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Best cars

Top 10 best used city cars 2024

Second-hand city cars are cheap to buy, cheap to run and easy to live with. We list the ones you should consider

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Though they may be small, used city cars pack a lot into a compact package. Most are designed with space for at least four people while still being nimble enough to make driving in town a doddle. Although the city car’s focus has traditionally been on cheap motoring with low running costs, the recipe has evolved over the years with some city cars offering more mod-cons than you might expect, and finding a used example means you can go for a higher-spec version with more niceties.

The best used small cars hero 2023Top 10 best used small cars 2024

While our list of the best new city cars seems to have been shrinking in recent years with manufacturers now prioritising larger models, the used market is awash with cars from this once-booming segment, so there are lots of second-hand examples to choose from. Most models on our list used tried-and-tested dinky petrol engines which prove economical to this day, but there are even a few electric models that keep running costs low, including the latest EV iteration of the Fiat 500, of which there are now a fair few used examples.

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While budget-motoring may be a big factor in your decision to opt for a city car, it’s not the only reason. Their small dimensions make them easy to park and nippy to drive, and cars such as the Honda e take that ethos and add a slightly more upmarket feel to the city car recipe.

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Most of these best used city cars are reasonably comfortable on the occasional motorway trip, so you don’t necessarily need to stay within city limits. High-spec cars also get some big-car features; some of the following models are available with cruise control, sat nav and even heated seats.

Kia Picanto hatchback review

kia picanto hatchback
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

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While many of the cars on this list are likely to be easy and cheap to own, the Kia Picanto gives you extra peace of mind. Kia’s seven-year/100,000-mile warranty applies even to the Picanto, and it’s transferable to subsequent owners.

But a generous aftersales package isn’t the only reason why the Picanto takes its spot here. It’s economical, smart and the engines allow you to easily keep up with traffic. It’s also surprisingly spacious, with some trims getting five seats, and a 255-litre boot that’s large for a car of its size.

Trim levels include ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’, GT-Line and X-Line, and from ‘3’ onwards you even get an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Avoid the automatic gearbox unless you can’t have the manual; it makes the car slower and less economical.

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A facelift of the Kia Picanto is due in 2024, so we’d expect even more used examples of the outgoing model to hit the classifieds once owners opt to update to the latest model.

Fiat 500 review - a fun and affordable EV city car

Fiat 500 electric
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

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While manufacturers tend to stick to basic petrol engines when it comes to city cars to keep their original costs down, the latest Fiat 500 proves that isn’t always the case. Still sold alongside the separate petrol-powered model, the electric 500 was completely redesigned as an EV, and features much more modern styling while retaining its retro charm. The only problem – it does cost a lot to buy new.

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Thankfully, though, the Fiat 500 EV has been around for enough time now to be a great used buy, suiting buyers who need to stick to shorter trips and urban environments. It was offered with a choice of two battery sizes: a 24kWh unit with an official 115-mile range, and a 42kWh version with up to 199 miles to a charge – stick to city driving, though, and Fiat says that upper figure increases to up to 250 miles.

With features like a digital gauge cluster, a 10.25-inch touchscreen (on higher spec models) with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Fiat 500 feels much more grown up to sit in than the petrol-powered version based on a much older design, and it’s very quiet to drive thanks to the electric motors.

Hyundai i10 review - tech-filled and practical small car

hyundai i10 facelift
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

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The Hyundai i10 is related to the Kia Picanto, and the choice between them will mostly be down to personal preference and used prices. However, the i10’s more restrained look means it seems like the slightly more mature one of the two. Hyundai’s warranty is very attractive, although at five years or 100,000 miles, it can’t quite top that of the Picanto.

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The Hyundai i10, like the Picanto, is spacious on the inside for a city car, with five seats and plenty of legroom for rear occupants in a market where some rivals, such as the Volkswagen up! only offer four. You might think that would have a detrimental effect on boot space, but in fact the i10’s 252 litres is up there with the Picanto leading the class.

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Even more basic trims of the Hyundai i10 have been fairly well equipped with features like DAB radio, Bluetooth and air-con, electric windows and cruise control, but we think it’s worth springing for models with the eight-inch infotainment display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, especially on the used market. For a more stand-out, sporty look, we recommend the N Line version with a sprightly 99bhp engine.

Toyota Aygo hatchback review (2014-2022)

Toyota Aygo hatchback review
Carbuyer rating

3.2 out of 5

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Toyota discontinued the Aygo in 2022 in favour of the Aygo X, a variant with a raised ride height and SUV-inspired styling. The last Aygo model is still a great buy used, though, because its confident styling stands out in a crowd, and it came surprisingly well-equipped. Nearly all trim levels come with smartphone mirroring and even a reversing camera.

In 2021, Toyota announced a new warranty plan that adds a year’s cover when you get the car serviced at a main dealer. A car can be covered for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles; find a car in this bracket and you’ll be able to get top-up warranty cover for peace of mind. The Aygo is a simple car, though, and Toyota’s reliability record is top-notch.

Volkswagen up! hatchback review

Orange Volkswagen up!
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

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Despite being around for some time now, the Volkswagen up! has aged well. We think it looks slightly better than the Citigo and Mii with which it shares many parts (although the differences are minimal), and the interior is ever-so-slightly better quality. The interior does date it, however, because your phone has to act as the infotainment system – there’s no touchscreen available.

