Best small cars 2020

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...


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What Car? team

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.

10

Honda Jazz

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£18,486

RRP from £18,985 to £23,385

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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.

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Pros

  • Very spacious with great seating flexibility
  • Lots of standard equipment
  • Superb all-round visibility

Cons

  • Lumpy ride in town and so-so handling
  • Harsh engine note when accelerating hard
  • High list prices
9

Mini 5dr

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£15,311

RRP from £16,200 to £37,345

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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.

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Pros

  • Strong engines
  • Well-built interior
  • Great infotainment options

Cons

  • Not as much fun to drive as it should be
  • Notchy gearbox
  • Some rivals are more practical
8

Hyundai i20

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£18,605

RRP from £18,605 to £23,354

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.

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Pros

  • Roomy rear seats
  • Peppy and efficient engine
  • Strong resale values

Cons

  • Relatively pricey cash buy
  • Firm ride
  • Not as fun to drive as a Fiesta
7

Kia Rio

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£13,206

RRP from £13,395 to £20,895

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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.

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Pros

  • Well equipped
  • Spacious rear-seat space and boot
  • Refined petrol engines

Cons

  • Fidgety ride in town
  • So-so handling
  • Average security rating
6

Audi A1

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£18,198

RRP from £18,920 to £31,760

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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.

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Pros

  • Smooth ride and tidy handling
  • Relatively quiet at higher speeds
  • Very slow depreciation

Cons

  • Cheaper trims not well equipped
  • Mini feels much plusher inside
  • Peugeot 208 offers more for less money
5

Ford Fiesta

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£15,411

RRP from £16,640 to £27,075

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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.

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Pros

  • Brilliant to drive
  • Punchy Ecoboost engines, especially the Hybrid versions
  • Good fuel economy and CO2 emissions

Cons

  • Some rivals are better value
  • Decent but not class-leading practicality
  • Important safety kit not standard
4

Peugeot 208

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£16,480

RRP from £17,255 to £30,275

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If you are searching for a sharp-handling small car, there are better and cheaper alternatives – including the Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza. But if a rich interior, a comfortable ride, quiet cruising and decent interior space drive your purchasing decision, the 208 could well be the car for you.

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Pros

  • Very comfortable for a small car
  • Smart and high-quality interior
  • Punchy and frugal 1.2 Puretech 100 petrol engine

Cons

  • Quite an expensive cash buy
  • So-so infotainment system
  • Not much fun to drive
3

Skoda Fabia

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£11,742

RRP from £14,280 to £18,930

See new car deals Save up to £2,722 with What Car?

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.

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Pros

  • Spacious interior
  • Good to drive
  • Very competitive pricing

Cons

  • Hard interior plastics
  • Low speed ride comfort could be better
  • Entry-level trim and engine best avoided
2

Seat Ibiza

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£14,127

RRP from £16,445 to £21,655

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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.

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Pros

  • Great to drive
  • Remarkably spacious
  • Strong petrol engines

Cons

  • Interior could be classier
  • Lots of road noise
  • Skoda Fabia is cheaper
1

Volkswagen Polo

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£16,068

RRP from £17,125 to £21,995

See new car deals Save up to £1,373 with What Car?

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.

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Pros

  • Supple ride
  • Generous interior space
  • Quiet on the move

Cons

  • Seat Ibiza is more fun to drive
  • Noisy diesel
  • Gutless entry-level petrol

And the small car to avoid...

MG 3
MG 3 Cornering

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 review

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