Best small cars and superminis

Last updated: Jul 7, 2015

Buyers looking for the best small cars want more than just low running costs, compact dimensions and eye-catching looks. Big-car refinement, clever practicality and grin-inducing handling are also requirements for these cars, which must be easy to drive and well suited to the UK's busy town centres.

Big names in this class include the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Kia Rio, but almost every manufacturer has a contender – many of them very good. So it was quite tough to decide on our top 10, listed below:

Volkswagen Polo hatchback

The Volkswagen Polo is one of the longest-established names in this class, with a great reputation for quality and reliability. It’s certainly not the cheapest car here, but the classy cabin, refined driving manners and general comfort make it our top choice. It doesn’t shed value as quickly as its rivals, while the super-efficient BlueMotion models have rock-bottom running costs. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£11,300 - £19,915

Ford Fiesta hatchback

The Ford Fiesta ticks all the boxes necessary to be a great supermini. It has smart styling, low running costs and entertaining handling, as well as pretty generous standard equipment, space for four adults and a decent boot. It’s equally at home in a busy town centre or cruising on the motorway. It’s also an ideal first car – the Ford MyKey feature lets parents set a maximum speed and stereo volume to make things safer for young and inexperienced drivers. Read more.

Key points

4.4 / 5
Price 
£10,145 - £18,395

Kia Rio hatchback

If value for money is important to you, the Kia Rio will definitely appeal. It’s not as expensive as the Polo, but it has a lot more standard kit and an industry-leading seven-year/100,000-mile manufacturer warranty. It’s also economical and reliable, while some of the diesel models are so efficient they’re exempt from road tax. It’s not as much fun to drive as the Ford Fiesta, though. Read more.

Key points

3.8 / 5
Price 
£10,345 - £17,445

MINI hatchback

The MINI brand has impeccable heritage and these days is owned by BMW, but retains its distinctive British charm. It boasts a comfortable, high-quality interior, easy-to-use controls and a great driving experience. Like the Polo, it’s one of the more expensive cars on this list, but it does hold its value very well and owners enjoy low running costs. Read more.

Key points

4.1 / 5
Price 
£13,935 - £21,260

Peugeot 208 hatchback

As you’d expect from a French brand, the Peugeot 208 is very chic and stylish, but it also has a sensible, economical side, as well as being fun to drive. Petrolheads will be drawn to the Peugeot 208 GTI hot hatch, but whatever version you choose, there’s plenty of room in the back. The slightly awkward dashboard design disappoints, though – depending on how tall you are, the steering wheel can obstruct your view of the dials. Read more.

Key points

4.1 / 5
Price 
£11,695 - £21,995

SEAT Ibiza hatchback

The SEAT Ibiza is based on the VW Polo and recently had a full revamp to bring it up to date with rivals. It brings some Spanish flair to the class, as well as low running costs and eager performance from its turbocharged petrol engines. Although interior quality isn’t quite up to Polo standards and the Skoda Fabia (another sister model) is cheaper, the Ibiza is still a great choice. Read more.

Key points

3.7 / 5
Price 
£11,865 - £17,335

Renault Clio hatchback

Some clever design work means the Renault Clio hatchback looks like a smarter three-door in passing, while retaining the better practicality that comes with a five-door layout. Inside, the boot is a good size, the ride is comfortable and the dashboard is stylish. Efficient petrol and diesel engines add to the appeal, although the Renault doesn’t hold its value on the second-hand market as well as the likes of the VW Polo or MINI. Read more.

Key points

3.7 / 5
Price 
£11,145 - £18,275

Suzuki Swift hatchback

It’s not the most obvious choice, but the Suzuki Swift shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone in the market for a supermini. Fun handling, smart styling and piles of standard equipment make for an appealing package, although the boot and back seats are on the small side and the Swift isn’t quite as refined on the motorway as its rivals. But if you’re looking for a nippy town car, it’s perfect. Read more.

Key points

3.7 / 5
Price 
£8,999 - £14,199

Hyundai i20

The Hyundai i20 is now in its second generation and looks better than ever. It boasts the biggest boot in the class, as well as acres of space for passengers. You can also get attractive options such as a panoramic sunroof, while all versions are covered by Hyundai’s excellent five-year/unlimited-mileage warranty. Efficiency is a bit of a stumbling block, however – there’s only one model emitting less than 100g/km of CO2 for free road tax – while the engines on offer aren’t very sprightly, either. Read more.

Key points

3.5 / 5
Price 
£10,995 - £17,700

Citroën DS3 hatchback

The DS brand is an offshoot of Citroen, and the DS 3 was previously known as the Citroen DS3. It’s the most popular model in the luxury marque’s range, as well as being a satisfying drive and delivering good fuel economy (one of the diesels can manage 79mpg). There are certainly newer superminis available, but the DS’ styling still looks fresh after several years on the market. It’s only available as a three-door, however, so practicality isn’t its strongest suit. Read more.

Key points

4 / 5
Price 
£13,295 - £20,995