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Best small cars 2019

More people buy small hatchbacks than any other type of car, so here we count down the top 10 – and reveal the model to avoid...

Best small cars
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What Car? team
11 Nov 2019 13:40

The small car market is one of the most fiercely contested, which is great news if you're after this sort of vehicle, because it means there are stacks of models to choose from and standards are incredibly high.

To have a chance of topping the class, a car must be as comfortable on the motorway as it is in the city. It must offer a decent amount of equipment, enough boot space for weekly shopping trips and an interior that's practical enough to cope with the demands of families. And it must, of course, be competitively priced.

In order to help you find the right small car, we've picked out our top 10 – and named the one you should avoid. And remember, if any of them take your fancy, you can potentially save thousands without any haggling by using our New Car Buying service.

Mini 3dr

Although the Mini 3dr is a bit cramped in the back, it's still worth a place on your shortlist – particularly if want your small car to have a premium feel and don’t regularly carry rear passengers. Go for the Cooper version and Classic trim to get the best mix of driving fun, standard equipment and affordability.

Honda Jazz

The Jazz has long bridged the gap between small cars and five-seat MPVs, and the latest version continues that tradition. It offers class-leading space and practicality, and it might even outlast you with its outstanding reliability. It's just a shame its ride isn't more  settled.

Read our full Honda Jazz review >>


8. Mini 5dr

Save money on a new Mini hatchback with What Car? >>

Mini 5dr front

This version of the Mini hatchback will suit you better than the 3dr if you regularly need to fill all of the seats, plus it offers a bigger boot. Again, go for the turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol Cooper version and team it with Classic trim and you'll have most bases covered.

Read our full Mini 5dr review >>


7. Hyundai i20

Save money on a new Hyundai i20 with What Car? >>

New Hyundai i20 vs Seat Ibiza

The i20's interior space dwarfs that of almost any other car in this class, and because of that, we're inclined to forgive some of its cheap-feeling plastics. The fact it's very well priced also helps, while the the turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol engine we recommend is perky and refined.

Read our full Hyundai i20 review >>


6. Kia Rio

Save money on a new Kia Rio with What Car? >>

Kia Rio

Like the i20, Kia's Rio has always offered a big helping of practicality for a low price, but the latest version adds a spark of desirability and a sprightly turbocharged engine. We'd avoid the cheapest 1 trim level and go for at least 2, because this comes with a touchscreen infotainment system and USB ports in the front and rear. All versions come with automatic emergency braking as standard.

New Audi A1 vs new Mini 5dr

Now in its second generation, the A1 offers an enjoyable driving experience and has room for two adults to sit comfortably in the back. There’s even a spacious boot, remedying one of the criticisms of the original A1. However, while there are still some nice touches, the interior doesn’t feel significantly classier than the cheaper Volkswagen Polo's, which is why Audi's smallest car goes no higher in this list.

Read our full Audi A1 review >>


4. Ford Fiesta

Save money on a new Ford Fiesta with What Car? >>

Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost Zetec 5dr

The Ford Fiesta is the best-selling car in the UK, and it's easy to see why. It's great fun to drive and available with tempting discounts, while its Ecoboost petrol engines are punchy, quiet and frugal. Practicality is decent, but not class leading.

Read our full Ford Fiesta review >>


3. Skoda Fabia

Save money on a new Skoda Fabia with What Car? >>

Skoda Fabia side

This former What Car? Car of the Year remains one of our favourite small cars. It's practical, well priced, quiet and composed. Plus, the Fabia should be affordable to run, with our favourite version averaging more than 60mpg in official tests.

Read our full Skoda Fabia review >>


2. Seat Ibiza

Save money on a new Seat Ibiza with What Car? >>

Seat Ibiza

The Ibiza is great to drive and even the 94bhp version of the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine pulls eagerly from low revs. It's also seriously spacious inside and should hold its value better than cheaper rivals, such as the Skoda Fabia above.

Read our full Seat Ibiza review >>


1. Volkswagen Polo

Save money on a new Volkswagen Polo with What Car? >>

Volkswagen Polo front - 19 plate

The latest Volkswagen Polo is available with a broad range of engines and trim levels, ensuring that there's something for everyone in the range. It also has a classy interior that's well equipped in our preferred SE trim. Previously, the Polo has lost out to the Seat Ibiza because it couldn’t justify its additional expense. But because of the impressive deals that can today be found on a new Polo, it now fully deserves the number one spot.

Read our full Volkswagen Polo review >>


And the small car to avoid...

MG 3

MG 3 front

It's not that the MG 3 has nothing going for it; it handles pretty well and is keenly priced. However, its sluggish engine and low Euro NCAP safety rating ultimately leave it well off the pace.

Read our full MG 3 review >>


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Read more: the best and worst small SUVs >

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