The best small cars you can buy in 2021

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.....

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.

Small car compilation image

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.

Slideshow story - please click right-hand arrow above to continue

10: Mini 3dr

Mini 3dr

Although the Mini 3dr is a bit cramped in the back, it's still worth a place on your shortlist – particularly if want your small car to have a premium feel and don’t regularly carry rear passengers.

10: Mini 3dr - interior

Mini 3dr - interior

Go for the Cooper version and Classic trim to get the best mix of driving fun, standard equipment and affordability.

9: Honda Jazz

Honda Jazz

The Jazz has long bridged the gap between small cars and five-seat MPVs, and the latest version continues that tradition.

9: Honda Jazz - interior

Honda Jazz - interior

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.

8: Mini 5dr

Mini 5dr

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.

8: Mini 5dr - interior

Mini 5dr - interior

Again, go for the turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol Cooper version and team it with Classic trim and you'll have most bases covered.

7: Hyundai i20

Hyundai i20

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.

7: Hyundai i20 - interior

Hyundai i20 - interior

The fact it's very well priced also helps, while the the turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol engine we recommend is perky and refined.

6: Kia Rio

Kia Rio

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.

6: Kia Rio - interior

Kia Rio - interior

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.

5: Audi A1 Sportback

Audi A1 Sportback

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.

5: Audi A1 Sportback - interior

Audi A1 Sportback - interior

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.

4: Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta

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.

4: Ford Fiesta - interior

Ford Fiesta - interior

Practicality is decent, but not class leading.

3: Skoda Fabia

Skoda Fabia

This former What Car? Car of the Year remains one of our favourite small cars.

3: Skoda Fabia - interior

Skoda Fabia - interior

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.

2: Seat Ibiza

Seat Ibiza

The Ibiza is great to drive and even the 94bhp version of the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine pulls eagerly from low revs.

2: Seat Ibiza - interior

Seat Ibiza - interior

It's also seriously spacious inside and should hold its value better than cheaper rivals, such as the Skoda Fabia.

1: Volkswagen Polo

Volkswagen Polo

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.

1: Volkswagen Polo - interior

Volkswagen Polo - interior

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.

So what about the small car you should avoid...?

MG 3

MG 3

It's not that the MG 3 has nothing going for it; it handles pretty well and is keenly priced.

MG 3 - interior

MG 3 - interior

However, its sluggish engine and low Euro NCAP safety rating ultimately leave it well off the pace.

Related cars