Top 10 best city cars 2022
If you’re after low-cost motoring, check out our list of the 10 best city cars on sale today
In the past, buying a ‘city car’ actually meant buying a slightly flimsy-feeling car that was only suitable for driving around town, but these days they can easily cope with longer journeys too. Most of them have become small but competent all-rounders.
City cars are smaller than superminis and are built to a certain length, width and height. If you were to park a Kia Picanto and a Toyota Aygo next to each other, you would struggle to decide which was the biggest because sizes vary so little across the class. This is to ensure they are ideally suited to city streets and are able to slot in the smallest of spaces. All city cars tend to return excellent fuel economy because they aren’t very heavy and use small, modern engines.
City cars are great for drivers who don’t need a lot of interior space and because of their low running costs, they 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 surprisingly well-equipped. 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.
Fortunately, the very best are able to spend the morning making your life easy as you nip through city traffic, before being loaded with luggage and escaping to the country in the afternoon. They may not be as luxurious, fast or spacious as a larger car, but a good city car can still make a willing steed for any journey you ask of it.
The best city cars are well built, well equipped, well priced and a pleasure to drive. And if you feel you need a car with a little more space, you’ll find something to suit in our top 10 run-downs of the best superminis, best small SUVs and best family hatchbacks.
Read on for our list of the 10 best city cars.
The Volkswagen up! comes very close to being the perfect city car. Originally built alongside the now discontinued SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo, the up! boasts a well-built interior, a premium badge and is surprisingly engaging to drive thanks to its small, but nippy powertrains. Drivers can choose from either a fuel-sipping 64bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine, or there’s an 84bhp electric e-up!, which can manage up to 159 miles of range.
Trim levels extend from simply equipped to bells-and-whistles, depending on how much you want to spend; however all models are still a great pick for any city car driver. Particular highlights include a new R-Line model with sporty looks, or the up! Beats, which includes a seven-speaker 300-watt Beats stereo.
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 space - just - for four adults and a decent-sized boot. The basic 66bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine is nippy enough for round-town driving, but if you venture onto motorways frequently it's worth considering the 99bhp version which is a little more relaxed at a cruise.
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.
The third-generation Hyundai i10 is hard to beat, as not only is it an impressive car but it also makes good financial sense. The i10 starts from just under £14,000, it’s economical (managing around 50mpg), costs very little to insure and is covered by a five-year warranty with unlimited mileage. It’s also comfortable and spacious, with five seatbelts; 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.
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 SE is well appointed, and Premium versions even have a heated steering wheel. Every version includes modern essentials such as remote central locking, all-round electric windows, cruise control and air-conditioning.
The Fiat 500 is iconic, with chic styling and the heritage of the original 500. This is the new third-generation model, and it’s all changed under the stubby bonnet. Like more and more city cars, the new 500 is only available with electric power (although Fiat will still sell the ‘old’ mild-hybrid 500 for the next couple of years). 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.
There are few cars that are as iconic as the MINI. It’s 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 101bhp One 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 MINI Electric capable of a range of up to 145 miles.
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.
Another electric city car, the new Honda e combines beautiful retro styling with a dizzyingly hi-tech interior, which sees screens stretch from door-to-door. Even the wing mirrors have been replaced with cameras, while the twin touch screens offering games console compatibility and an ‘aquarium’ mode. With nippy acceleration and an extremely tight turning circle, the Honda e is fun in and out of the city.
It’s a really desirable car but you do pay for that - the Honda is a similar price to some bigger electric cars, and it’s easily the costliest car on this list. The range is a little lower than the Citigo, at up to 137 miles, and the boot is quite small. A full charge from a home wallbox takes just four hours, though, and all cars get lots of equipment including heated seats, a reversing camera and a sunroof.
If you want your city car to have a bit of hot hatch heat, then the Volkswagen up! GTI is a great choice with almost no direct rivals. There’s the Abarth 595, which is more powerful but less practical, while the equally fast Suzuki Swift Sport is bigger and much more expensive. You might not think a 113bhp engine is enough for something that’s considered a mini hot hatch, but it has 5bhp more than the original Golf GTI and is a similar size.
Rather than outright acceleration, it excels at putting a smile on your face in corners. Like the regular up!, it’s surprisingly practical for its size, and comes with quite a long equipment list - even if your phone has to take the place of an actual infotainment system. The up! GTI actually offers very few compromises - it’ll even do around 50mpg.
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 tougher looking styling. Despite being the brand’s smallest model, the Aygo X gets plenty of standard equipment such as a seven-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.
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.
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.
The Smart EQ ForTwo fills a rather strange niche in the car world. As its name suggests, it’s a strict two-seater, making it incredibly compact. It has a turning circle of only 6.75 metres - smaller even than that of a London taxi - and its funky interior is packed to the brim with clever storage solutions to maximise cargo space. If you’re willing to sacrifice some of the already-limited boot space, the Smart EQ ForTwo Cabrio boasts an electronic soft-top.
The EQ ForTwo’s electric motor is perfectly designed for zipping in-between traffic. While 0-62mph takes a rather unimpressive 11.6 seconds, 0-40mph takes much less and is where the model feels at its best. However, its small dimensions do impact the size of its battery, with a total range of up to 81 miles between charging stops - making it a car that’s best used in the city, or as a second vehicle.
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 at 2,410 mm long - which makes it very light, 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. With a fully charged battery, the Ami can manage up to 46 miles of range - enough to make a return trip across London.
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.
Need something with a bit more space? Check out our list of the top 10 best small cars and superminis
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