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Best cars

Top 10 best city cars 2024

City cars are some of the most affordable and frugal cars on sale – these are the best

best city cars

It may seem that new cars are growing larger and larger, but urban dwellers will be pleased to know that there is still a solid selection of small, city cars on sale today. Sure, once popular models like the Ford Ka and the Smart ForTwo are no longer around, but we’ve seen new models – including some electric alternatives – fill their place.

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The reasons for buying a city car haven’t changed. They’re still perfectly sized for navigating city streets and slotting into tight parking spaces, while their low weight and small engines make them some of the most fuel-efficient cars on the road. That’s helped by low insurance costs, making them the ideal first car for new drivers.

The best city cars tick those boxes above, but should also feel composed and comfortable at motorway speeds in case you need to take a longer trip. A spacious and well-equipped interior is also a nice bonus – something you’ll find in the top cars on this list.

The best city cars on sale 

Read on below for our list of the best city cars you can buy today. If you think these cars are a bit too small, you can read our list of the best superminis, too. We’ve also covered the best cheap cars to insure and the best cheap-to-run cars if you’re looking to cut your motoring costs.

Kia Picanto hatchback review

kia picanto hatchback
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

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  • Priced from £15,595
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The latest Kia Picanto ticks many of the boxes for the would-be city car buyer. It looks good inside and out, there's plenty of scope for customisation and it features plenty of tech – including must-have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. The five-door-only Picanto is practical too, with just about enough space for four adults and a decent-sized boot. The basic 66bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine is nippy enough for round-town driving, and buyers can choose between a five-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed auto’.

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As multi-talented as the Picanto is, it's Kia's unrivalled warranty that really seals the deal. It'll last for seven years, and if you buy an approved used model that's less than 18 months old, Kia will top up the warranty so it could last until the car is eight and a half years old. In 2023 Kia announced an updated version is just around the corner with revised styling and a digital gauge cluster as standard. You can either hold out until that arrives, or bag a great deal on an outgoing model.

MINI hatchback review - smiles and style

2021 MINI hatchback driving
Carbuyer rating

4.1 out of 5

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  • Priced from £22,935

There are few cars that are as iconic as the MINI. Its retro-themed design harks back to the original model (despite being owned by BMW), and its rallying credentials are still present today in the form of the MINI’s ‘go-kart’ driving experience. The range kicks off with the 134bhp Cooper model, while the top-of-the range John Cooper Works version produces 228bhp, getting it from 0-62mph in just 6.1 seconds. There is also an electrified version of the iconic hatchback, with the 181bhp MINI Electric capable of a range of up to 142 miles.

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On the inside, every version of the MINI boasts a modern interior that pays homage to the original car. It features a range of high quality materials and some top-notch technology shared with various BMW models including an 8.8-inch touchscreen, cruise control, air conditioning and LED headlights. Buyers can also specify a variety of comfort and navigation packages; but be careful, as it’s easy to get carried away and configure a MINI costing over £30,000. However, despite the MINI’s growth spurt and increased price, the 211 litre boot is smaller than some rivals.

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There’s an all-new MINI hatch – renamed the MINI Cooper – on the way, so there may be good deals on the outgoing model as it’s phased out.

Hyundai i10 review - tech-filled and practical small car

hyundai i10 facelift
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

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  • Priced from £16,030

The third-generation Hyundai i10 is hard to beat – not only does it punch above its small stature, but it also makes good financial sense. It’s cheap to buy, economical (managing around 50mpg), costs very little to insure and is covered by a five-year warranty with unlimited mileage. Its interior is also comfortable and spacious, feeling more in keeping with superminis from the class above. Handily, there’s enough space for five passengers to squeeze in; some cars in this class only offer seating for four. The boot is among the best of any city car, and the i10 looks stylish both inside and out. It’s even quite good fun to drive.

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The i10 has previously been a winner of our Car of the Year award, and we’re even more impressed with the latest generation. Even the entry-level i10 Advance is well-appointed, and Premium versions even have a heated steering wheel. Every version includes modern essentials such as remote central locking, all-around electric windows, cruise control and air-conditioning.

