City cars & superminis, part one

  • Full details of upcoming models
  • Includes secret cars that dealers won't admit to
  • Five-part series, so come back for more
Words ByWhat Car? Staff

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Hyundai i20
Price from 8000 (est)
On sale January
Whats great? Competitive price, strong safety standards

Hyundais replacement for the Getz, the i20, is going up against the giants of the supermini world, such as the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa, using high equipment levels and affordable pricing as its weapons.

Expect to save about 1000 over comparable rivals, with the well-equipped five-door models priced from around the 9000 mark. Three-door cars follow later in the spring and are tipped to cost 1000 less than this.

Engines available from launch include two petrols and two diesels. The petrols are a 78bhp 1.2-litre or a 100bhp 1.4. The 1.4 diesels have 75bhp and 90bhp.

The i20 is expected to score highly on safety, with Hyundai confident of doing well in 2009s tougher, revised Euro NCAP crash tests.

The new tests will include a check on how well a car minimises whiplash injuries in an accident, so Hyundai is fitting special headrests in all i20s. These move to support the head in the event of a rear-end crash.

There are three trims Classic, Comfort and Style. Each has six airbags and air-con as standard. Stability control is optional.

In 2010, the 90bhp 1.4 diesel will be badged i-Blue, which is Hyundais name for its more environmentally friendly models. It will deliver 68mpg on the combined cycle and release 99g/km of carbon dioxide, so you wont pay any road tax for it.

Hyundai has done this by tweaking the aerodynamics, adding a six-speed gearbox and using low-friction oil and low-rolling-resistance tyres.

Depending on demand, Hyundai may also offer a more powerful 1.6 diesel to provide a hot model for the range.

Chevrolet Beat
Price from6500 (est)
On sale Winter
Whats great?Funky looks, low price

Chevrolets Beat looks like itll be more in tune with younger buyers than its predecessor, the Matiz.

Yes, itll still be cheap, cheerful and compact, but if the production model looks anything like the concept car thats been doing the rounds and you can be sure it will itll be a lot more stylish.

Chevrolet says the production car will have five rather than three doors, but other changes are likely to be minimal. A three-door car may join the range at a later date, although this body style could be reserved for a sporty range-topper.

Prices are likely to start at around 6500. The entry-level model will be powered by a frugal 850cc three-cylinder petrol engine. A 1.0-litre four-cylinder version will provide stronger performance and a 1.2 petrol is expected to power any sportier derivatives.

Alfa Romeo Mito
Price from 10,975-14,975
On sale January
Whats great? Cool, stylish looks, compact dimensions its different

The Mito isnt your standard-issue supermini it takes many of its styling cues from Alfa Romeos 8C Competizione supercar, so it looks great.

Weve tested the Mito and are happy to report its striking beauty isnt just skin deep. There are some attractive materials in the cabin and it feels well bolted together inside.

Straightline performance isnt as earth-shattering as that of the 8C, but indications are that the Mito handles corners well. It also benefits from a range of five peppy engines that will all be available from launch.

If you want a five-door version, you cant have one that role will be played by the replacement for the 147 small family car, which arrives at the other end of the 2009.

Remember, Mito is pronounced Mi as in Milano with To as in Torino. Simple.

Daihatsu Charade
Price from 6995 (est)
On sale February
Whats great? Surprising amount of kit and space, ultra-low running costs

Given the current financial climate, Daihatsu has timed the launch of its new Charade well.

The latest car is due to arrive in February and promises to update a successful formula. Like its predecessor, the Charade will have more interior space and equipment than you might expect and will come with a spirited three-cylinder engine.

This time around the 1.0-litre unit should be good for 68bhp, but most impressively it should average around 64mpg, with CO2 emissions of just 104g/km.

Prices and equipment levels have yet to be confirmed, but the cheapest model is likely to dip just under the 7000 barrier when it appears early next year.

In line with the previous model, even the basic trim should come with air-conditioning and remote central locking as standard.

Safety equipment is certain to be a strong point, too, because the high-specification Japanese versions already on sale are available with seven airbags including one for the drivers knees and stability control.