Best small cars 2023
More people buy small hatchbacks than any other type of car. However, there are an awful lot to choose from, 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 generally 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 have 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 for you, we've picked out our top 10 – and named the ones you should avoid. If anything takes your fancy, just click on the relevant link to read more about it or see the latest deals available through our free 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. And the interior is relatively spacious for a car of this size, with a smart design and a fine infotainment system.
The i10 is quite pricey for such a small car, though, particularly if you’re planning to buy outright rather than on a PCP finance deal.
- 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 fuel economy test proves that the Yaris hybrid has a remarkable ability to sip petrol gently; in town, it achieved 80mpg, which is almost double the economy of conventionally powered small hatchbacks.
It should be very reliable, too, because Toyota consistently performs brilliantly in the annual What Car? Reliability Survey. Meanwhile, resale values are among the best in the small car class.
Just bear in mind that you pay for the agile handling with a ride that’s quite firm. Plus, the rear seats are cramped and you have to put up with an infotainment system that’s a bit dated.
- 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, Audi's smallest car combines a smooth and well controlled ride with reassuring handling. Plus, it does a fine job of delivering peace and quiet, even at motorway speeds.
It’s also roomy enough for two adults to sit comfortably in the back. And there’s even a spacious boot, remedying one of the criticisms of the first-generation Audi A1.
However, while there are some nice touches, the interior doesn’t feel significantly classier than the cheaper and closely related Volkswagen Polo's, which is why the A1 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 as fun to drive as some sports cars, with precise steering and sharp handling, yet the ride is still comfortable.
Ford offers a broad range of trim levels, too, to cater for many tastes and budgets – everything from the entry-level Trend to the SUV-inspired Active and the luxuriously appointed Vignale.
It's just a shame key safety kit costs extra, because no version of the Fiesta is especially cheap to buy these days.
- Brilliant to drive
- Punchy Ecoboost engines
- 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, with the steering a particular highlight; it starts off light to suit town driving, before progressively weighting up and providing impressive feedback as your speed builds.
At the same time, the Ibiza is more spacious than the Fiesta – particularly in the rear seats – and it holds its value better, meaning it will cost you less in the long run.
Even the 94bhp version of the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine pulls eagerly from low revs, so we wouldn't bother spending the extra needed to upgrade to the 109bhp unit.
- 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 out there than the 208 – including the Fiesta and Ibiza which we’ve already looked at.
On the other hand, if a comfortable ride and quiet cruising manners drive your purchasing decision, the 208 could well be the model for you. And similarly, if you value a rich interior that offers decent interior space, it won’t disappoint.
As a bonus, the 1.2 Puretech 100 petrol engine provides punchy performance and doesn’t drink that much fuel.
- 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 line-up.
It also has a classy interior that's well equipped even in entry-level Life trim. And few small cars are as good at soaking up bumps in the road or do a better job of suppressing wind and road noise on the motorway.
Previously, the Polo has lost out to the Ibiza because it couldn’t justify its additional expense, but impressive deals and monthly finance rates 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 offers a supple ride, comes generously equipped (at least in our recommended Comfort trim) and is very spacious.
Add in the fact that the TCe 90 and TCe 100 Bi-Fuel engines are both great, and the Sandero 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 hatchbacks 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 (what is?!), the latest Fabia is still pretty well priced, undercutting the starting prices of most other rivals.
It offers a similar amount of space to the Sandero, too, plus it’s even more comfortable and a hell of a lot safer; the independent experts at Euro NCAP awarded it five stars out of five, whereas the Sandero managed just two stars.
If you can afford it, then, the Fabia is worth the extra money.
- 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. And slow depreciation makes up for fairly punchy list prices, while also ensuring PCP finance rates are competitive.
A soothing ride and generous luxury and safety equipment add further to its appeal. Plus, it offers the best driving position and visibility of any car in this class. In fact, the Jazz is the best all-rounder in the class full stop.
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
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 disappointing Euro NCAP safety rating ultimately leave it well off the pace. 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