Top 10 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 commute to work and then to the shops a few times a week.

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.

Volkswagens Up has one car of the year many times.
Looking for the perfect car to cruise around town in? Try a VW Up!

Not only are small city cars easier to drive in congested places, they’re also better for the environment on the whole.

Instead of a large 2.0-litre diesel, you could be zipping around in a turbocharged hatchback car with an engine less than 1.0 litre in size. That also means it will be cheaper on tax and insurance.

In this guide we’ll pick 10 of our favourite city cars, covering all ends of the spectrum from the cheapest to the most lavish.

Our top 10 best city cars to buy are reviewed below:

  1. Audi A1
  2. VW Up!
  3. Renault Twingo
  4. Ford KA+
  5. Kia Picanto
  6. Fiat 500
  7. Smart ForTwo
  8. Peugeot 108
  9. Hyundai i10
  10. Suzuki Ignis

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.

Audi A1 is the entry level into the world of Audi.
The 2nd generation Audi A1 is a stunning city car, but you’ll need a hefty budget.

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

Advantages:

  • Great build quality
  • The only premium brand with a small car offering

Disadvantages:

  • Low kit on entry-level models
  • Cheapest engine will feel a little breathless

2. VW Up!

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.

VW UP Small City Car
The best on the block? The VW Up! consistently wins best small car awards.

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 £10,000.

Price: Starts from £10,080

Advantages:

  • Incredibly small and easy to park
  • Cheap to buy, run and maintain

Disadvantages:

  • Very basic inside
  • Limited configuration options

3. Renault Twingo

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.

Renault city car
The current Twingo was a collaboration between Smart, Mercedes and Renault.

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

Advantages:

  • Great styling
  • Funky interior choices
  • Automatic gearbox as an option

Disadvantages:

  • Entry level model makes do with less powerful 70 BHP engine
  • Plasticy interior

4. Ford KA+

Back in the day, theKA 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 rumoured to be removing it from the line-up.

Ford Ka+ small city car
The perfect KA for the city streets: The new KA+ has had a face lift for 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

Advantages:

  • Cheap price for such a large car
  • Decent Ford build quality
  • Choice of petrol or diesel

Disadvantages:

  • The kit can be spartan across the range
  • No active safety features – Autonomous city braking

5. Kia Picanto

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.

Kia Picanto small city car
The Kia Picanto is Motorway’s pick of the best small cars in 2019.

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

Advantages:

  • Suits every budget
  • Comfy on long journeys
  • Sporty looks on some trims

Disadvantages:

  • No automatic across the range
  • Basic kit on entry-level model

6. Fiat 500

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.

With the all-new model 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.

Fiat 500 classic city car
The classic city car: The Fiat 500 can be a bit pricey, but there’s no doubt its got style

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 car out there. It’s arguable that the likes of the Twingo packs just as much character for far less money.

Price: Starts from £12,015

Advantages:

  • Stylish
  • Trim/models always changing

Disadvantages:

  • Pricey
  • Limited engine options
  • No automatic

7. Smart ForTwo

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 small car
Totally Unique: The Smart FourTwo looks different to anything else on the road in the UK

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

Advantages:

  • Truly unique in its looks
  • Lots of customisation
  • Automatic gearbox available on all trims

Disadvantages:

  • No diesel engine
  • EV model is pricey

8. Peugeot 108

As with the VW Up! Peugeot’s 108 is part of a trio of cars that are all the same, the Citroen C1 and Toyota Aygo make for the three amigos here, it doesn’t really matter which one you pick they’re all pretty much the same.

Priced from £12,265 in entry level ‘Active’ trim you’ll find that the equipment on offer is pretty good from the off.

There’s a 7″ colour touchscreen with the ability to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, manual air con and colour coded door mirrors and handles.

There are two further trim levels, ‘Allure’ and the new top level ‘Collection’ model, they’re priced from £13,670 to £14,320 respectively.

Peugeot 108 Red
The Peugeot 108 is well kitted out for the price. Credit: Peugeot.

