City cars & superminis, part two

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

29 December 2008
City cars & superminis, part two

VW Polo
Price from 8000 (est)
On sale Winter
Whats great Classy image, interior quality, residual value

The new Volkswagen Polos launch is so secret even company insiders are reduced to talking in whispers when releasing snippets of information. While that doesnt give us much to go on, it does hint at the level of expectation surrounding the car.

What we do know is that VW is tackling the Polos shortcomings head-on. The current car may benefit from a wide engine range and cushy ride, but it is held back by an uninspiring drive, bland cabin and high price tags.

Although nobody is expecting prices to drop, you should get a lot more for your money. The new Polo will be based on the same underpinnings as Seats Ibiza, which handles and rides pretty well.

Styling is expected to follow along the same lines as the Golf Mk VI, which means an evolution of the familiar rather than something too radical.

The engine range will get an overhaul, with VWs cleaner, more powerful units being introduced, including the 1.4-litre TFSI petrol motor and the new 1.6 turbodiesel.

A Bluemotion version of the car is rumoured to be powered by a 1.2 TDI, with emissions of just 89g/km of CO2. However, this is likely to follow a few months after the initial launch, pushing it into 2010.

A 1.0 petrol could go on sale as part of VWs eco-drive, although such a unit was originally thought to be reserved for the Up city car project, in the pipeline for 2011 or beyond.

VWs double-clutch DSG gearbox is also expected to be offered on some models, reducing emissions and fuel consumption further, and giving the car a sportier feel.

Nissan Cube
Price from 9000 (est)
On sale Winter
Whats great? Unique design statement

Nissan has long been keen to sell the Cube outside Japan. Now, with a new model being launched this year, it looks like were finally going to get it.

Since it was introduced to the Japanese market in 1998, the Cubes asymmetrical design has made it a real head-turner. However, problems converting it to left-hand drive have made it uneconomical to bring to Europe until now.

People have been falling in love with its looks and importing current-generation cars privately, so Nissan has decided to ensure that the new model can be adapted to make it adoptable for all markets.

Expect the car to swiftly achieve cult status: going global has done nothing to dampen its quirky character or design and the 1.3- and 1.5-litre engines it is expected to have should be more than man enough for the job.

Mitsubishi electric i MiEV
Price from 15,000 (est)
On sale Winter
Whats great? Zero exhaust emissions

Mitsubishi UK is pushing hard to get its hands on 200 of the first all-electric i MiEV cars next year.

The i MiEV will initially go on sale in Japan, but since the UK is also a right-hand-drive market, we could steal a march on the rest of Europe, which wont get the car until 2010. The plan is for the UK to get 10% of the initial 2000-strong production run late in the year.

With an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery, the car has a top speed of just over 85mph and a 90-mile range. It takes seven hours to recharge fully.

There are no local emissions at all, while on a well-to-wheel basis, taking into account the CO2 released in the production of the electricity the i MiEV uses, Mitsubishi reckons it emits just 41g/km far less than the 145g/km of the petrol car its based on.

Renault Clio
Price from 10,000
On sale Summer
Whats great? Refinement, comfort, space, safety

Renault used to make a lot of noise about some of its models shakin their asses, but the next-generation Clio is more likely to be shouting about its distinctive nose.

Early images suggest the car will have a dramatically altered front end, making it far more distinctive and greatly improving its Euro NCAP pedestrian safety rating, which is seen as an important area in attracting sales.

Interior updates are likely to be limited to new materials and its unclear yet whether Renault will add two-way steering wheel adjustment and soft-touch dash plastics to all models, rather than just higher-specification versions, as at present.

The latest engine range is expected to include upgraded versions of the 1.5-litre diesels and possibly the new 128bhp 1.4 petrol that is making its debut in the latest Megane.

Nissan Pixo
Price from 7500 (est)
On sale Second quarter
Whats great? Rock-bottom price and running costs

The Pixo is a five-door, four-seater car thats around the same size as the Fiat 500.

Its based on the new Suzuki Alto and will be built by that company for Nissan in India.

To keep the price down, only one engine will be available, a 1.0-litre petrol producing 64bhp. Running costs wont break the bank, either, because the car will average 61.4mpg.

CO2 emissions of 103g/km are frustratingly close to the 100g/km mark at which cars now become VED (road tax) free, but the Pixo will still cost just 20 to tax for a year.

Stability control, curtain airbags and air-conditioning are options on both trims. Entry-level Visia cars get two airbags, while Acenta models add keyless entry, a CD stereo, electric front windows and side airbags. Other options include metallic or pearlescent paint and alloy wheels.