Best cars

Top 10 best small cars and superminis 2022

The best small cars and superminis aren’t just cheap to buy and run. Those at the top of the class are also stylish and fun to drive.

Renault Clio driving

Small cars and superminis may be little, but there’s a lot asked of them, which is why they can be hard to get right. Buyers of small cars want them to be easy to park and drive around town, but they also need to be fairly practical and well equipped. The best small cars are also fun to drive on both twisty roads and the motorway, while still being cheap to run.

Whether you’re looking for a first car or just want to downsize from something bigger, economical small cars and superminis offer the solution, and come with a sense of style and great looks. This class of cars has to appeal to a wide range of buyers, but they’re particularly good for young first-time buyers who will appreciate small hatchbacks with the latest smartphone connectivity and in-car entertainment technology, too.

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Versatility is the key word when it comes to small cars and superminis – they deliver in so many areas which contributes to their wide popularity. The Ford Fiesta is the best selling car in the UK of all time, and its Volkswagen Polo, Vauxhall Corsa and MINI hatchback peers make frequent appearances on lists of the most popular cars for buyers.

These household names have sold in massive volumes in the big world of small cars for many good reasons, but there are some excellent, less obvious alternatives on the market that fight their corners well, such as the Skoda Fabia and Citroen C3 hatchback.

Diesel superminis were fairly popular a few years back, but small cars with diesel engines are much more difficult to find these days. Most modern small cars and superminis will come with a small turbocharged petrol engine which can be just as efficient and return up to around 50mpg in some cases – they tend to be cheaper to buy from the outset, too. A petrol engine tends to suit the usage of these cars, too; for many, it’ll be almost exclusively around town and for short trips, which actually makes a petrol engine the better option.

It’s worth noting that you don’t need to sacrifice safety if you’re looking at a small car - most of these cars come with a five-star Euro NCAP rating.

Read on to discover our top 10 superminis currently on sale, or check out our guides to the best cheap-to-run cars and the best first cars.

Renault Clio hatchback review

Best small car: Renault Clio
Carbuyer rating

4.4 out of 5

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Renault’s stylish fifth-generation Clio is all-new from the ground up. Renault focused on improving the Clio in the areas it was criticised in the past and the company’s hard work has paid off; we scored it 4.5 out of 5 stars in the running costs, driving and performance, interior and comfort, and practicality categories.

The most obvious changes have been made to the interior, which is now much improved in terms of design and quality. There are more soft touch materials in the Clio than before and a large 9.3-inch portrait touchscreen gives the car a really smart, modern feel inside. As ever, a wide variety of trim levels and engine choices means there should be a Clio to suit most buyers. It’s one of a small number of superminis available with a diesel engine, but, as ever, you'll have to do plenty of miles to make it cheaper to run than a petrol engine. Those looking for a greener powertrain will be interested to know that the Clio is now available as an E-TECH hybrid model. 

Ford Fiesta hatchback review

Facelifted Ford Fiesta driving
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

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The Ford Fiesta has long been one of the best superminis on sale. The latest one is good to drive but even more refined on the motorway. Rear space has improved and the dashboard is much more minimal than the one in the previous model; space left by the absence of buttons is taken up by an eight-inch infotainment screen.

The wide model range includes the sporty-looking ST-Line, posh Vignale, the Active crossover and the Ford Fiesta ST (one of our very favourite hot hatchbacks) – so there really is a Fiesta for everyone. There’s no longer a diesel engine in the Fiesta range, but there is still a three-door model - which is becoming rarer in the supermini class. The pick of the engine range for most buyers will be the efficient 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine, which is available in three power outputs.

Volkswagen Polo hatchback review

Volkswagen Polo - front 3/4 dynamic
Carbuyer rating

4.4 out of 5

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Under the skin, the Volkswagen Polo is very similar to the SEAT Ibiza. Indeed, they’re based on the same mechanical platform. Yet the Polo will set you back a little bit more money than the Ibiza, despite being ever-so-slightly smaller and less practical. Why is this, you may ask?

Well, for starters, the VW badge commands a premium in itself, while the Polo’s interior is even higher-quality than the SEAT’s. It’s also exceptionally well built and has a ‘grown-up’ feel to it, as if it belongs to the class above. Okay, so the styling isn’t exactly eye-catching, but it’s handsome in a quiet, subdued sort of way and there are plenty of engines and trim levels to choose from. This is also a car that focuses more on being comfortable and relaxing, than exciting in bends.

Peugeot 208 hatchback review

Peugeot 208 hatchback
Carbuyer rating

4.4 out of 5

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Peugeot’s latest models have helped the company turn the corner from an era in which its cars felt cheap and a bit dull, and the 208 is definitely one of them. The styling is instantly eye-catching, with LED fangs that are like nothing else in the class, while the influence of the classic Peugeot 205 is clear from some angles. It sits on a completely new platform, which has enabled the introduction of an electric Peugeot e-208 model with up to 211 miles of range.

