Best small cars and superminis

Last updated: May 23, 2016

Small cars and superminis are the most popular type of car sold in the UK, according to the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders). Because of this, competition is fierce, and buyers expect superminis to offer a wide breadth of abilities. Despite their relatively small size, cars of this type need to offer low running costs, plenty of standard equipment, a good driving experience and strong practicality.

The best superminis are appealing to look at and cheap to buy, yet they should also be able to hold their own on the motorway, with many buyers expecting a quiet and comfortable cruising experience on longer journeys.

That's a challenging remit, but one that the best superminis manage to fulfil. Our guide to the top 10 best small cars on sale today includes perennial favourites like the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa, as well as more left-field choices like the Suzuki Swift.

Volkswagen Polo hatchback

While it’s not the cheapest car on this list, the Volkswagen Polo is the best. If you’re happy to pay a slight premium for the VW badge, the Polo has a strong reputation for reliability, an appealing and well made interior and excellent residual values on the secondhand market. While it’s by no means the most exciting car to drive on a twisty back road, the Polo is easy to manoeuvre around town and feels like a much bigger car on the motorway, thanks to its soft suspension and quiet interior. Those after ultimate economy should seek out the 1.4-litre diesel model, which returns 83mpg, while performance fans should investigate the 189bhp Polo GTI, which goes from 0-62mph in under seven seconds. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£11,525 - £20,140

Mazda2 hatchback

The Mazda2 is a great-looking supermini with a thoroughly modern and well-equipped interior. The most economical diesel model returns 83.1mpg and doesn’t cost a penny in road tax, while passenger space is generous for a car of this size. The Mazda2’s standout feature, however, is the way it drives. Like the Polo, it’s easy to manoeuvre around town and quiet on the motorway, but take it on a twisty backroad and the accurate steering and excellent suspension combine to offer a thoroughly enjoyable driving experience. It’s not quite as much fun as a Ford Fiesta, but the Mazda2 is a far newer model, with enough appeal to steal the number two spot. Read more.

Key points

4.4 / 5
Price 
£11,995 - £17,395

Ford Fiesta hatchback

Although it’s due for replacement next year, the Ford Fiesta takes the bronze medal thanks to its attractive looks, low running costs and excellent driving experience. The 1.5-litre diesel is capable of almost 90mpg, while the 179bhp ST model is almost as fast as the Polo GTI, but far more enjoyable to drive along a winding B-road. Low insurance groups make this a good first car, while Ford’s MyKey feature allows parents to limit the Fiesta’s top speed and stereo volume, as well as prevent the electronic stability control and other safety systems from being turned off. Read more.

Key points

4.4 / 5
Price 
£10,345 - £18,595

Vauxhall Corsa hatchback

Despite being a top-selling offering from a leading manufacturer, the Vauxhall Corsa is one of the cheapest cars on this list. As well as being excellent value for money, the Corsa also provides a comfortable interior and quiet driving experience, while Vauxhall’s IntelliLink infotainment system is one of the easiest to use on the market. The 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine positively fizzes with energy and performance, while if economy is your priority, the 1.3-litre diesel returns 88mpg. Vauxhall offers a bewildering amount of trim levels for the Corsa, but go for the Design model and you should get all the equipment you’ll need for a reasonable price. Read more.

Key points

4 / 5
Price 
£9,595 - £17,825

Skoda Fabia hatchback

For about £1,000 less than a Polo, the Skoda Fabia offers excellent value for money, even if it’s not quite the bargain it once was. The Fabia shares many of its engines with the Polo, so finding the right blend of performance and economy should be easy – even if there’s no hot hatchback vRS model anymore. The Fabia’s trump card is its practicality: inside, it’s one of the most spacious superminis on the market. An excellent reliability record seals the deal: in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, the Fabia finished in an impressive 22nd place out of 150 cars. Read more.

Key points

4.1 / 5
Price 
£10,750 - £18,025

MINI hatchback

If you want your supermini to have character, the MINI offers this in spades. Instantly recognisable looks, a funky interior, engaging handling and low running costs are the car’s standout areas, while the endless personalisation options allow you to specify the perfect MINI for you. Limited practicality and a high purchase price prevent the MINI from ranking any higher on our list, although it does have strong secondhand values. Read more.

Key points

4.1 / 5
Price 
£14,075 - £21,400

Peugeot 208 hatchback

The Peugeot 208 is one of the best hatchbacks made by the French brand in recent memory. A stylish and comfortable interior, appealing exterior looks and a solid driving experience count in the 208’s favour, while the 1.6-litre diesel engine is capable of returning up to a staggering 94.2mpg. Only everyday usability marks the 208 down: the touchscreen is clunky and awkward to use, while Peugeot’s decision to reinvent the (steering) wheel is questionable: it’s been designed to be looked over, rather than through when viewing the dials. This works for most people, but taller or shorter drivers may find vital gauges like the speedometer obscured. Read more.

Key points

4.1 / 5
Price 
£12,065 - £18,615

Citroen DS3 hatchback

The DS brand is Citroen’s attempt to create a range of cars that are more luxurious and desirable than its normal models, and the DS 3 is the best-selling car in the line-up. Although it’s essentially a six-year-old car, the DS 3’s funky looks and luxurious interior have aged remarkably well. The 1.6-litre BlueHDi model returns over 80mpg and is road-tax-exempt, and whichever engine you choose, the DS3 is an enjoyable car to drive. A relatively high purchase price and the lack of a five-door model means the DS 3 features low on our list, but it’s still an excellent choice if you’re after a distinctively different small car. Read more.

Key points

4 / 5
Price 
£13,995 - £25,495

Renault Clio hatchback

Another great-looking French supermini, the Renault Clio is stylish, relaxing to drive and comes with a four-year/100,000-mile warranty. It’s also impressively reliable, coming 21st out of 150 cars in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. Appealing looks count in the Clio’s favour, with the rear door handles being hidden in the window frames, helping the five-door model look sleeker than many similar cars. In the debit column, although it has a big boot, the Clio’s rear seats are relatively cramped. It also doesn’t hold its value on the secondhand market as well as the VW Polo, despite being similarly priced when new. Read more.

Key points

3.7 / 5
Price 
£11,145 - £18,275

Suzuki Swift hatchback

It’s a bit of a left-field choice, but the Suzuki Swift’s sharp styling, engaging driving experience and competitive list price mean it sneaks into our top 10 list of the best superminis on sale today. As it’s the cheapest car on this list, you’ll have to put up with a slightly plasticky and dated interior, but the Swift makes up for this somewhat with a generous amount of standard equipment. The rear seats and boot are a bit tight, but if you’re after a good-value, good-to-drive supermini and fancy something different, the Swift is well worth a test drive. Read more.

Key points

3.7 / 5
Price 
£8,999 - £14,199