City cars & superminis, part three

* Full details of upcoming models * Includes secret cars that dealers won't admit to * Five-part series, so come back for more...

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What Car? Staff
29 December 2008

City cars & superminis, part three

Kia Soul, YN and Rio
Price from 11,000 (est)
On sale March
Whats great? Two superminis, one funky with 4x4-styling and one for more conventional tastes

Kia is hoping the Soul can be its answer to the Mini, and the five-seaters eye-catching styling gets that ambition off to a good start.

As with the Mini, you can pore through pages of personalisation options and equip your car with graphics, flashing lights and even headlamp eyelashes.

Every model comes with a CD player that can decode MP3 discs, as well as connections so you can listen to digital tunes on a USB memory stick or MP3 player.

Theres loads of space inside the car for passengers and for luggage, but some of the cabin materials fall short on quality. On the safety front, the Soul is expected to have stability control and six airbags as standard.

Therell be a 125bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine or a 125bhp diesel unit. Both come with a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes.

Weve driven the Soul theres not much roll in the corners, but there could be more feedback through the steering wheel and the ride is disappointing.

The platform the Soul is built on will also be used to carry a mini-MPV by the end of the year. Codenamed YN, the car is billed as a funky alternative to the Vauxhall Meriva.

The Soul will also provide the platform for the Rios replacement on sale in early 2010.

Seat Ibiza
Price from 10,000 (Cupra, est), 8000 (Ecomotive, est)
On sale February (Cupra), April (Ecomotive)
Whats great? Choose between performance or economy

The new Ibiza has been on sale for some time, but the range will be swelled by hot Cupra and frugal Ecomotive models this year.

The Cupra is based on the three-door Ibiza Sports Coupe. It has a 177bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine that is turbo- and supercharged, and linked to a seven-speed semi-auto gearbox with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.

To complement its sporty performance, the car also has 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear diffuser, sports seats and aluminium pedals.

The Ecomotive sits at the other extreme of the scale, with tweaks bringing its carbon dioxide output down to 98g/km, on a par with the lowest-emitting mass-produced four-seaters. It will come in three- and five-door versions, powered by a 79bhp 1.4 diesel.

Smart Fortwo CDI
Price from 9000 (est)
On sale February
Whats great? Low emissions and all the cash savings associated with them

Say hello to the lowest-emitting mass-production car in the world, the Smart Fortwo CDI and give thanks for last summers high fuel prices, which prompted its UK arrival.

Originally only intended for sale in mainland Europe, the Fortwo CDI was converted to right-hand drive when the
rising price of oil sent city car sales soaring.

Buyers will have a choice of the coupe or cabrio version of the recently face-lifted car. Its 86mpg average means it can manage up to 670 miles between fills. Its not just your pocket that will be grateful, either, as it emits only 88g/km of carbon dioxide.

The secret is its 799cc diesel unit, linked to a five-speed gearbox that can operate as a manual or automatic. The engine also has a respectable 44bhp, so it should keep up with city traffic without too much problem.

Suzuki Alto
Price from 7000 (est)
On sale March
Whats great? Running costs, price

The Alto is back, but this time it deserves to be taken more seriously.

Powered by a 1.0-litre petrol engine, which averages 62.7mpg and emits 103g/km of CO2, the budget four-seater aims to provide the best of both worlds, having been designed to look sporty but achieve high fuel economy.

The engine which will be the lowest emitting petrol on sale until Toyotas iQ arrives is linked to a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, although a four-speed automatic will be available as an option.

Suzuki has tried to ensure that the Altos ride and handling are progressive and the steering light. A turning circle of nine metres will add to its appeal for city car users.

Stability control, front, side and curtain airbags will all be available, as Suzuki seeks to lure buyers by selling a car packed with equipment at a competitive price.

Toyota iQ
Price from 9495-10,495
On sale March
Whats great? Fashionable styling, safety, low running costs

What price fashion? If youre buying an iQ, Toyotas funky supermini, the answers quite high 9495 for the base model makes it much more expensive than Toyotas other city car, the Aygo, which starts from 7000.

So what do you get for your money, other than the eye-catching looks and a quirky seating arrangement that accommodates three adults in comfort and four at a push?

Chiefly, frugal running costs, courtesy of the iQs eager 67bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine, which averages 65.7mpg and emits 99g/km of CO2. It is available with a five-speed manual gearbox or an automatic unit. A 1.33 engine will join the line-up mid-year.

Its packed with safety kit, too, including anti-lock brakes, stability control and traction control. Nine airbags are fitted, including one behind the rear window.

Plus all of these, too...

Citron C1
Price (est) 7600
On sale Early 2009
Whats great? Engine upgrades, posh cabins
Interior restyling and a more efficient 1.0-litre petrol engine grab the headlines.

Skoda Fabia Scout
Price (est) 11,500
On sale May
Whats great? Raised driving position
The ride height has been increased and chunky pseudo-4x4 plastic styling added.

Nissan Note
Price (est) 10,500
On sale January
Whats great? Looks, storage, refinement
A more refined car. Clever storage system parts can now be housed in the boot.

Toyota Aygo
Price (est) 8000
On sale Early 2009
Whats great? Better styling, fuel economy
A mild face-lift has refreshed its looks. Fuel and emission outputs are down.

Mitsubishi Colt
Price (est) 8000
On sale Early 2009
Whats great? Better looks, more refined
Lower and wider, with larger boot. Emissions cut by 10% on Stop-Start Clear Tec car.

Toyota Yaris
Price (est) 9000
On sale Early 2009
Whats great? Looks, fuel consumption
A face-lift will slightly modify Yariss looks. Engines expected to be more efficient.