Best small cars to buy 2024

Small cars come in all kinds of shapes, if not sizes. Here we highlight the best new small cars on sale

The best small cars on sale today aren’t just easy to drive, they’re brimming with more kit and big car refinement than ever before. What’s more, small cars are often some of the cheapest cars to buy, insure and run day-to-day.

While tiny city cars like the Toyota Aygo X and Kia Picanto may be the first models that come to mind when someone mentions small cars, the level of choice is actually much broader. Modern superminis like the Vauxhall Corsa and Renault Clio sit in the class above and are now similar in size to older generations of larger family cars like the Volkswagen Golf. You’ll be surprised how much practicality they cram into a relatively compact package.

Alternatively, if you need to eke out all the available cabin space and ride height from your compact car, small SUVs like the Ford Puma share many components with their supermini siblings, but wrap them up in a taller and more spacious body. Whichever type of small car you pick, you should have the added bonus of lower running and insurance costs than for a larger, more expensive model.

We’ve thoroughly tested every small car on sale in the UK, and have rounded up the top 10 best models to buy right now according to our expert road testers. There are a range of body shapes to be found in our list, so whatever your needs there should be a small car to suit you. If you are on a strict budget, explore some used alternatives at tempting prices with our guide to the best used small cars on the market.

The best small cars to buy now

Read on to find the best small cars to buy in the UK, listed in reverse order…

10. Kia Picanto

  • Prices from: £14,000

The Kia Picanto offers lots of kit and a driving experience more akin to that of a car from the class above. A recent facelift has seen more efficient engines and improved on-board tech added to the range, while Kia’s excellent seven-year warranty also features – a great incentive if you plan on keeping your car for more than the usual length of a PCP finance deal. If you’re scouring the used car market, finding a used Kia Picanto with plenty of warranty left to run shouldn’t be too difficult, either.

Practicality is good for a car of this size too; all come with five doors and there’s enough space in the back for two adults to sit in relative comfort. The boot measures in at 255 litres – considerably more than the 211 litres offered by the MINI 3-door from the class above. Opt for the ‘3’ trim and you'll even get an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple Carplay connectivity, cruise control, auto-folding mirrors and a reversing camera.

9. Vauxhall Corsa 

  • Prices from £20,000

The Vauxhall Corsa is one of the best-selling cars in the UK, and it’s not too difficult to see why it’s so popular. Vauxhall’s popular supermini is affordable, easy to drive, has enough room for five passengers, and is even available with the choice of petrol or all-electric power.

It was already a smart-looking car, but the latest facelift has sharpened up the Corsa’s styling even further with a new front end that features Vauxhall’s distinctive ‘Vizor’ grille. The level of on-board tech is rather generous, too, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition and automatic LED lighting all fitted as standard.

8. Ford Puma 

  • Prices from £26,000
  • Best for drivers 

The Fiesta is no longer on sale, but its underpinnings live on beneath the slightly larger Ford Puma SUV. Even though it is classed as an SUV, the Puma is still small and nimble enough to feel as engaging to drive as its departed supermini sibling. The added bonus, of course, is better practicality which makes it more suitable for family use.

The best news is that you won’t need to worry about this SUV hitting your finances too hard - even the performance-focused Puma ST can achieve over 40mpg. Insurance should prove reasonable, too, as all variants sit between groups 14 and 22. If you’re keen on the idea of emission-free motoring, a fully-electric version is set to arrive in 2024.

7. Hyundai i10

  • Prices from: £16,000

Hyundai has added tech, space and fun to its i10 city car to create such a great package that we named it our City Car of the Year at the 2023 Auto Express New Car Awards

The third generation Hyundai i10 made a good first impression when we first drove it, it’s larger than the old model and more comfortable too. Even the entry-level Advance model boasts plenty of gadgets including air- conditioning, cruise control, and an eight-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The charms of the i10 don’t stop there, though, as it’s also fun to drive. The quick steering rack inspires confidence on twisty roads and makes the i10 feel agile in the corners. 

A choice of two petrol engines are offered through most of the i10 range - a 66bhp 1.0-litre unit which can feel sluggish on motorways, and an 83bhp 1.2-litre which is almost £1,000 more expensive. Both are frugal engines, but we’d stick to the manual gearbox as the automatic isn’t the smoothest during shifts. Top-spec N Line versions include a more powerful 99bhp 1.0-litre variant, although this means an increase in price to over £18,000.

6. Jeep Avenger

  • Prices from: £24,000

While off-roading is best left to the Wrangler, the Jeep Avenger is a solid small SUV choice if you plan to stay firmly on the tarmac. Not only is it rather attractive to look at, but it’s affordable to run and even surprisingly engaging to drive. Inside, the on-board technology is a big step up from older Jeep models, while the interior has a refreshingly straightforward layout. The materials feel sturdy, too.

The all-electric Avenger’s 54kWh battery has a claimed range of up to 248 miles, so it should prove usable for most everyday needs. When you do need to recharge, the 100kWh rapid charging capability allows it to top up from 10 to 80 per cent in just 24 minutes. If you prefer combustion power, a pure-petrol and petrol hybrid version is set to go on sale alongside the EV. A four-wheel drive version is also on the way.

