Top 7 Best City Cars
If you live in a built-up town or city, then you’re most likely going to drive or want to drive a small city car or compact SUV.
For urban living they just make sense. Nobody wants to own a large saloon, estate or crossover if they simply journey to and from work and then to the shops now and then.
Not only will they cost you a fortune to buy, run and insure, they’re also just impractical for city driving. Automatic cars often make sense.
Not only are small city cars easier to drive in congested places, they’re also better for the environment on the whole.
In this guide we’ll pick 7 of our favourite city cars, covering all ends of the spectrum from the cheapest to the most lavish.
Our top 7 best city cars to buy are reviewed below:
1. Audi A1
Audi’s smallest car the A1 is now in its second generation. Bigger than the first, but it’s still a tiny city car by today’s standards. The three-door model has gone, meaning it’s five-doors from now on. While that removes some of the style, it adds to the A1’s practicality.
With this being an Audi, prices start relatively high for such a diminutive car. It’ll set you back £17,735 for a tiny 1.0-litre turbo engine making just 94 BHP.
If you want something nippier, you can opt for a 1.5-litre turbo which produces 148 BHP, but expect to pay nearly £23,000 for the privilege.
The ride is as smooth as you’d expect from an Audi. It’s well settled and keeps you insulated from the worst of our British roads (SE and Sport trim with the smaller 16-inch wheels are the comfiest). S Line lowers the ride height and adds bigger wheels making the ride harsher over imperfections.
It’s also fairly spacious for a city car. In theory, you can fit three people in the back, but it’d be a tight squeeze!
Price: Starts from £17,735
- Great build quality
- The only premium brand with a small car offering
- Low kit on entry-level models
- Cheapest engine will feel a little breathless
VW’s Up! has been around for a while now, the cheeky-faced little hatch from VW has stood the test of time and is still being awarded 5 stars.
In its cheapest form the Up! could be yours for just £10,080, but it does have its drawbacks. It’s much smaller than the A1, so expect it to be a two-seater more than an occasional family car.
The five-door model costs an extra £400 across the range, but it purely adds more practicality when loading the car with shopping, no additional space is gained.
There are three models to choose from in the range; the Take Up!, Move Up! and Up! Beats, all are powered by the little 1.0-litre engine with 58 BHP and a four-speed manual gearbox.
If you want something a little quicker then the Up! GTI will set you back £13,690. You will, however, get sportier looks, a power bump and firmer suspension.
There’s also an electric version, the e-Up!, which is just about to receive a bigger battery enabling it to drive around 150 miles on a single charge.
But you don’t only have the VW Up! to consider. If you want a small car, the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo are one and the same – almost identical to the Up! The Citigo costs just £8,890 in three-door form – it’s also an excellent used car for under used £10,000.
Price: Starts from £10,080
- Incredibly small and easy to park
- Cheap to buy, run and maintain
- Very basic inside
- Limited configuration options
For this model Twingo, Renault partnered with Mercedes/ Smart to develop their car. This means the Smart ForTwo and ForFour are based off the same basic chassis as the Twingo.
Prices start at £10,755, and there are only two models to pick from which are £1,000 apart in price. There are two engine options on the higher level trim, a 70 BHP and a 90 BHP turbo model, both are 1.0 litre.
An automatic gearbox can also be specced on the top model.
Annoyingly it looks as though the sportier ‘GT’ model has been dropped from the line-up since the Twingo had a facelift for 2019. It may still make it back on the market but don’t hold your breath as sales were low.
Inside can be customised with three different interior trims, including a rather svelte light grey and blue option. You sit rather high in the Twingo giving you a commanding view over the urban streets ahead.
It’s also rear wheel drive which means it has an incredibly tight turning circle. This makes it easy to manoeuvre and park in tight spots.
Price: From £10,755
- Great styling
- Funky interior choices
- Automatic gearbox as an option
- Entry level model makes do with less powerful 70 BHP engine
- Plastic feel in the interior
Back in the day, the KA used to be Ford’s smallest car, nowadays it’s the same size as a Fiesta. That does, however, mean the interior space is incredibly roomy, you don’t feel as though you’re sitting on your passenger’s right knee as you do in the VW Up!
Prices start from £11,300 for the entry-level Studio model, there’s then a £1,000 increase in the Zetec trim and further grand for the Active model.
