and this more than doubles to 1,289 litres.

Along with this versatility and eye-catching styling, the C3 Aircross retains one of the most important small car characteristics of all, it is affordable to buy and run. Both petrol engines will achieve over 40mpg, while the diesel ups this to 60mpg. Used examples can be found for under £11,000 or less than £200 per month on PCP finance.

CITROEN C3 AIRCROSS BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Kia Venga

Used deals from £6,958
Monthly finance from £142*

The Kia Venga is another great option for shoppers looking for lots of space on a tight budget. It’s a supermini-sized people carrier from Korea which arrived in 2010 and proved such a practical and popular choice that it remained in production until 2019 - a very long time in car terms.

Though the technology in the Venga is starting to show its age, drivers on a budget can get the maximum car for their money, especially when avoiding the glitziest models.

Fortunately, the Venga was blessed with chic contemporary style when new, and it’s aged reasonably well. This means you could park a year-old example on your drive without the fear of your neighbours thinking you're on a serious economy drive.

If you’re happy with the unpretentious looks and relatively bland interior, we can start to tell you about the Venga’s main strength - it’s an easy to drive, easy to live with machine that really does extract the most space possible from a car that takes up so little tarmac.

Rear seat passengers get loads of headroom, and can stretch out their legs under the front seats - a neat trick which really adds to the comfort levels. The boot is large too at 440 litres, and can be expanded to a truly impressive 570 litres if you slide the rear seat row forward.

KIA VENGA BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Volkswagen Up

Used deals from £5,000
Monthly finance from £129*

The VW Group - which includes Audi, Volkswagen, Seat and Skoda, among other brands - played an absolute blinder when it launched a closely-related family of little city cars known as the VW Up, the Skoda Citigo and Seat Mii. They’re such close cousins in fact, that any one of the trio could happily have made this list.

We’ve picked out the Up because the other two have now been discontinued, plus the VW carries the slightly more desirable badge. But all three can be found used at great prices. All three cars share the same spacious and practical body, which really does use the ‘wheel at each corner’ philosophy to great effect when it comes to maximising cabin room.

It’s one of the few city cars which will accommodate adults in the back without inflicting much discomfort, although most city car drivers use the rear seats to extend the luggage capacity of the boot. It’s only 251 litres, but that’s still great for the class - the Fiat 500 musters only 185 litres, for example.

The Mii and Citigo went purely electric in 2020, while the e-up was added alongside petrol-powered Up models. This means used buyers get plenty of options as nearly new models make their way onto the market. Prices start at around £14,000 for a practically Up, but this will quickly drop as these get a little older. If you don’t mind an earlier model, these are available from as little as £5,000.

VOLKSWAGEN UP BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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