Fiat 500 review - a fun and affordable EV city car

Fiat 500 electric
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

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  • Priced from £28,195
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The latest Fiat 500 leans unapologetically into the heritage of the original with its retro look and feel. Like more and more small cars, the new 500 is only available with electric power (although Fiat continues to sell the ‘old’ mild-hybrid 500 for the time being – see below). Initial models are expensive to buy but cheaper versions are now available, while the 199-mile range shows you can have chic looks and a decent battery.

The interior is still an appealing place to spend time, and Fiat has stuffed it full of brand-new tech, headlined by the UConnect 5 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Style does come above practicality – the 500 doesn’t have much space in the rear seats or the boot – but most buyers won’t mind that.

Toyota Aygo X hatchback review

Toyota Aygo X Undercover
Carbuyer rating

3.8 out of 5

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  • Priced from £16,140

Toyota likes to position the new Aygo X as a ‘compact crossover for the city’. While it is far from being a true off-roader, it still manages to provide plenty of the aspects that many people love about SUVs such as a taller driving position and chunky styling. Despite being the brand’s smallest model, the Aygo X gets plenty of standard equipment such as a nine-inch touchscreen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto functionality, air conditioning and a reversing camera. Top-spec cars even get an electronically-folding fabric roof for open-air city driving.

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The Aygo X is only offered with one engine: a 1.0-litre petrol with 71bhp. This can manage 60.1mpg, though it quickly feels out of its depth as soon as you head out of town towards a motorway; 0-62mph takes a lethargic 15 seconds. Performance aside, the Aygo X handles well and is easy to manoeuvre through busy streets. Plus, thanks to Toyota’s 10-year/100,00-mile ‘Relax’ warranty, ownership should be a breeze.

Suzuki Ignis SUV

Carbuyer rating

3.7 out of 5

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  • Priced from £17,949

You may be surprised to find two SUVs on a ‘best city cars’ list, but while the Toyota Aygo X is merely a city car with raised suspension, the Suzuki Ignis is more deserving of SUV status thanks to its optional four-wheel drive. All models are powered by an 89bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine, while top-spec models receive mild-hybrid assistance as well as the aforementioned four-wheel-drive system. Due to its boxy shape, the Ignis can suffer from body lean if you enter a corner too exuberantly, so it’s better suited at more relaxed speeds in and around town.

Suzuki is first and foremost a budget brand, and the Ignis is no departure from this. The majority of the interior materials are hard, cheap-feeling plastics, although everything feels well-screwed together and a two-tone dashboard goes a long way towards lightening things up. Smartphone connectivity is offered as standard, and unlike most small cars, the Ignis can comfortably seat four adults thanks to its high roofline.

Abarth 500e review - the most fun small EV?

Abarth 500e UK
Carbuyer rating

3.7 out of 5

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  • Priced from £34,195
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The Abarth 500e follows the launch of the electric Fiat 500 (above), and adds a little extra spice to the electric city car’s recipe. It’s essentially a hot version of the Fiat, boasting a more powerful 152bhp electric motor than the standard car, good for a 0-62mph time of seven seconds dead. It’s designed with fun in mind, so the 500e also gets a sound generator that mimics the exhaust note of a petrol-engined Abarth for added drama.

With fun being the name of the game, you won’t get as much range out of the Abarth 500e’s 42kWh battery as you do in the Fiat 500 – the former gets a 164-mile official range figure down from the Fiat’s 199 miles.

That said, the Abarth 500e does feel a little more special, with sporty and premium features such as an exterior body kit and Alcantara-upholstered sports seats adorned with the Abarth scorpion logos helping it to stand out. You even get ‘Performance Pages’ on the 10.25-inch infotainment screen which display video-game-like driving information and cement the car’s performance credentials. All of that added flair doesn’t come cheap, though – a starting price of £34,000 will limit the 500e’s appeal to only the most diehard of hot hatchback fans.

Fiat 500 hatchback review

Fiat 500
Carbuyer rating

3.3 out of 5

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  • Priced from £16,800
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If you like the style of the electric Fiat 500 and the Abarth 500e above, but you’re working to a tight budget, the petrol-powered Fiat 500 could be the city car for you. While those models are based on an all-new platform, the petrol Fiat 500 is largely unchanged from the original car that launched in 2007. That makes it one of the oldest cars still on sale, but there’s a good reason why the 500 has remained so popular for all those years.

