Best city cars

Small, nippy and economical, but with space for four. Find out which are the best city cars on sale

BuyaCar team
May 21, 2018

Despite comically small looks and miniscule engines, the latest generation of city cars are surprisingly capable.

The best have enough space for four adults, despite being short and squat; a boot that's big enough for a weekly shop; plus enough power and stability to zoom along the motorway at 70mph. For some drivers, it could be all the car they'll ever need.

Low insurance costs make city cars popular amongst young drivers and that appeal increases for models that feature the latest technology, including dashboard screens with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for simple control over phone apps (including navigation), plus safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking

But not every city car gets the formula right, and there's a big difference between the good and bad. Choose one from the list below and you can be sure that you’ve picked well.

Skoda Citigo

Best city car for value for money

Our pick Skoda Citigo 1.0 75 PS SE L GreenTech 5dr
Acceleration (0-62mph) 13.5secFuel economy 68.9mpgCO2 96g/km

Take the badges away and the Citigo looks very much like the VW up! and Seat Mii. That’s because both cars are virtually identical.

The layout inside all three cars is the same as well. Since summer 2017, all but entry-level Citigo S models have come with a smartphone holder, which enables your phone to be used as a sat-nav and entertainment centre: a recognition that your gadgets will probably be more advanced than a car that was designed seveal years ago.

Both petrol engines have enough zip for town driving, but are slow to accelerate and noisy on the motorway. A more powerful 90 horsepower engine, only available in the Volkswagen up!, is better for long-distance journeys. Apart from this, there's little else to split the Citigo from the up! and Mii; the Skoda is the top pick here because it's generally a little cheaper.
Read the Skoda Citigo buying guide

   

VW up!

Best city car for the feel of a bigger car

Our pick VW up! 1.0 75 High up!
Acceleration (0-62mph) 13.2sec, Fuel economy 64.2mpg, CO2 101g/km

Volkswagen has taken the ingredients that made its Golf a success and downsized them into the up!. There’s no zany design: this looks like a conventional car and behaves like one, with a smooth ride in town, and enough power on faster roads, as long as you avoid the slowest 1-litre engine with 60 horsepower.

There’s enough space in the back for two adults, for short journeys at least, and the boot is amongst the largest of all city cars too.

A recent update has updated the car’s technology, replacing the sat-nav with the option of a VW app that you download to your smartphone, which is then used to navigate.
Read the VW up! buying guide

    

Hyundai i10

Best city car for peace of mind

Our pick Hyundai i10 1.0 SE
Acceleration (0-62mph) 14.7sec, Fuel economy 60.1mpg, CO2 108g/km

With a five-year warranty that has no mileage limit, the Hyundai i10 comes with plenty of reassurance. And it’s also a great city car. It feels well made and is spacious inside. With the back seats folded down, you’ll have a luggage area that no other city car can match. Put them up and you’ve got three seatbelts, so you can fit in five - at a squeeze.

Neither one of the two engines available feel sporty, but the smallest 1-litre motor has enough power in town, while the larger 1.2-litre engine is better if you’ll be taking your i10 on the motorway.

If you’re economy-conscious check out the frugal 1.0 SE Blue. It’s more expensive than the standard 1.0 SE and comes in four-seat form only but it does 70.6mpg compared with the SE’s 60.1mpg.
Read the Hyundai i10 buying guide

 

Renault Twingo

Best city car for driving fun and personalisation

Our pick Renault Twingo Play SCe 70 5dr
Acceleration (0-62mph) 14.5sec, Fuel economy 56.5mpg, CO2 112g/km

Designed with a bit more style than your average city car, the Renault Twingo’s looks benefit from a short bonnet because the engine isn’t underneath there - it’s fitted at the back of the car. This helps to make the Renault more manoeuvrable: able to turn in a smaller area than many other city cars.

It also helps to make the Twingo spacious inside, with four proper seats - although the rear passengers will have to make do with windows that pop out rather than wind down. The car’s SCe 70 petrol engine is smooth but it needs gentle acceleration for even average fuel economy.

    

Kia Picanto

Our pick Kia Picanto 1.0 SE 5dr
Acceleration (0-62mph) 14.4sec, Fuel economy 68.9mpg, CO2 102/gkm

Kia's latest Picanto shares its mechanical parts with the Hyundai i10, which means that it offers a similarly-spacious boot and interior, with rear seats that can accommodate adults in relative comfort - providing the journey isn't too long.

