What is a supermini?

Bigger than city cars, but smaller than family hatchbacks. We explain what superminis are

Simon Ostler
Sep 18, 2020

Ever encountered the term 'supermini' and wondered what on earth it means? You'd be forgiven for wondering it was some kind of miniature supercar, and you'd be half right. Superminis are small, but they tend not to be particularly fast. They fit somewhere in between the smallest city cars such as the Skoda Citigo and larger family hatchbacks like the Seat Leon

The mix of manoeuvrability and practicality a supermini offers has meant that models such as the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo have become some of the most popular and best-selling cars in the UK, not to mention they tend to be much more affordable than something like a VW Golf or Ford Focus. In many respects, the supermini is the perfect cocktail.

To give you an idea of where this class of compact hatchbacks sits in terms of size, here is a quick run-down of where these cars fit in their respective ranges.

MakeCity carSuperminiFamily hatchback
FordKaFiestaFocus
VauxhallAdamCorsaAstra
VolkswagenUpPoloGolf

What are the defining characteristics of a supermini?

A supermini is a fairly easy car to spot. They were most commonly found with three doors until more recently, when the added practicality of having five doors became too difficult to ignore. They're relatively small in size, most notably towards the rear end where these cars tend to have much smaller boots than family hatchbacks. It's an obvious difference if for example you see a VW Polo and a VW Golf side by side.

But that doesn't necessarily mean the supermini is more cramped inside. These cars tend to have more distance between the front and rear wheels, which means interior space can be stretched to offer more legroom for passengers.

In the UK superminis are popular because they are great value, cheap to run, reliable, fairly practical and can offer a fun driving experience. The fact the Ford Fiesta has been the best selling car in the UK for years is very much evidence to support this.

You can get performance superminis as well with more powerful engines and sporty styling. Because of their small size these cars are often extremely fast and incredibly nimble making them incredible fun to drive. The best example is the Ford Fiesta ST, while equally interesting alternatives include the Audi S1 and Abarth 595.

Used superminis

Small cars have become a popular choice for those who regularly drive around congested cities, and while city cars are completely focused on being small and manoeuvrable they are simply too small for many. This is where the supermini really comes into its own, because it' still compact - much more so than a VW Golf or BMW 3 Series - but they don't sacrifice all of the space and practicality that you get with those larger cars. You also have some pretty stylish and pretty quick options to choose from here, so while they may not be the most expensive cars on the market, they might well be some of the best.

There is a choice of 3385 superminis currently available on BuyaCar, with prices starting at £4,114 and finance deals from £76 per month.

Superminis: pros and cons

Pros

Low running costs
Reliable and simple to fix
Can be fun to drive

Cons

Lack practicality
Not as comfortable as larger cars
Generally not great on motorways

What to look for when buying a supermini

  • Euro NCAP crash test rating: Euro NCAP is a crash test expert and rates how safe a car is. The tests are different depending on the size of a car, with larger cars having harder tests. With this in mind, you want to make sure the supermini you are looking at has a great safety rating – especially if you will be transporting kids in the back. What is Euro NCAP?
  • Emissions: thanks to a shake-up of the car taxation rules, buying an older car could actually save you money when it comes road tax.
  • Folding seats: in a relatively small car, being able to fold some of the rear seats instead of all of them is incredibly useful, especially on trips to your household waste recycling centre.
  • Warranty: if you are buying a nearly new car you should be able to snag a bargain with a warranty. Kia offers an industry leading seven-year warranty, but many manufacturers only cover their cars for the first three years of its life.
  • Transmission: superminis are perfectly suited to manual gearboxes, thanks largely to their small rev-happy engines. While automatic superminis are better than ever, it is good to test drive the auto versions to make sure you can live with it before you buy.

 

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