It’s stylish, small and – importantly – cheap. Around £17,000 gets you behind the wheel of one of the most recognisable cars on the road, with a small, efficient mild-hybrid petrol engine and just enough room for four. Continual improvements to the interior have kept it feeling fresh, if not quite cutting-edge, but don’t expect to fit much more than a few bags in its 185-litre boot.

While we think the new, electric Fiat 500 is a better car in practically every way, the value offered by the petrol-powered model will still be enough to win over many buyers.

Citroen Ami hatchback review

Citroen Ami driving
Carbuyer rating

3.3 out of 5

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  • Priced from £8,495

Here, we thought we’d introduce a wildcard to our list of city cars. While it’s technically a quadricycle, the Citroen Ami is one of the cheapest ways to get around on four wheels. It’s the smallest ‘car’ currently on sale in the UK – measuring 2,410 mm long – and one of the lightest, too, weighing in at only 458kg (less than half the weight of most other city cars). Power comes from an 8bhp electric motor, giving it a top speed of 28mph, making it a perfect car for city commuting, but not much else. With a fully charged battery, the Ami can manage up to 46 miles of range – enough to make a return trip across London.

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Inside, the simple design theme continues. It’s surprisingly practical, with a decent amount of storage nets and bins scattered around the cabin. Unlike the similarly small and electric Renault Twizy, the Ami boasts two full-sized doors and can seat two adults. This could well be the future of city transportation and if that is the case, the future looks fun and bright.

Dacia Spring review – Britain’s cheapest new EV

Dacia Spring facelift front 3/4 tracking
Carbuyer rating

3.5 out of 5

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  • Priced from £14,995

The Dacia Spring takes the simple EV formula of the Citroen Ami but wraps it in a far more conventional package. For starters, it’s a genuine ‘car’ and not a quadricycle, using a more substantial 44bhp electric motor and 26.8kWh battery. A range of around 140 miles adds real usability, while a punchier 64bhp motor is optional. It’s no sports car, but a 78mph top speed means the Spring can handle the occasional stint along a fast A road or motorway.

Sit inside the Spring and it’s clear where cost-cutting has taken place. There are hard plastics dotted throughout and no adjustability for the steering wheel, although these aren’t huge issues for drivers who mainly stick to short hops around town.

It’s important to note that we tested a European-spec Dacia Spring. UK customers will be offered the brand new Spring later this year, at a cost of just £15,000. That looks to be excellent value, especially when you consider that the new model features a completely redesigned interior with more tech and safety kit.

What to look for when buying a city car

With more and more buyers moving towards larger cars, the city car segment has been shrinking. But the benefits of having a little car that’s well suited to urban driving is hard to ignore. Although there are fewer to choose from than before, city cars are definitely worth considering if you frequently do short trips around town; their small, lightweight nature means they’re usually cheap on fuel, too.

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City cars are great for drivers who don’t need a lot of interior space and make great first cars for new drivers, as well as for those who are downsizing from larger cars. Not only that, they tend to be cheap to buy, economical and more well-equipped than you might expect. It’s not uncommon to find city cars in the current crop that have Bluetooth, sat nav and air-conditioning – some even have features you’d normally associate with much more expensive cars, like cruise control, heated seats and reversing cameras.

There’s another great city-car virtue that everybody can enjoy, and that’s the way they drive. Ever since the launch of the original Mini in 1959, tiny cars with ‘a wheel in each corner’ have been dear to the hearts of keen drivers everywhere. With limited power from their small engines, city cars may not be fast, but their light weight and uncomplicated nature can make them a hoot to drive on twisty roads. It seems a shame to keep them cooped up in the city.

We think the cars on this list will be the best starting point when shopping for a city car. The electric models are more expensive to buy but tend to offer a smoother, quieter driving experience with no need to worry about changing gears. Just be aware that if you live in a city and don’t have access to off-street parking, you may find it trickier to charge an EV – although we have a complete guide to on-street charging to help you with this.

The used market is also your friend when it comes to city car shopping. Many manufacturers have recently discontinued once-popular city car models such as the Volkswagen up! and Honda e, so you may be able to find a relatively new, low-mileage example if you do some digging online.

If you don’t mind driving something a bit bigger, read our list of the best hatchbacks currently on sale…

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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