It's nimble in town and reasonably nippy too. The larger 1.25 litre will happily zip along at motorway speeds, although you'll need a little bit of patience to accelerate to 70mph.

The Picanto is also the city car that offers the greatest peace of mind, thanks to its seven-year warranty that's limited to the first 100,000 miles.
Read the Kia Picanto buying guide

 

Fiat 500

Our pick Fiat 500 0.9 TwinAir Lounge 
Acceleration (0-62mph) 11.0sec, Fuel economy 74.3mpg, CO2 90/gkm

The Fiat 500 is the most expensive city car in this selection. In fact, it’s debatable whether it should be included here except that it is small and it has always been regarded as a chic city runabout. It was facelifted in 2015 but the changes were subtle enough to mean that used cars have not been dated by it. On the downside, the faceift didn't tackle the car’s uncomfortable driving position, cramped rear seats and small boot. The 500 is a three-door only but there’s a soft-top version to liven things up.

There are various trim levels but the 500 hangs its hat on personalisation. There are many ways to style your 500 and no two cars look the same. There are two engines, a 1.2 and a 0.9 available in two power outputs.  The 1.2 is cheaper while the 0.9 is a modern engine boasting excellent economy, but only if you use a light right foot. In reality, it can be hard to achieve its claimed figures.
Read the Fiat 500 buying guide 

   

Vauxhall Viva

Best city car for space at a low price

Our pick Vauxhall Viva 1.0 SL 5dr
Acceleration (0-62mph) 13.1sec, Fuel economy 62.8mpg, CO2 104g/km

The Viva is a great-value city car that, even in basic form, comes with plenty of equipment - cruise control, electric windows and mirrors, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and split-fold rear seats. If you want air-conditioning, the list  price of SE A/C models is £500 more. If a sat nav is your feature of choice you’ll need to dig much deeper for the SE Nav.

In addition to the standard Viva range there’s the Viva Rocks, a taller version with a raised ride height and rugged body additions that make it look like a mini sport utility vehicle (SUV). It costs just a bit more than the most expensive regular version, the SE Nav.

The back of the Viva is roomy enough for three people, although don’t expect the biggest boot; something had to give.

The model is best in town, where its 1.0-litre engine feels nippy. Take it on a motorway and it becomes noisy, and you’ll constantly be changing gear unless you can keep to a steady speed.

If you can live with this, then you’ll almost certainly be able to get a discounted Vauxhall Viva deal: there are plenty of new car offers and reduced prices on nearly new models.
Read the Vauxhall Viva buying guide

  

Seat Mii

Our pick Peugeot 108 PureTech 1.2 VTi Allure 
Acceleration (0-62mph) 14.4sec, Fuel economy 64.2mpg, CO2 102g/km

This close relative of the Citigo and up! is marketed as the fun member of the family, although it’s actually mechanically identical to them. Despite the up! having the higher perceived image, the Seat is easily the most expensive of the three. Its appeal is further dented by the fact that it’s not available with an automatic gearbox, which could be a problem if you like the convenience of clutchless driving in town.

What it is available with, at least from Design Mii trim upwards, is Seat’s new smartphone integration system. Similar to the Citigo’s new system, it features a smartphone cradle and an app providing Tom Tom navigation.

Otherwise, the Mii is more or less the same in terms of body styles. It’s offered with the same two petrol engines as the Citigo (a 60hp and 75hp) where the up! is available with a choice of three. If that’s not important to you, choosing between them comes down to personal taste and what kind of deal you can find.
Read the Seat Mii buying guide

    

Toyota Aygo

Our pick Toyota Aygo VVTi 1.0 x-play 5dr
Acceleration (0-62mph) 14.2sec, Fuel economy 68.9mpg, CO2 95g/km

The little car with lots of attitude: that’s the Aygo. Its edgy styling won’t please everyone but those who fall for it will also like the car’s quick and accurate steering. All but base versions have a rear-view camera, too, helping to make light work of tight manoeuvres. Economy’s a strong point.
Read the Toyota Aygo buying guide 

   

Suzuki Celerio

Our pick Suzuki Celerio SZ3 1.0 Acceleration (0-62mph) 13.5sec, Fuel economy 65.7mpg, CO2 99g/km

Value for money is the Celerio’s battle cry. Alloy wheels, air-conditioning, digital radio and Bluetooth are all standard. It’s spacious, too. A city car should be at its best in the city and the Celerio really is, but on open roads it’s noisy and the light steering makes it difficult to judge how much you need to turn in fast corners.

 

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