The EV is expensive, even after the Government’s £2,500 grant. In fact, all models are a bit more expensive compared to rivals, and none are particularly fun to drive. We do like the hi-tech interior, however, and the remaining petrol and diesel engines are tried-and-tested, offering decent performance and economy.

Skoda Fabia hatchback review

Skoda Fabia hatchback
Carbuyer rating

4.3 out of 5

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Sitting on the same platform as the Volkswagen Polo, the new Skoda Fabia is a cut-price alternative to the ‘people’s car’ which doesn’t compromise on sturdiness or build quality. With its large 380-litre boot and five doors as standard, it's one of the best in class in terms of practicality. While entry-level ‘S’ models are relatively sparse when it comes to standard kit, higher-trim models boast ‘big car’ features such as a heated steering wheel and a panoramic sunroof.

Just don’t expect to be excited by the drive, however, as the Fabia is set up firmly with comfort in mind, compared with the likes of the sportier SEAT Ibiza with whom it also shares its underpinnings.

SEAT Ibiza hatchback review

SEAT Ibiza hatchback
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

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The SEAT Ibiza has grown up, but that doesn’t mean it has lost its sparkle. Because while the latest supermini from SEAT is more comfortable over long distances, quieter at speed and better equipped than ever before, it remains engaging to drive on country lanes and maintains the youthful and stylish image that draws buyers to the Ibiza.

What downsides there are remain minor issues that are only apparent due to the high standards elsewhere, but the top of the dashboard could be made from slightly nicer plastic, and the lack of a three-door model may put some off – but SEAT isn’t alone in making its latest supermini five-door only. Pick the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and go for SE Technology trim and you can’t go far wrong - especially as it’s very clearly based on the more expensive VW Polo.

Honda Jazz hatchback review

Honda Jazz
Carbuyer rating

4.1 out of 5

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The latest Honda Jazz hybrid earns its place on this list first and foremost for its uncanny ability to swallow people and their luggage. It has an appetite for both that belies its small stature, thanks to a tall, upright design that makes it feel like a small MPV to drive. Clever styling that takes cues from the Honda Civic hatchback means the Jazz looks far from boxy or utilitarian, and the range-topping Crosstar EX trim adds an SUV aesthetic sure to broaden its appeal.

Step inside and you’ll find a Tardis-like interior with rear head and legroom to rival much bigger cars. You’ll also get the Jazz’s trademark ‘Magic Seats’ that fold flat to the floor or swing up cinema-style to turn the rear footwells into ideal storage for those awkwardly tall pot plants. The Jazz also features a reasonable sized 304-litre boot, but it’s not all about the storage. This small car is easy to drive around town, with light steering and a decent if unexceptional ride. The e:HEV powertrain is impressive, with a 1.5-litre petrol engine and twin electric motors with one driving the front wheels and the other converting energy for storage in the battery for use in EV mode. Drive it carefully, and the Jazz easily beats petrol and diesel rivals achieving over 60mpg. And of course there’s the legendary Honda reliability.

MINI hatchback review

2021 MINI hatchback driving
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

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If you want your supermini to offer quality, character and style by the bucketload, then you could do an awful lot worse than the MINI five-door hatchback. While it’s true the MINI comes with a slightly higher price tag than most of its rivals, you can feel where that extra money has been spent – both when looking around the interior and in the way it drives. The entry-level model is exceptionally cheap to run, while the more powerful versions offer impressive performance.

All iterations of the MINI are sharp to drive and if you don’t need the extra practicality of the five-door version, the three-door hatchback is a cheaper, more compact option. The MINI helped start the drive to offer customers personalisation options, so there’s an almost limitless options list. It’s wise to exercise caution though, as the options can quickly inflate the car’s price to an eye-watering sum - for a long time, it was possible to double the price of base-spec cars with extras.

Audi A1 hatchback review

Audi A1 hatchback
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

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The latest Audi A1 offers the brand's trademark design and smart interior in the smallest, most affordable package, while still offering five doors. There’s more rear legroom in the new model, which is good as it was definitely a weakness of the previous one. The A1 is refined and makes a very competent cruiser, despite its size, particularly because it comes with the choice of economical yet punchy engines. These are well proven and reliable thanks to use under the bonnets of other cars in the VW Group.

The A1 isn’t quite as rewarding to drive as a MINI, but it's more practical and impresses in just about every other way. The badge will draw plenty of buyers in alone, but it helps that the baby Audi is a very competent all-rounder.

Citroën C3 hatchback review

Citroen C3 hatchback front 3/4 tracking
Carbuyer rating

3.8 out of 5

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If you’re bored of the current crop of superminis, the Citroen C3 offers something a bit different. With crossover styling inspired by the larger C4 Cactus, this is a supermini for those who appreciate SUVs, but don’t want anything as big or expensive to run. The C3 is also designed with comfort in mind, so it offers a smooth ride and squidgy seats instead of bone-shaking suspension and narrow bucket seats.

Its interior has a trendy design, with flashes of colour if you choose one of its more characterful interior ‘ambiances’. The 1.2-litre PureTech petrol suits the C3 well, and you can also choose a 1.5-litre diesel with 67mpg economy if you plan on lots of long trips.

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