Small cars take up over a third of all new car sales in the UK and they show no sign of losing popularity.
Practical, cheap and efficient, small cars are generally the best value for money on the new car market and in 2012, a host of exciting new models are arriving in our dealerships.
But what is the best small car of 2012? Which is the cheapest new car of 2012 with the most equipment, space and style?
Below we take a look at our pick of the best small cars in 2012. We have already looked at the best city cars of 2012 so this time we are focusing on superminis – small hatchbacks with a dose more practicality than their smaller counterparts.
Here are our best small cars of 2012:
It’s been a while since Peugeot can say it offers one of the best small cars in the UK but the new Peugeot 208 hatchback puts the French car maker back to the top of the pile.
Styled using Peugeot’s new designs, the Peugeot 208 is a sleek, attractive small car with bags of personality in both three- and five-door hatchback form.
The Peugeot 208 is a great all-rounder with a premium cabin, plenty of equipment as standard and, more importantly, frugal engines.
A 1.0-litre petrol and 1.2-litre diesel engine choice both deliver road tax-free levels of CO2 emissions but there are eight more engine choices to cover every eventuality.
Peugeot 208 prices start from £9,995 in the UK and the first models go on sale on 28 June.
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The Chevrolet Aveo was always a budget champion in the UK with its compact dimensions, low prices and impressive running costs.
However, the 2012 brings with it a major step forward in terms of reliability, build quality and equipment, moving it much more upmarket than previous Chevrolet cars.
It comes with a new, aggressive design to give it plenty of road presence but the five-door hatchback still delivers superb running costs courtesy of a 1.3-litre diesel offering free road tax in the UK.
Other engines are also available and all models come with a five-year standard warranty – proving Chevrolet has not taken its eye off the ball in terms of running costs.
Chevrolet Aveo prices start from under £10,000 and that represents one of the best small car bargains around.
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The new Kia Rio, like the Aveo, is a huge step forward for Kia in terms of quality, design and equipment.
The new Kia Rio is the best Kia car to ever go on sale in the UK. It is a genuine challenger to the likes of the Ford Fiesta thanks to its attractive design, impressive driving dynamics and quality interior.
The Kia Rio also comes with road tax-free engine choices and a brilliant seven-year warranty – one of the best small car warranties around.
All models get daytime running lights, radio, MP3 connectivity and USB sockets and higher spec models get all the gadgets you would expect.
Kia Rio prices start from around £10,500 and it is on sale now.
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As you would expect from a small Mazda car, the Mazda2 is lightweight, stylish and great fun to drive.
Mazda cars are famous for their excellent handling after the brand took on the ‘zoom zoom’ philosophy and the attractive Mazda2 is no different.
However, 2012 brings even more reasons to buy a Mazda2 and put it up amongst the best small cars in the UK in 2012.
The new 2012 Mazda2 comes with ‘SKYACTIV’ engines, a name given to the new, efficient engine technology and gearboxes developed by Mazda.
This means lower emissions, better fuel economy and lower running costs for Mazda2 drivers.
Updated Mazda2 prices start from around £10,500 from Mazda dealerships.
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The Ford Fiesta is the UK’s favourite car of 2012 and without doubt the best small car around, even with the increased competition in the segment.
The sleek three- or five-door Fiesta combines value for money with superb levels of equipment, low running costs and a modern, well-built interior.
Spacious and practical, the Ford Fiesta is responsive and handles superbly, making it the best small car to drive in the UK.
It now also comes with lower running costs than ever before. The new 2012 Ford Fiesta upgraded its Econetic diesel engine to deliver upwards of 85mpg and an incredible 87g/km of CO2 emissions.
That makes it one of the greenest non-hybrid or electric cars in the UK. It is also one of the best.
The new Ford Fiesta prices start from around £10,000 but Econetic versions will cost from around £14,000.
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The Renault Clio is one of the most popular and long-running small cars to ever go on sale in the UK.
Towards the end of 2012, we will see the next generation of the supermini and it promises to be the best one yet.
The design is likely to resemble that of the Renault Zoe electric car and this means a new, modern front end and distinctive Renault elongated front grille.
Expect a premium feel to the interior, plenty of equipment (including Renault’s tie-ins with the likes of BOSE sound systems and TomTom) and ultra-low running costs thanks to Renault’s Eco2 badges and low-CO2 engine options.
Available in three- and five-door versions, new Renault Clio prices have yet to be revealed, but expect the first look here on Perrys news in September.
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The Renault Clio is not the only new Renault small car to enter the market in 2012. The Renault Zoe is, basically, the cheapest and best small electric car on the market.
Priced at just £13,500 the Renault Zoe is the most affordable electric car on the market and comes with some unique new innovations for the electric car market.
Firstly, it can be charged using any charger, meaning it takes anything from 30 minutes to nine hours to charge and won’t leave you searching for the correct voltage.
It also comes with a 130-mile range and new technology to ensure the battery is not adversely affected by cold weather.
The Zoe also comes with Renault’s stylish new look and a spacious interior that incorporates an iPad-style display to operate the huge amount of gadgets on board.
If you’re looking for an electric car, the Renault Zoe is affordable, good-looking and practical. With Renault Zoe prices starting at around £13,500, it is affordable too.
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The Vauxhall Corsa is one of very few small cars to not be upgraded in 2012 – although there is a new power-packed Corsa VXR Nurburgring to thrill performance enthusiasts.
The Vauxhall Corsa is second only to the Ford Fiesta in terms of sales in the UK and this is down to its appeal to younger drivers.
A selection of eye-catching body colours, sleek, curvy lines and its famous easy-to-drive characteristic makes the Corsa one of the best small cars in 2012.
The interior is spacious, well-equipped with plenty of modern equipment and under the bonnet petrol and diesel engines are some of the most efficient around.
Choose the Ecoflex diesel for road tax-free levels of emissions or a petrol for power matched to low running costs – either way you’re onto a winner.
Vauxhall Corsa prices start at around £10,000 and the car is available in both three- and five-door variation.
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The Fiat Punto is the Italian manufacturer’s stylish supermini. For 2012 it has shed the ‘Evo’ from the end of its name, reverted back to the popular first generation front end and even found time to appear in the latest Faithless music video.
However, the biggest change probably comes under the surface, where the superb TwinAir petrol engine first used in the Fiat 500 makes its debut in the larger car.
The ground-breaking two-cylinder engine is one of few petrol engines to deliver sub-100g/km of CO2 emissions and subsequently free road tax.
In fact, it is the only petrol car in our list to do so, making it the best small car in terms of petrol driving costs on the list.
It also comes with frugal diesel engines and updated equipment to appeal to younger buyers. On sale now, Fiat Punto prices start from just £9,990 on-the-road.
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Seat has always done things a little differently. A focus on a sporty appearance and a touch of flair to the design, a Seat car will always draw admiring glances from other road users.
This is particularly relevant to the new 2012 Seat Ibiza, a five-door compact hatchback that, in terms of looks, is one of the best small cars of 2012.
A facelift in 2012 gives the Seat Ibiza new, angular headlamps, sportier bumpers, new alloy wheels and striking alloy wheels.
The result is an attractive, stylish car that also scores highly in reliability tests thanks to its VW underpinnings.
It also comes with extremely low running costs, particularly from its road tax-free Ecomotive diesel models. Hatchback Seat Ibiza prices start from £10,000 and three-door coupe and ST, or estate, versions are also available in the popular range.
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