Best small cars

Cars

Best small cars

By Martin Pratt

Article 2 of 12

Small but perfectly formed, these multi-talented Best Buys are affordable, reliable and easy to drive, yet well-equipped and large enough to feel secure on a motorway.

Small cars are some of the most popular on the road – and for good reasons: they're compact enough to be easy to drive in town, yet just large enough to be comfortable on long-distance trips. 

Plus, they're affordable to buy and run, and practical so they cope well with everyday duties, from shopping and the school run to ferrying about friends or even a daily commute.

Below are the very best small cars we've tested – reliable new and used models that scored highly enough to become true Best Buys.

Which? members can log in to see the small cars we recommend. If you're not already a member, take out a £1 trial to unlock this table and all our expert impartial reviews.

Best new small cars

Typical price £6,106
Brand score 90%
Tested Feb 2011
Best Buy
Ride comfort:
4 out of 5
Handling & performance:
4 out of 5
Model reliability:
5 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This hybrid version of a spacious hatchback does lose some interior real estate due to the batteries, but what's left is cleverly used for maximum practicality.

Typical price £14,341
Brand score 84%
Tested Jul 2012
Best Buy
Ride comfort:
3 out of 5
Handling & performance:
4 out of 5
Model reliability:
5 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This advanced motor is technology heavy but doesn't abandon the basics. It's practical, cheap to run and easy to drive.

Typical price £9,933
Brand score 83%
Tested Jan 2015
Best Buy
Ride comfort:
4 out of 5
Handling & performance:
4 out of 5
Model reliability:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This pleasing hatchback is a comfortable drive, cheap to buy and more spacious than most of its competitors.

Typical price £9,316
Brand score 79%
Tested Oct 2011
Best Buy
Ride comfort:
4 out of 5
Handling & performance:
5 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

Foregoing two of its seats means this isn't exactly the most practical small car around, but it is a blast to drive.

Typical price £12,823
Brand score 78%
Tested Jul 2015
Best Buy
Ride comfort:
3 out of 5
Handling & performance:
4 out of 5
Model reliability:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This car is famous for its practicality. Oodles of space make up for a lack of sharp-driving character, though this latest model does improve on the driving experience.

Typical price £8,663
Brand score 77%
Tested Sep 2010
Best Buy
Ride comfort:
4 out of 5
Handling & performance:
4 out of 5
Model reliability:
5 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This car doesn't do much wrong. It's spacious for a small car and it's comfortable whether you're in the drivers seat or the back.

Typical price £8,287
Brand score 76%
Tested Sep 2011
Best Buy
Ride comfort:
3 out of 5
Handling & performance:
3 out of 5
Model reliability:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This car is considered a cheap and cheerful choice. It's an appealing all-round package that's better equipped than you might think.

Typical price £26,480
Brand score 76%
Tested Nov 2013
Best Buy
Ride comfort:
4 out of 5
Handling & performance:
4 out of 5
Model reliability:
3 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This striking electric car, launched in 2013, could be the most desirable around. It thrives in the city where you're never too far from a charge point.

Best used small cars

Typical price £3,826
Brand score 81%
Tested Oct 2008
Best Buy
Ride comfort:
3 out of 5
Handling & performance:
4 out of 5
Model reliability:
5 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This small car is not short on space. It may not be the cheapest to run, but the clever tech and innovative features make it easy to recommend.

Typical price £4,449
Brand score 78%
Tested Jul 2001
Best Buy
Ride comfort:
4 out of 5
Handling & performance:
5 out of 5
Model reliability:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

The 2007 version of this iconic small car is as fun to drive as ever with a raft of new engine options and that same signature style.

Typical price £3,204
Brand score 76%
Tested Sep 2007
Best Buy
Ride comfort:
3 out of 5
Handling & performance:
4 out of 5
Model reliability:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This small car is a great all-rounder and our survey shows that it's very reliable.

Typical price £2,877
Brand score 75%
Tested Jan 2006
Best Buy
Ride comfort:
3 out of 5
Handling & performance:
4 out of 5
Model reliability:
5 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive

This three or five-door hatchback has several strong engine options. What it lacks in excitement it makes up for in practicality.

Want to see even more choice? Click to jump straight to all our small car reviews

We test cars more thoroughly than anyone else

Our tests go further than those carried out by other organisations, and because Which? is independent and doesn't accept advertising or freebies, you can trust our reviews to give you the full, honest and impartial truth about every car we test.

Every car we review is subjected to more than 100 individual tests in a lab, on a test track, and on real roads – and we really clock up the miles, driving around 900 miles in every car we test.

Testing in controlled lab conditions means the results we collect are directly comparable between different cars, helping us determine exactly which models are better and why, and helping you find the perfect car for your needs

And so you know which cars are likely to prove reliable for years to come, we also gather feedback from thousands of UK car owners through the Which? Car Survey, using it to generate detailed reliability ratings for the cars we test.

To take the guesswork out of choosing your next car, take a Which? trial for £1 and you'll receive access to all our expert reviews and advice, plus Which? magazine itself.