You can pick any trim in either three or five door form, the difference is around the £400 mark.

In terms of engine and gearbox, there’s just the one to pick from, a 1.0 litre petrol with start & stop as standard. It produces 72 HP and is capable of around 50 MPG. There’s no automatic gearbox on offer.

For motoring around the town or city on a budget you can’t go wrong, the 108, C1 or Aygo are great little cars with dinky dimensions making them incredibly easy to park.

Price: From £12,265

Advantages:

  • Affordable
  • Decent styling
  • Three or five doors available

Disadvantages:

  • No automatic
  • Interior is pretty basic no matter the trim

9. Hyundai i10

Where the Hyundai i10 is ahead of the competition in leaps and bounds is the amount of space on offer inside. Four adults can easily sit in relative comfort thanks to the higher roofline and slightly longer proportions.

Hyundai even give you the option of an automatic gearbox, something precious few small car makers offer these days.

Prices start at a smidge over £9,000 which makes many of the cars on this list seem expensive.

If you want a nice looking infotainment system though, you’ll have to go for the mid range ‘Play’ trim which starts at £11,320, which is still cheap.

There are five trim levels to pick from in total, entry level ‘S’, ‘SE’, ‘Play’, ‘Premium’ and ‘Premium SE’. Even the range topping model costs just £13,905.

Hyundai's i10 is probably the best city car on the market today
Always highly rated, the Hyundai i10 remains one of the top city cars on the market.

You can pick from three engines, but not all are available with every trim so be careful. A 1.0 litre with 65 HP and a manual gearbox, a 1.2 litre with 84 HP and an automatic gearbox and the same again but coupled with a manual.

That automatic gearbox can be a little pricey though, adding between £650 and £1,200 to the cost of the i20 depending on the model you choose.

Gaining four stars in nearly every review it’s hard to pick fault with the i10, the only real bugbears are that it’s handling isn’t as sharp as the VW Up and the top of the range models can become pricey meaning you can get a full size hatchback for nearly the same money.

Its 1.2 litre engine is the one to go for, pulling strongly across the rev range and even up to motorway speed. The little i10’s infotainment is also class leading.

Price: From £9,300

Advantages:

  • Spacious
  • Quiet and comfortable

Disadvantages:

  • Engine choice is linked to trim level
  • Five door only

10. Suzuki Ignis

Gone is the Suzuki Celerio, culled in the latest wave of city car killings across the industry. Thankfully the Ignis was always a better car anyway.

Matching 4×4 looks with some retro touches, the tiny Ignis has a lot of style and presence. Prices start at just £11,999 making it even more appealing.

In fact, you can also opt for a a proper 4WD version for those off-roading adventures if you so desire.

Suzuki Ignis is a city car that can off-road just as well
Urban looks that can take you off-roading if need be.

You can choose from a 1.2 litre dualjet with or without a mild hybrid battery setup that makes 90 HP. A 5-speed ‘auto gear shift’ version costs an extra £300-800 depending on trim, while the 4WD Ignis will set you back just an extra £1,000, or £15,499.

Inside the Ignis is just as funky as the exterior, two tone plastics match cream with black to add some vibrance, just make sure you opt for the mid-range ‘SZ-T’ model so you gain the touchscreen infotainment system.

Handling is fun, you can feel how light the little Suzuki is, with acceleration being on the peppy side. That little 1.2 litre engine loves to rev. It’s tiny dimensions also mean it’s super easy to park.

While you can’t be granular when it comes to options as all Suzuki’s come pre-built, the trim levels are well catered for with only the entry level ‘SZ3’ feeling a bit barren.

Price: Starts from £11,999

Advantages:

  • Cute looks
  • Decent kit from the mid-range models
  • Mild hybird engine option

Disadvantages:

  • Range topping models can become pricey
  • No ‘proper’ automatic gearbox

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 if you’re concerned about the cost of fuel we’ve got a few guides to help you out below.