5. Fiat 500e

  • Prices from £28,000

All-electric city cars don’t get much more compact than the stylish Fiat 500e, and it fulfils its brief superbly. With entry prices hovering around the £30k mark, the key decision to make is whether you opt for the 24kWh or 42kWh-battery version, which provide up to 118 miles or 199 miles of range respectively. If you use it purely as an in-town runabout, then the 24kWh model makes a lot of sense, but A-road and motorway commuters will want to plump for the more generous range that comes with the bigger battery.

Overall efficiency is a plus point, too – during our own group test the 500e managed 4.0 miles/kWh, which was better than its MINI Electric and Honda e rivals.

4. Toyota Yaris

  • Prices from £23,000
  • Best for fuel economy

You’ll pay more upfront to put a Toyota Yaris on your drive, compared with the other petrol models on this list. But the upside is that, with an astounding average fuel economy of more than 60mpg, you will definitely save money at the pumps. Throw in reasonable insurance costs and solid residual values, and the Yaris proves itself as a credible performer in the long term.

The base Icon model is well equipped, so there’s no need to bump up the asking price any further, while reassuring levels of standard safety kit and Toyota’s class-leading warranty cover of up to 10 years is hard to beat. Interested buyers may have reservations over the tighter rear space and noisy CVT transmission, but the Yaris is a competent and efficient all-rounder.

3. Skoda Fabia

  • Prices from £20,000

Buyers on the lookout for a practical supermini that’s also comfortable and full of modern onboard tech, should put the Skoda Fabia on their shortlist.

Keen pricing undercuts its Volkswagen Group stablemates, the Volkswagen Polo and SEAT Ibiza, while smarter styling means it can hold its head high next to its sportier siblings. But the real ace up the Fabia’s sleeve is its interior space and impressive boot capacity, which are competitive with the likes of the Volkswagen Golf from the class above. It might be a supermini, but the Skoda Fabia comes with big-car safety kit, too, while the overall feeling of quality is obvious as soon as you climb inside. It’s a very compelling supermini package.

2. Dacia Sandero

  • Prices from £14,000
  • Best value for money

Dacia continues to provide affordable cars for those seeking real value for money, and the latest, Mk3 Sandero is a great example of how far the no-frills brand has come.

Under the skin, the Sandero shares its platform with the Renault Clio, which is a great starting point. You’ll find the handling safe and secure, while the Sandero provides a decent ride around town and is a competent motorway cruiser. The turbocharged petrol motor has plenty of grunt, so you don’t have to work it too hard, and its 10.5-metre turning circle makes slotting the car into tighter spaces a doddle. Benefiting from a facelift in 2023, the sharp-looking Sandero is no longer an also-ran, but a car that has more relevance today than ever.

1. Renault Clio

  • Prices from £18,000

The Renault Clio had an unbroken run between 2020 and 2022 as our Supermini of the Year – and with very good reason. Its fantastic blend of style, practicality and refinement is hard to beat, while a facelift in 2023 kept the striking five-door hatchback close to the top of the class.

You’ll find the Clio’s roomy interior offers plenty of family-friendly flexibility, with its comparatively huge 391-litre boot even eclipsing those of many models from the class above. Factor in the choice of an economical petrol engine or Renault’s advanced E-Tech full-hybrid unit, along with generous levels of standard equipment, and you’ll be hard pushed to find a supermini rival that does it better.

Top 10 best small cars

  1. Renault Clio
  2. Dacia Sandero
  3. Skoda Fabia
  4. Toyota Yaris
  5. Fiat 500e
  6. Jeep Avenger
  7. Hyundai i10
  8. Ford Puma
  9. Vauxhall Corsa
  10. Kia Picanto

Best small cars: buying advice

It’s worth starting your small car hunt by having a clear idea of your needs. Consider your likely mileage, number of passengers, boot space requirements, number of required doors and any must-have features or options.

Work out your budget, and remember to think about fuel and insurance costs, too. Modern petrol engines have come a long way in the last few years, especially in smaller models – as such, diesel-powered small cars are becoming increasingly difficult to recommend and many manufacturers don’t even offer diesels. We recommend only choosing one if you plan to do mostly long-distance motorway work. Small turbocharged petrol engines are designed to provide decent performance without sacrificing economy – they are great all-round options for mixed driving. Electric small car models cost more up front but the gap is narrowing and you should enjoy significantly lower running costs.

One of the most important aspects of buying a new car is a test drive; a car that fits your needs on paper may not feel that way in person. Be sure to test your small car on roads similar to those you plan to do most of your day-to-day driving on – it makes sense to get an accurate idea of what to expect once you buy. If you have any bulky items, like a pushchair or a bike, that you often carry in your car, take them along and see if they fit in the new one.

Keep an eye out too for great deals – small cars are often subject to some of the best discounts. Deposit contributions and 0% finance deals are common, as are free insurance deals.

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Content editor

Ryan is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2023, he worked at a global OEM automotive manufacturer, as well as a specialist automotive PR and marketing agency.

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