Best small cars 2022
More people buy small hatchbacks than any other type of car, so here we count down the top 10 – and reveal the models to avoid...
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 ones 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.
The i10's compact dimensions and great visibility make it ideally suited to the city, yet it doesn’t feel out of its depth on faster roads, thanks to a 1.2-litre petrol engine that has enough oomph for stress-free journeys. Ride comfort is impressive at all speeds, too, even compared with many larger models. However, the i10 is quite pricey for such a small car.
- Comfortable and quiet to drive
- Five seats and decent rear space
- Good amount of kit as standard
- Three-star Euro NCAP safety rating
- Non-turbocharged 1.0-litre engine is a bit lacklustre
- Pricey to insure
Our True MPG test proves that the new Yaris hybrid has a remarkable ability to sip fuel gently; in town, it achieved 80mpg, which is almost double the economy of conventionally powered small hatchbacks. It should also be very reliable and hold its value well. Just bear in mind that the ride is quite firm and the rear seats cramped.
- Excellent real-world fuel economy
- Toyota's reliability record
- Slow predicted depreciation
- Below-par infotainment system
- Firm ride – especially on higher-spec models with bigger wheels
- Cramped in the back
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 model. 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 on this list.
- Smooth ride and tidy handling
- Relatively quiet at higher speeds
- Very slow depreciation
- Cheaper trims not well equipped
- Mini feels much plusher inside
- Peugeot 208 offers more for less money
While plenty of small cars feel surprisingly grown-up, nothing puts a smile on your face like the Fiesta. It's particularly good in sporty ST-Line Edition trim, which brings stiffer springs to help the car stay more composed through corners, yet has barely any impact on ride comfort.
- Brilliant to drive
- Punchy Ecoboost engines, especially the Hybrid versions
- Good fuel economy and CO2 emissions
- Some rivals are better value
- Decent but not class-leading practicality
- Important safety kit not standard
The Ibiza is almost as enjoyable to drive as the Fiesta, plus it's more spacious and should hold its value better. Even the 94bhp version of the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine pulls eagerly from low revs.
- Great to drive
- Roomy by class standards
- Strong TSI petrol engines
- Lots of road noise
- Resale values could be better
- Firm ride in FR versions
If you are searching for a sharp-handling small car, there are better and cheaper alternatives – including the Fiesta and Ibiza. But if a rich interior, a comfortable ride, quiet cruising manners and decent interior space drive your purchasing decision, the 208 could well be the car for you.
- Very comfortable for a small car
- Smart and high-quality interior
- Punchy and frugal 1.2 Puretech 100 petrol engine
- Steering wheel design can cause issues
- So-so infotainment system
- Not much fun to drive
The latest 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 even in entry-level Life trim. Previously, the Polo has lost out to the Ibiza because it couldn’t justify its additional expense, but impressive deals mean that's no longer an issue.
- Good to drive
- Generous interior space
- Attractive PCP finance deals
- Ford Fiesta is more fun to drive
- Gutless entry-level petrol
- Standard safety kit could be better
The Sandero is comfortable, generously equipped (at least in our recommended Comfort trim) and very spacious, so it would be well worth considering even if it cost the same as its rivals. Except it doesn’t; it’s the UK's cheapest new car. Just bear in mind that there are quieter and safer small cars if you're prepared to spend (quite a lot) more.
- Amazingly good value
- Lots of space for passengers and luggage
- Comfortable ride
- Poor safety rating compared with rivals
- There are more entertaining small cars to drive
- Some other small cars are quieter
While it's not as cheap as the Sandero, the latest Fabia is still well priced. Plus, it's similarly spacious, even more comfortable and a hell of a lot safer. So, it's worth the extra if you can afford it..
- Huge boot
- Roomy interior with clever features
- Fairly supple ride
- Interior is hardly plush
- Not as practical as the Honda Jazz
- Bug-prone infotainment system
The Jazz's space and seating flexibility puts other small cars to shame, but crucially it's not just a box on wheels; it’s brilliant even if you take practicality out of the equation. Its hybrid engine, for example, delivers strong performance and excellent real-world fuel economy. In fact, the Jazz is the best small car on sale today.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
- Very spacious with great seating flexibility
- Lots of standard equipment
- Slow depreciation
- Pricey by small car standards
- Not the quietest cruiser
- Disappointing infotainment system
And the small car to avoid...
With its funky looks inside and out, the C3 does a great job of turning heads. Unfortunately, it's poor to drive and not very practical, so any number of rivals are more recommendable on an objective level. Read our review
Best used small cars for less than £10,000
Small doesn’t have to mean stingy, and cheap really can be cheerful, as these fantastic used small cars prove
Honda Jazz long-term test
The latest Honda Jazz impressed us with its practicality and efficiency in a group test – now our deputy editor is finding out what it's like to drive one every day