You’ll probably want the latter as it gives the KA far more substance, adding off-road style plastic cladding to the sides, roof rails and unique front and rear bumpers. You’ll have to be quick though as Ford are removing it from the line-up in September 2019.
Engine wise there’s a punchy 1.2-litre high revving petrol, or a 1.5-litre diesel with 94 BHP. Both are only available with a 5-speed manual gearbox. If you like performance, the grunt of the diesel will suit you best, though both will be incredibly efficient around town.
As with the Twingo, a high driving position gives you a commanding view in the Active model as the ride height is also increased by 25mm to give more ground clearance.
Boot space measures in the same as a Fiesta, no surprise there, and rear seat leg and headroom is ample for adults to sit comfortably.
Price: Starting at £11,300
- Cheap price for such a large car
- Decent Ford build quality
- Choice of petrol or diesel
- The kit can be spartan across the range
- No active safety features – Autonomous city braking
Kia’s latest Picanto is probably one of the best small cars on the market. The levels of kit on offer are superb on higher models, and the quality of the interior is excellent for the price.
Ideally, you want to go for the sportier looking GT-Line trim. These add different front and rear bumpers, side skirts and a cute little spoiler. They make the Picanto stand out from the crowd, especially with the dabs of red trim here and there.
Prices start at £9,895 for the entry-level model, and the GT-Line will cost you £12,995. The extra money is well worth it though for the styling changes and the 7” infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple Car Play as standard.
There are three engines to choose from, a 1.0 litre, 1.25 litre or a turbo 1.0 litre. Power outputs are similar, and it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between the two when you’re behind the wheel.
Not all engines are available in each trim so pick wisely, there’s also an automatic version, but again that isn’t available with every model of the Picanto.
Price: From £9,895
- Suits every budget
- Comfy on long journeys
- Sporty looks on some trims
- No automatic across the range
- Basic kit on entry-level model
Loved the world over, the 500 is the model that has been propping up the Fiat brand for the last 10 years. Its classic retro looks make it one of the most recognisable city cars in the world.
The all-new model is just around the corner, but that means you can find some incredible deals on the current model.
The 500 is Fiat’s smallest car, but prices start from a rather high £12,015, while the convertible version begins at a whopping £14,665.
Space inside is at a premium, there’s no four-door model to be had, and the rear seats are best left for shopping bags.
There are plenty of trims to choose from, the range is forever changing to include new special and limited editions. Thankfully you can find something rather unique in the range to differentiate your 500 from the million others on the road.
There’s a 1.2-litre engine with 69 BHP or the 0.9-litre turbo with 85 BHP to choose from. The turbo model is only available on the Lounge and S trims, which means prices start at £15,015.
While the 500 will appeal to the style conscious fashionistas, you can see it’s not the cheapest city car out there. It’s arguable that the likes of the Twingo pack just as much character for far less money.
Price: Starts from £12,015
- Trim/models always changing
- Limited engine options
- No automatic
As we already mentioned the ForTwo shares many basic components with the Twingo. However, the two cars are very different in terms of design – the Smart looks like nothing else on our roads.
Prices start at £11,590 for the entry-level ‘Prime’ model, and you can opt for the same engines as found in the Twingo, so a 71 HP or a 90 HP. A 6-speed dual clutch automatic costs an extra £995 and can be selected with any trim level.
Smart call their chassis the ‘Tridion safety cell.’ It’s basically the main structure of the car that keeps you safe. The body panels can be chosen in eight different colours and the chassis in six, so you can genuinely customise your Smart in a unique way no other manufacturer can offer.
There’s also an electric version, the Smart EQ. It can only travel 70 miles on a full charge, but that’s more than enough for city driving.
You could probably drive for a whole week before needing to plug it in, or simply plug it in every night as you would do your smartphone. Prices are also rather high for the EQ version, starting at £20,840.
Price: From £11,590
- Truly unique in its looks
- Lots of customisation
- Automatic gearbox available on all trims
- No diesel engine
- EV model is pricey
Want to find out more about small cars suitable for city driving?
Why not take a look at our top 12 best electric cars for sale on the UK market?
Short journeys make electric cars the ideal ownership prospect. Cheap and convenient to charge at home you’ll never have to visit a petrol station again!
Hybrids too can be great for city driving and MPG as well. Check out our guide here. And if you’re concerned about the cost of fuel, our guide to the best cars for MPG and best small automatic cars are must reads.
We’ve also covered the best small cars on the market.