Smaller cars in the supermini and city car segments are ideal for low cost driving in crowded city areas. Below, we review some of the best on the market.
Alfa Romeo MiTo
Released in 2009, the sporty hatchback manages to match the style and quality expected of the Italian manufacturer with good stability and handling.
The three-door second generation model is even availbale with a MultiAir engine offering lower emissions than standard models without compromising performance.
Well-equipped and with typical Alfa style – it was based on the 8C Competizione sports car – the Alfa does lose out compared to other superminis in terms of rear space and practicality.
The MiTo is the car for somebody who wishes to have stylish, sporty looks and a good drive in a small, urban car.
At between £10,745 and £14,745, the MiTo is more expensive than offerings from Fiat (500) and Chevrolet (Spark), but equipment levels are generous.
Famously driven by ‘Nicole’ in the 90’s adverts, the Renault Clio remains an extremely popular city car and it remains one of the best in the class for quality of drive and running costs.
The Clio is quiet and compact, making it ideal for city driving. A genuine rival for the likes of the Fiesta and Peugeot 207, the latest generation Clio is a huge leap forward in comfort, space and quality from previous models -and it boasts a five star EuroNCAP safety rating.
Lower specifications are slightly Spartan, but mid-range models are excellent value.
The Ford Fiesta is one of the best loved models in the supermini segment. It is the UK’s best-selling model in 2009 and is continuing the trend into 2010.
Good-looking, comfortable and offering an excellent drive, the Fiesta is available in three and five-door versions and a huge range of engines and specification levels.
The Fiesta delivers better power and handling than many others in the supermini class. An ECOnetic version features 99g/km of CO2 emissions and offers a greener alternative to the wide range of petrol and diesel engines.
Although the name doesn’t have the instant excitement of an Alfa Romeo, the WhatCar ‘Car of the Year 2009’ is a class-leader offering quality and performance at a reasonable price.
The Citroen DS3 is the first in Citroen’s more premium DS line and is the newest addition to the supermini market.
If you ignore the daft anti-retro adverts featuring John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe, the DS3 is a very good, highly stylish supermini.
The small, three-door DS3 is highly customisable. Exterior colour, door mirrors, running strips, gear knobs, wheels and interior can all be designed to offer the buyer a unique DS3.
Styled for a younger buyer than the five-door C3, it can be driven with a clear conscience due to emissions of just 99g/km.
Although technically a supermini, the smaller dimensions and premium style place the DS3 in competition with the Mini and Alfa MiTo models.
This heavyweight of the supermini section is probably the closest competition the Ford Fiesta has for the ‘best supermini’ title.
The Corsa is a high quality, well-priced supermini in three and five-door versions. Practical and spacious, the Corsa is rightly in the top three selling cars in the UK in 2010 to date.
Cheap to run and with high equipment levels, the Corsa is an affordable, classy option in the supermini segment.
The Corsa perhaps does not have the most exciting looks in the segment, but is equally at home in the city or on the motorway, giving it a bigger car feel in a small package.
The Corsa is priced between £7,665 and £16,850.
The Peugeot 207 has been highly lauded by motorists, who have voted with their cash, making it the best-selling supermini in Europe three years running between 2007 and 2009.
Facelifted in 2009, the three or five-door 207 is one of the older superminis available and it sits at the higher end of the price range.
However, where the Peugeot 207 really comes into its own is in interior quality. It is luxurious and well-built inside even at lower specifications.
Good safety results and excellent handling go some way to soften the blow of higher prices, and the 207 diesel models in particular are cheap to run.
Prices for the 207 start at £9,925, but a higher specification model would be recommended for more equipment.
Seat has introduced the three-door Ibiza in SportCoupe, FR and Cupra versions, and the Spanish manufacturer has managed to deliver a cheap and stylish supermini ideal for urban driving.
The Ibiza has been a huge success for Seat, trading on the extremely affordable price tag and improving quality and handling from older, solid Seat model to bring the Ibiza in line with the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa.
For drivers looking for better fuel economy, a low CO2 and more efficient Ecomotive version is available. An ST version of the hatchback is on its way in summer 2010.
Prices start at around £9,000 for the hatchback version, which is the same as a small supermini or even a larger city car.
The latest generation of the Mazda2 is one of the lighter, more compact superminis on the market today.
However, the Mazda2 has a very capable engine and good quality, comfortable interior designed for practicality and robustness.
It is no surprise, as the Mazda2 shares a platform with the best-selling Ford Fiesta and Mazda are well known for good quality, long-lasting cars.
Low CO2 emissions and impressive fuel economy figures makes the Mazda2 a strong contender in the supermini segment, although it is slightly older than others in the segment and is set for an upgrade in 2011.
The Fiat 500 is smaller than most cars mentioned here and it sits firmly in the ‘city car’ category..
However, there is no doubt it is an impressive car. Winner of the 2009 Design Car of the Year, the stylish, versatile Fiat 500 is available in hatchback or cabriolet versions.
Fiat has released a large number of special editions of the Fiat 500 and 500C, including the recent Fiat 500 and 500C Pink.
The multi-award winning Fiat is a huge success for the Italian manufacturer and over 500,000 have been produced in just 21 months.
With entry-level models priced below £8,000, the compact, nippy Fiat is one of the most affordable and impressive small cars around.
Small and compact, the Chevrolet Spark is superb value for anybody who wants a car which is easy to park and nimble for city driving.
The price is low, but that isn’t the only reason to consider the newcomer to the city car segment. The Spark is distinctively styled and offers a range of customisable ‘tags’ for decoration – ideal for younger buyers.
However, anybody can appreciate the compact dimensions coupled with a surprising amount of leg-room in both the front and rear. Boot space is limited, but the tall stance gives plenty of head room.
As mentioned above, the Spark is excellent value at around £9,800 and running costs are extremely low. It boasts good economy and low CO” emissions cost just £30 a year in road tax on some models.