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The up! is well-built, great fun to drive and very economical. It’s possible to eke out over 65mpg when driven really carefully – even on the 74bhp engine. There’s even an up! GTI mini hot hatchback which is more fun to drive and adds a bit more power and characterful tartan upholstery.

An electric up! was also offered at one point, badged as the e-up! Range depends on the model, later cars are much more usable with a larger 37kWh battery getting up to 162 miles to a charge, while early cars had up to 99 miles of range with a smaller unit.

SEAT Mii electric review (2020-2021)

SEAT Mii electric
Carbuyer rating

3.5 out of 5

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The SEAT Mii is related to the Volkswagen up! and Skoda Citigo, and it sometimes gets a little overlooked. But as it shares its underpinnings and engines with the Volkswagen, the Mii is a great city car option. It’s just as practical, spacious and economical, and has its own sense of style. It’s worth basing your choice of the three on price and trims available at the time – you might find that because the Mii is more overlooked than the others, you’ll get more for the money.

There are sporty-looking FR Line versions available, and special-edition models created in collaboration with the Mango and Cosmopolitan fashion brands, if you’d like some extra design touches over the basic models.

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Like the Citigo, the Mii was sold only as an electric car for the last couple of years it was on sale, but for the majority of its lifespan it used the 1.0-litre petrol engine fitted to other VW Group models. The SEAT Mii electric uses a 37kWh battery and an electric motor, and manages up to 160 miles on a charge.

Peugeot 108 hatchback review (2014-2022)

Red Peugeot 108 driving
Carbuyer rating

3.1 out of 5

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Peugeot’s tiny 108 city car was part of another three-way collaboration, and was mechanically similar to the Toyota Aygo and Citroen C1. Of the three, it arguably looks the most sophisticated and subtle, and there were plenty of personalisation options available to new buyers. 

Many of those chose higher-spec Allure or Collection trims, which get alloy wheels, Bluetooth, automatic headlights, keyless entry and a reversing camera. Base-spec Access is worth avoiding; you don’t get split-folding rear seats or even a radio.

What sets the 108/C1/Aygo family apart from most of their city car rivals is the option for a fabric roof, which Peugeot calls ‘Top!’. It’s not a full-blown convertible, but the retractable section is bigger than a sunroof and gives you the option of open-air motoring. The Citroen C1 tends to be a little cheaper to buy secondhand than the Aygo or 108, and Citroen calls its fabric-roofed models ‘Airscape’, so that’s something to look out for if you want to feel the wind in your hair.

Honda e hatchback review

Honda e
Carbuyer rating

3.8 out of 5

Read full review

The Honda e caused quite a stir when it went on sale thanks to a retro-inspired, but yet modern quirky design. As denoted by the ‘e’ name, this car is a fully electric model, and unlike many of the cars on this list, it boasts a hi-tech interior and slightly more upmarket feel. The Honda e was discontinued in late 2023 because of disappointing sales made worse by its high asking price when new, making it a better buy used.

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The Honda e will be better suited to buyers wanting to stick to urban environments and shorter trips, as its maximum official range is just 137 miles. The Honda e is very quirky, though, and despite being released a few years ago, it boasts features such as cameras instead of side mirrors, and a full-length infotainment screen on the dash. There are even three-pin plug sockets and an HDMI port to plug a games console into.

Fiat 500 hatchback review

Fiat 500
Carbuyer rating

3.3 out of 5

Read full review

It’s getting on a bit, but no city car has quite as much style and charm as the Fiat 500, which has chic retro-inspired lines. This petrol model is still sold alongside the electric model of the same name, confusingly, but the petrol variant’s time on the market means there are loads to choose from second hand. It was also offered as a convertible long before the Peugeot 108 and Toyota Aygo. 

The very cheapest examples will feel past their best; more modern models are a better bet if you can afford them, and later versions even include a touchscreen with smartphone connectivity. The entry-level Pop trim doesn’t get much standard equipment, but should be fine as a first car or a little runaround.

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For many, the 500 will be characterful enough to overlook its flaws. But it’s worth considering whether you can live with the tiny boot and cramped back seats. A few engines have been offered over the years, but the 1.2-litre petrol should be fairly cheap to run despite average-looking fuel-economy figures, and the more recent 1.0-litre petrol engine got mild-hybrid assistance for a little added efficiency.

Renault Twingo hatchback (2014-2019)

Carbuyer rating

3.1 out of 5

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You may have forgotten all about the Renault Twingo, as it hasn’t been on sale in the UK for a few years now – and even when it was, many buyers chose alternative city cars instead. 

The Twingo is an interesting option that actually shares its underpinnings with the Smart ForTwo and ForFour; every other car on this list is front-engined and front-wheel drive, but the Twingo’s engine is mounted behind the back seats, sending power to the rear wheels.

There are benefits and drawbacks to this; the upside is the Twingo has a fantastic turning circle because there’s no engine in the way, which makes parking in tight streets or car parks a breeze. The drawback is that the boot is comparatively small, and your ice cream might melt as it’s sat on the engine. 

Otherwise, the Twingo is surprisingly practical, with storage under the rear seats and the option of a fold-flat front passenger seat to allow you to carry long items like skis or curtain poles.

Top 10 best used city cars

  1. Kia Picanto
  2. Fiat 500 electric
  3. Hyundai i10
  4. Toyota Aygo
  5. Volkswagen up!
  6. SEAT Mii
  7. Peugeot 108
  8. Honda e
  9. Fiat 500
  10. Renault Twingo
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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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