Best superminis 2021
It's a hard-fought class, but these are the 10 best superminis on sale right now
Although SUVs may be enjoying their time in the spotlight right now, they can't top superminis, which continue to dominate the list of best-selling new cars in the UK. But with so many models to choose from, which are the best? Below we've listed the best superminis available. It's a class that has a number of hugely talented contenders, many of which have been updated recently.
Their success shouldn’t come as a surprise because today’s superminis are great all-rounders. The majority have space for four or five people plus luggage, as well as efficient engines and levels of quality and refinement that would embarrass the family hatchbacks of 10 years ago.
While the new Vauxhall Corsa and Peugeot 208 are proving to be sales successes, the evergreen MINI, Skoda Fabia and Volkswagen Polo still remain capable contenders, and customers also have the more leftfield choices of the Mazda 2 and Dacia Sandero to consider.
You’ll also find representative prices for each model, sourced from Auto Express’s sister brand Buyacar.co.uk – a great place to start your hunt for a new supermini with great discounts.
Supermini buying advice
Choosing your perfect supermini from the huge list of options on the market is tough, but it’s not impossible; you could even have fun doing so if you approach the process in the right way.
It’s worth starting your hunt by having a clear idea of your requirements before visiting a dealer. Take into account your average weekly, monthly or yearly mileage, the number of passengers you carry, required boot space and must-have features like smartphone connectivity, heated seats or cruise control. Consider your budget not just for fuel and insurance, but also for servicing and maintenance.
Given the efficiency and relative low purchase cost of a modern petrol supermini, diesel models are becoming increasingly difficult to recommend for most buyers. They are best avoided for mainly city driving, considering the current climate of low-emissions zones, and are better suited to long-distance motorway work. If you need a car to munch the miles, it might be worth looking at something more refined from the class above.
Instead, consider a small turbocharged petrol. Most modern units are designed to blend decent performance and economy. An engine with around 90 to 100bhp usually offers the best compromise.
Don’t underestimate the power of a test drive. Aspects like driving position, clutch weight, seat comfort and visibility can be make or break, even on a car that’s perfect on paper. Make sure you’ll be happy living with it before you buy.
If most of your driving will be in town, check you’re comfortable in tighter spots; try parallel parking or a three-point turn. Similarly, if your supermini will be a countryside commuter, find a B-road and see how the driving experience measures up.
Most entry-level superminis come with a decent amount of standard equipment, but it pays to weigh up cost versus requirements when working your way up the range. Figure out what you’ll need to avoid paying extra for features you won’t use.
If you plan to carry small children or are worried about safety in general, bear in mind that not all superminis will have a five-star Euro NCAP rating.
Best superminis to buy now
- Renault Clio
- Dacia Sandero
- Vauxhall Corsa
- Ford Fiesta
- Toyota Yaris
- Peugeot 208
- MINI 5-door
- Skoda Fabia
- Volkswagen Polo
- Mazda 2
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1. Renault Clio
Renault has turned the supermini class upside down with its all-new fifth-generation Clio. It came out on top in one of the UK's toughest new car segments, despite worthy challenges from the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Toyota Yaris.
The Clio's practicality is superb, with a good level of legroom and a 391-litre boot (that’s larger than a Volkswagen Golf’s) highlighting its flexibility.
Superminis have to score highly in so many other areas, too, and with useful technology – especially in our favourite Iconic spec – there’s plenty of connectivity and features to keep you entertained on the move, with a slick-enough touchscreen fitted to most trim levels.
The Clio’s refinement belies its size and affordability, because its engine is smooth and quiet on the move. Only really at higher revs does it start to become apparent, and even then it’s not too loud.
It takes a big bump to upset the chassis, and even then the Renault supermini deals with it adeptly, smoothing out even the harshest inputs so that it keeps things nice and calm inside a cabin that is quiet, spacious, of high quality and well equipped. In fact, we're so impressed with the Clio we named it our Supermini of the Year 2021.
2. Dacia Sandero
By far the cheapest car on this list, the Dacia Sandero is a full-sized supermini that’s priced below most city cars. Now based on the current Renault Clio (the old Sandero was based on a decade-old Clio), the new Sandero is a little less sophisticated than some of the latest crop of superminis but still holds up well against its more polished competition.
Go for the most modern 1.0-litre petrol and you’ll be met with a supermini that’s good to drive and comfortable, even if it’s not the most refined car in its class. The Sandero is a no-frills new car that prioritises value for money, but cheap does not equal nasty in this instance. Do bear in mind that the Sandero only has a two-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, however.
Prices start at just under £8,000 for the Access version, while the top-spec Comfort cars are priced at around £12,000 and come with cruise control, rear parking sensors, an 8-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity.
3. Vauxhall Corsa
The latest Vauxhall Corsa is miles better than the car it replaced, offering a much more convincing blend of performance, economy, comfort and driving pleasure. It looks good, boasts one of the best petrol engines in its class and has benefitted hugely from the thoroughly modern underpinnings shared with the latest Peugeot 208.
The Corsa is available with petrol, diesel, and electric powertrains. So regardless of your driving habits, there should be a Corsa for you. There's plenty of opportunity for personalisation, too, with bold paint colours on offer, along with the options of a contrasting black roof and door mirrors.
Under PSA ownership, Vauxhall has been able to access the group’s CMP small car platform. In contrast to the underpinnings of the previous Corsa that dated back to the early 2000’s, the latest architecture is bang up to date.
The chassis is both over 15 per cent more rigid than the old car’s and 40kg lighter. Add up the other weight saving measures – lighter seats front and rear, an aluminium bonnet, lighter engines – and the new Corsas weighs up to 108kg less than an equivalent version of the old car.
