Written by Robin Brown ▼

Top ten best small cars

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Small cars, or superminis as they´re often termed in Europe, constitute a growing sector in the UK as environmental concerns and petrol prices continue to grow.

Higher interest rates and growing consumer debt also contribute to the trend towards small cars, which are bucking the trend of a general downturn in car sales over the last three years.

Five of the best small cars featured in this list featured in the top ten car sales in September 2007, and most of the others will be hot on their heels. The reasons are simple: for the best blend of economy, low emissions and practicality - especially for those in the city - these are the best small cars around.

In the end the choice is yours, but for impartial advice try the selection below. OK, I am a bit biased, I think the Clio´s brilliant.

Take a look below at MotorTorque's best small cars:

Top Ten Superminis

Renault Clio


A superb supermini that´s not actually that mini, with loads of guts and an eagerness to be driven hard. The Clio has the space, versatility and comfort, but most of all it´s great fun to be in.

Renault has worked hard to modernise the styling for the 2012 Renault Clio and it now looks the part - putting the Clio back on par with the Fiesta at the top of the segment.

Fiat 500

Fiat 500 Fiat 500

Causing just about every motoring journalist to go slack-jawed and wet-eyed when it debuted, the 500 has the heritage, the looks and the driveability to make it a serious contender.

The interior is stunning and is up there with the MINI for quality and looks, but the 500 doesn´t lose out in practicality.

5 NCAP stars for adult protection, a wide choice of engines and plenty of safety kit make it a promising proposition.

There are plenty of good reasons to consider the 500, but overall little Fiat´s looks and style will speak more to the heart than the head. This is one of the best small cars by some considerable measure.

Peugeot 208

Peugeot 208 Peugeot 208

Peugeot had lost its way with its small car range after the highs of the superb Peugeot 205. Luckily, the Peugeot 208 goes some way to getting the French brand back on top.

In terms of looks, it is more grown up than ever before thanks to a 2012 refresh and inside it is a step upmarket for the brand whose interior quality was patchy at best in recent years.

While it can't match the likes of the Fiesta, it is also an engaging and fun drive with plenty of responsiveness and grip.

It may not be the Peugeot 205, but it is as close as Peugeot has been in many year.

Ford Fiesta

Still going strong after 30 years, the Fiesta is the perennial supermini and one of the best small cars in this segment.

Smaller engines lack the required bite, but the diesels and larger petrol engines provide ample power for the Fiesta. The ride´s rather stiff, but the trade-off is lots of cornering and handling ability - perfect for urban driving.

It´s not the best looker on the market, but it ticks all the required boxes that the best small cars should.

Volkswagen Polo

Volkswagen Polo Volkswagen Polo

A competent supermini that will be easy to drive and offer plenty of practicality. The VW badge will ensure that residual values are strong and travelling in comfort - if not style - shouldn´t be a worry.

Kit levels at lowers specs are pretty mean, especially considering the Polo is decidedly at the more expensive end of the market, but with Volkswagen you get what you pay for.

Nissan Micra

Nissan Micra Nissan Micra

Quirky styling may divide opinion, but the Micra´s a fun and capable little motor that´s perfect for city driving.

None of the engines have a huge amount of power, but that´s not what the Micra is all about. A fairly firm ride and responsive steering make it good for tootling around town, but not the best choice for long motorway cruises.

Entry-level models are cheap and have decent amounts of kit as standard.

Toyota Yaris

Toyota Yaris Toyota Yaris

Does what it says on the tin - the Yaris may not excel in one particular area, but will do everything asked of it.

Engines are strong, with the diesel in particular providing good economy, but ride comfort and handling are no better than average for the segment.

Reliability, safety, comfort and ease-of-driving are the Yaris´ strong points and, while it may look pricey compared to rivals, residuals and running costs should be solid.

Vauxhall Corsa

A much-improved model since previous iterations with better quality and looks. Engines are strong - particularly the 1.3 diesels - and there´s a good trade-off between ride and handling.

Prices are competitive and the Corsa is good on interior space and safety, making the Vauxhall supermini a must-see.


Mini hatchback Mini hatchback

The new Mini is often maligned as an estate agent´s car - the implication being that it´s vulgar and rather ´new money´. While it shares little of the heritage of the classic Issigonis model, the new Mini has a similar joie de vivre and handles like a dream.

Equally capable on the open road, country lanes or in the city, the Mini is a top car, but it comes at something of a premium.

Interior quality is excellent, residuals will hold up well and there´s good safety kit. The new diesel engines are superb for fuel economy too.

On the downside the rear seats are very cramped, but if you´re looking for a fun drive and have the cash, look no further.

Citroen DS3

Forget the Citroen C3, this premium little car is one of the best available to buy today. Fighting it out with the Mini, the customisable DS3 is the first of Citroen's upmarket, revived DS Line.

The DS3 gets frugal petrol and diesel engines and a hefty price tag for a small car, but it really catches the attention in terms of design.

Quirky and distinctive, the DS£ features lashings of LEDs and touches of chrome to complement a premium interior. It may cost a little more but it is definitely worth every penny.

Supermini alternatives

There are still plenty of decent small cars that don't make it into out top ten supermini list. Check out our verdict on them below.

Chevrolet Kalos

A Daewoo in disguise. Cheap and fairly spacious, but not a strong contender in the small-car category.

Citroen C3

Citroen's supermini may be alive with technology but its lack of quality against the opposition makes it hard to recommend. There may be good deals to be had, though.

Fiat Grande Punto

Punto supermini started a Fiat revival. Decent drive, decent engines, decent space. Supposedly looks like a small-car Maserati. Doesn't.

Honda Jazz

A top performer, and one of the best drives in the class, the Jazz does everything well but Honda's small car was excluded from this list on the basis that it's due to be replaced in late 2008.

Hyundai i20

The Hyundai i20 is the latest in the new breed of reliable, tech-packed small cars from the brand. Engines can be a bit toothless, so the correct choice is essential.

Kia Rio

Cheap as chips to buy and run, the Kia Rio is a superb small car and comes with a seven-year warranty. A genuinely good choice if you can get past badge snobbery.


Famously and ludicrously named World Car of the Year 2008. The Mazda2 is nippy and has strong engines, but really isn't all that.

Mitsubishi Colt

Practical, cheap and good engines, if not the greatest drive on the market. A decent effort at a supermini from Mitsu.

Perodua Myvi

Cheap, cheap, cheap. The Myvi doesn't have an awful lot more going for it, though Peroduas usually hold onto their value well.

Proton Satria Neo

A small car from Malaysia's struggling car company. The Satria Neo is not an impressive car, but drives OK and is fairly cheap.

Renault Twingo

Twist, swing and tango over to the Clio and buy that instead. The Twingo drives pretty well but doesn't bring anything new to the best small cars sector.

Seat Ibiza

Now ageing somewhat, but the Ibiza offers good interior space and drives well.

Skoda Fabia

Looks good inside and out, drives well, offers good choice of engines, starting prices competitive.

Suzuki Swift

Suzuki's small car is good to drive, decent space inside and plenty of standard kit. Economical engines should keep costs down too.