Spacious small cars

Small may be beautiful, but it doesn’t have to mean cramped. Here are the most practical - and affordable - small cars

Chris Rosamond
Jan 29, 2021

From the days of the earliest original Mini in the 1950s car designers and engineers have been working out ways to cram the most space and kit into the least amount of metal. This means that going for a small car needn't mean putting up with a cramped interior, tiny boot and haven't to do without the latest in-car tech.

Technical features such as putting the engine sideways under the bonnet and powering the front wheels free up more space in the cabin, while practical hatchbacks give you the greatest possible access to the boot at the other end of the car. So, pick the right model and a small car can offer you big value.

Small cars are typically cheap to buy, fuel and maintain, they’re easy to drive and to park, and they’re often great fun to nip around town in, 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. Or should we say looking to put the most into it.

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 £5,795
Monthly finance from £124*

Not many manufacturers bother much with estate cars these days - as high-riding SUVs have become so popular - and even fewer make estate versions of their small cars.

While the craze for mini people carriers, SUVs and crossovers has sounded the death knell for many traditional family haulers, the practical appeal of the Skoda 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 mean 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 hatchback - not bad for a supermini, we think you’ll agree.

Only petrol versions have been available new 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, but if you chalk up many tens of thousands of miles every year, having the choice of a diesel in a small estate is handy for cutting your fuel bills.

SKODA FABIA BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Volkswagen Polo

Used deals from £8,995
Monthly finance from £143*

The Volkswagen Polo has always been a byword for practicality and space, and the latest version doesn’t disappoint fans of the model. It arrived a couple of years ago to rave reviews when, as well as offering sophisticated up-to-the-minute engineering and in-car tech, the Polo had 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 smaller Up city car 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 £5,890
Monthly finance from £118*

There’s a brand new Honda Jazz out now, but while it 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 that makes nearly new and used versions of the outgoing car 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 newer 2020 Jazz offers only 304 litres, so stick to this older version for maximum practicality.

HONDA JAZZ BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Dacia Sandero

Used deals from £4,395
Monthly finance from £82*

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.

Romanian brand Dacia is owned by Renault and you wouldn’t buy a Dacia for its style, high-tech kit or to get one up on the neighbours. However the Sandero was the UK’s cheapest car when new for a reason (though it's just been replaced), which means it’s a back-to-basic, no-frills experience that offers little in the way of sophisticated creature comforts or sporty driving pleasure.

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 £9,990
Monthly finance from £167*

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 its 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 Berlingo

Used deals from £13,490
Monthly finance from £217*

Van-based people carriers have always offered tremendous value when it comes to space for your money, and the Citroen Berlingo is no exception. It may be one of the biggest ‘small cars’ in our selection, but ẁhen you check out the prices you’ll understand why it had to be included - it comes with a small car price tag.

The boxy Berlingo is also available as a regular van, but don’t let that put you off. Like the Peugeot Rifter and Vauxhall Combo Life, which are built at the same factory in France, the latest Berlingo people carrier gets a series of cosmetic upgrades that give the exterior an adventurous and attractive feel compared to the commercial versions.

You can buy an XL model, with an extended wheelbase and seven seats for maximum room, but that falls outside the scope of our ‘small car’ size parameters, so we’re focusing on the five-seat regular version instead, which is still seriously practical.

The current Berlingo is a hugely practical choice for families, with a level of fit and features that lift the ownership experience beyond the Spartan levels of previous models. It’s very car-like to drive too, and as well as a hugely airy cabin, there’s a whopping 775 litres of boot space to play with.

CIRTROEN BERLINGO BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Kia Venga

Used deals from £4,691
Monthly finance from £103*

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.

You’re right if you’re guessing that means the Venga’s engineering and tech is not bang-up-to-the-minute, but drivers on a budget get maximum car for their money by avoiding the newest and 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 to 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. Seat Mii

Used deals from £4,899
Monthly finance from £95*

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 Seat because the Mii is often available with slightly lower used prices than the others, but all three city 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 mostly 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 went electric in 2020, which means used buyers get a very interesting new option as nearly new models make their way onto the market. Prices start at around £18,000 for a practically new version, but this will quickly drop as these get a little older. If you want to keep it old school with a year-old 1.0-litre petrol, these are available from as little as £8,000.

SEAT MII 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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