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Best small cars of 2022

These are the cars that we really should be driving if possible - the best small cars are compact, relatively light, frugal, and yet spacious enough for most purposes. If we’d all bought these instead of SUVs, maybe there wouldn’t be so much of a climate crisis…

Volkswagen Polo

1. Volkswagen Polo

Volkswagen Polo review
Hyundai i10

2. Hyundai i10

Hyundai i10 review
Dacia Sandero

3. Dacia Sandero

Dacia Sandero review
Peugeot 208

4. Peugeot 208

Peugeot 208 review
Ford Fiesta

5. Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta review
SEAT Ibiza

6. SEAT Ibiza

SEAT Ibiza review
Honda Jazz

7. Honda Jazz

Honda Jazz review
Audi A1 Sportback

8. Audi A1

Audi A1 Sportback review
MINI 3-Door Hatch

9. MINI Hatch

MINI 3-Door Hatch review
Renault Zoe

10. Renault Zoe

Renault Zoe review
Battery range up to 245 miles

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Advice about small cars

Small cars FAQs

The lightest small cars are just under the tonne mark, with the Peugeot 208 dipping down to 980kg. Most others — the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, SEAT Ibiza, Honda Jazz, Dacia Sandero — cluster around the 1,100kg mark. A MINI — ironically — is a little heavier, at 1,200kg. Electric power (or more accurately the battery pack) adds a lot of weight, though. A Peugeot e-208 weighs 1,455kg, while the Renault Zoe is 1,502kg. 

It’s a pretty simple answer — the Toyota Yaris Hybrid. The Yaris has an official figure of 68.9mpg, and some independent tests have found that it can reach 80mpg if driven gently around town (where its hybrid system is at its most efficient). In electric terms, a Renault Zoe, Mini Cooper S E, or Peugeot e-208 should all average around 3.0-miles per kWh.

To find out how to improve the fuel efficiency of your car and save money at the pumps, take a look at our guide on ways to get better MPG.

Split decision here. Technically, the cheapest small car is the Kia Picanto, with a starting price of just £11,810, but as with the (oddly more expensive) Hyundai i10, technically the Picanto is smaller-than-small, and counts as a city car. If you’re looking for something more Fiesta-sized, then the cheapest is the Dacia Sandero, which starts at £13,595.

If you're looking for a cheap car to run, check out our guides on the cheapest cars to insure and the best cars with low road tax.

Generally, small cars will be more reliable on average than bigger, more technically complex cars, and there’s no hard-and-fast rules about an individual brand’s reliability. After all, Peugeot topped the JD Power reliability survey just a couple of years ago. That said, if you want to play it safe in reliability terms, it’s always best to buy Japanese, so the Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris should be your first ports of call, here.

While this is something of a subjective thing, there are a couple of stand-out performances here. The Peugeot 208 has fantastic seats, which are really comfortable and supportive, while the new Skoda Fabia scores highly simply because it’s a little roomier inside than some others, so you have more stretching-out space.

In theory it shouldn’t be — if you’re a good driver then size shouldn’t really matter — but many drivers will feel more comfortable in a small car, especially in town. Certainly, all of the cars on this list are far easier to drive and park in urban areas than, say, an SUV, and these days there’s no penalty on the open road in terms of refinement nor stability. The key to ease of driving is good visibility, so the likes of the Honda Jazz and MINI Hatch score highly.

Easy answer here — it’s the new Skoda Fabia, which has a 380-litre boot, easily eclipsing the luggage space of any other car here (even the roomy Honda Jazz only offers 304-litres). For reference, the Fabia’s boot is the same size as that of the larger Volkswagen Golf hatchback.

The best-performers in this category are the Ford Fiesta and the Dacia Sandero, which have (depending on the version) a maximum braked towing weight of 1,000kg for the Fiesta and 1,100kg for the Sandero.

Check out our guide on towing laws in the UK.

New small cars will generally be safer than older smaller cars. Over time, cars tend to become safer as more safety tech is developed. Also, in Europe the crash testing procedure, conducted by crash test safety organisation Euro NCAP, has become more rigorous. So a small car with a five star 2022 star rating will have more safety features than a small car with the same star rating but tested in 2016, for example.

But these are generalisations. Safety kit varies between models in a range and across different cars. To see just how much safety kit a new small car has make sure you check out the ‘Prices and Specs’ section for the review, where you can see the different safety features each model has.