4. Ford Fiesta
The Ford Fiesta has long been the supermini to beat, consistently outselling rivals and remaining one of the UK’s most popular new cars. The latest version is the best yet, serving up an unbeatable mix of performance, practicality and standard equipment – while still delivering the genuinely fun driving experience for which the Fiesta has become famous.
There’s plenty of choice in the range, with three and five-door versions, each offering loads of boot and rear passenger space for a supermini. All specs are well equipped, with even the entry-level Zetec model benefiting from an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus lane-keep assist, a heated windscreen and a leather steering wheel.
All engines are strong, but the 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol strikes a particularly fine balance between performance and economy, even in entry-level 99bhp guise; it delivers 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds, with average economy of 49.6mpg and 110g/km of CO2 emissions. There's also the stonking hot hatch ST variant with a 197bhp turbo three-cylinder engine to get your kicks.
5. Toyota Yaris
The Toyota Yaris is arguably the manufacturer’s most focused supermini yet. In an ultra-competitive supermini market, the five-door Yaris is keeping things simple. The sole 1.5-litre petrol hybrid engine delivers 114bhp and provides more than enough power to make it a capable performer around town.
Toyota claims the hybrid model’s bigger battery will help it function in pure electric mode for around 80% of the time while on regular urban journeys, and it can be driven at up to 80mph before the petrol engine chips-in.
As well as offering good fuel economy and plenty of standard kit, Toyota has bestowed the Yaris with a strong, distinctive look. The muscular wheel arches, large grille and sharp creases all contribute to a more purposeful stance than on the previous model, and an appearance which translates well to the beefed-up GR Yaris performance model.
The Yaris is a great performer around town, and certainly won’t be caught out on motorway stretches, while customers can be reassured by excellent levels of safety equipment.
6. Peugeot 208
The new Peugeot 208 is a great-looking supermini. It brings a sense of style and a real feelgood factor, helping it stand out from equally capable rivals.
The 208, along with the new Vauxhall Corsa, sits on PSA Group’s new CMP small car platform. The platform has been designed from the outset to offer different powertrain configurations, so that means the 208 can come with a petrol engine, a diesel engine or as a pure-electric vehicle.
Although the car is only available in a five-door bodystyle, customers can choose from six trim-levels for the 208 range - Active, Active Premium, Allure, Allure Premium, GT Line and the stand-alone GT trim that is only offered with the e-208 electric model.
The e-208 costs around £6,500 more than the diesel models and is able to cover up to 217 miles on a single charge. It can be fully charged from a 7kWh home wall box in 7.5 hours, while a 100kWh public terminal can achieve 80% power in just 30 minutes. The electric motor sits under the bonnet, while the 50kWh battery pack lies under the rear seats. So, the interior remains the same as in other models, without any loss of valuable space.
7. MINI 5-door
It might be getting bigger with each new generation, but the MINI is also getting better, to the extent that now it truly feels like a cut-size BMW. It's also an award winner, having scooped the Convertible of the Year title at our 2021 awards.
In 2018 the car underwent a mid-life update consisting of tweaked exterior styling, more technology fitted and even more ways to personalise it – a key part of the MINI's appeal.
While it’s possible to spec a highly-personalised MINI that’s eye-wateringly expensive, most versions are actually very well priced if you buy with restraint. Inside, the MINI gets a raft of technology, and it's safer, better equipped and more sophisticated than ever. Unless you go crazy with the bewildering range of options, the MINI hatch is generally a cost-effective car to run.
8. Skoda Fabia
The Skoda Fabia is one of the best superminis for sale in the UK today. It offers lots of practicality, decent space inside and a range of efficient engines. And while there's no vRS hot hatch, the Fabia is still a decent handling yet refined supermini, which helps to make it a front-runner in the class.
Precise steering and the lower kerbweight of the latest Fabia mean it handles more neatly than the previous version, proving light on its feet and nimble in town. But sporty handling arguably isn’t as important as comfort in a supermini, and while the Fabia isn't quick, it more than compensates in terms of ride quality.
It's spacious, too, with impressive space up front, ample leg room and lots of headroom. It’s even better in the rear - two six-footers can sit reasonably comfortably behind tall adults, and it will even take three adults without too much of a squeeze.
Customers needn't worry about safety, either, as the Fabia was awarded a full five-star rating by Euro NCAP.
9. Volkswagen Polo
Although it’s classed as a supermini by modern standards, the latest Volkswagen Polo has grown to be about the same size as the Mk5 Golf sold from 2004 to 2009. The result is a small car that feels spacious and grown-up, while its up-to-date MQB platform brings an array of great engines and a polished driving experience.
You’ll pay a premium to enjoy the Polo’s top-quality build and desirable badge – especially if you choose a higher trim level – but its breadth of ability is more than worth the outlay. All models are relatively well equipped, with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, all-round electric windows, 15-inch alloys and a leather steering wheel.
The Polo is only sold as a five-door and there’s the rear space to match; it’s a supermini that could stand in as a small family car if required. If you can afford it, this is one of the class’s finest choices.
10. Mazda 2
Youthful looks, a sporty drive and great build are the Mazda 2’s calling cards. The firm’s smallest car is also packed with tech and has great engines. It’s a fine package, if not quite as practical as the class best.
Still, the 2 gives the Ford Fiesta a run for its money for thrills, with sharp handling, accurate steering and a low driving position. The 1.5 SkyActiv-G petrol engines need revs, but long gearing makes motorways a breeze.
Inside, the Mazda offers space for five, a great driving position and well-placed controls. It’s a five-door only, so access is easy, but boot space is average for the class.
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