The city car segment may not be especially highly populated, but it’s where some of the most charming and likeable cars on the market reside.
City cars are, as their name suggests, primarily targeted at urbanites or those who don’t need to traverse great distances with any great frequency and who don’t need a vast amount of space. Ideal family cars they generally are not.
City cars tend to be targeted towards a younger demographic, so the emphasis is often on cool and funky design, as evidenced by four of the five cars on our list.
What city cars may lack in space, motorway legs and — in the case of electric models, which can only accommodate small battery packs — range, they make up for with good design, low purchase price, tiny running costs and being a doddle to drive around town.
Here are some of the best city cars on sale in the UK right now, featuring petrol, hybrid and pure-electric power.
Toyota Aygo X
We liked the Aygo X so much that we named it our City/Small Car of the Year at The Sunday Times Motor Awards 2022. With a humble 70hp 1-litre petrol engine under the bonnet and nothing in the way of electrification, the Aygo X is far from a technical tour de force, but it was its design, practicality (for a city car) and road manners that earned it its gong.
Toyota has taken the tiny Aygo and added crossover styling with a raised ride height and plastic cladding around the wheel arches. Though it really shouldn’t work, it very much does, especially when specified with two-tone paint and a canvas folding roof.
That extra bit of height does make the Aygo X slightly more comfortable over poor surfaces while most buyers will enjoy the raised driving position, too.
The Aygo X is a cut above the classic model in nearly all respects: size, quality, style, refinement and also, unfortunately, price — starting from £15,975.
Fiat reintroduced its retro-styled 500 back in 2007 and — thanks to a little nip and tuck along the way — it hasn’t aged a day. Small wonder then that when it come to the all-new (and now all-electric) 500, the company didn’t mess around much with the design.
It looks as stylish as ever, only this time instead of a petrol engine, power comes courtesy of a 42kWh battery and a 117bhp electric motor to deliver a range of 199 miles. While that range might not sound massive, given that most Fiat 500 drivers aren’t going to be regularly traversing the length and breadth of Britain, it’s more than ample.
With prices starting from £30,645 it’s not the cheapest city car out there, but compared with EV rivals such as the Mini Electric and Honda e, it’s certainly competitive on price. Plus it looks great, is bang up-to-date on the technology front and drives well. This is arguably the most pleasing iteration of the Fiat 500 since it was brought back, in fact.
There’s a convertible version for some wind-in-the-hair motoring and an Abarth model from 2023 if you want something a little more ‘responsive’.
The Honda e is like the Fiat 500 in a lot of ways: it’s a faintly retro-styled electric city car with cute looks and a small battery and range, though at £36,920 the Honda is quite a bit more expensive.
On paper at least, that higher price tag and tiny 137-mile range (less on motorways and in cold weather) should be enough to send buyers straight for their nearest Fiat showroom, but the Honda is a real heart-over-head car.
The interior, for one, is among the best of any car of any size on the market, with screens spanning the dashboard and lots of good-looking pale wood trim. It really is a lovely place to be and, being a five-door, it’s quite a bit more practical than the little Fiat for those regularly carrying passengers.
That said, because of the rear-mounted 152bhp electric motor, at 171 litres the boot is a little smaller than that of the 500, and the rear seats are only good for small people, really.
The Suzuki Ignis is often forgotten by city car buyers but that’s a mistake as, in its own way, it’s as much a charmer as any of the rest of the cars here with its faux-SUV styling and nods to the 1970s Suzuki Whizzkid.
Prices for the hybrid-only Ignis start from £16,249, so it’s a lot cheaper than the other retro-styled cars on this list and, what’s more, comes not just with a four-wheel-drive option, but a decently-sized (for this class) 267-litre boot.
The interior is starting to feel a little unsophisticated compared to its rivals (it’s been around since 2016 after all), but the level of spec is still decent with Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto connectivity as standard and a plain but well-laid-out interior.
The Kia is the dullest car here but perhaps the most well-rounded, well-packaged and sensible. The latest Picanto looks better than ever, drives nicely and is a spacious and well-finished machine.
The entry point to the range is a 66bhp 1-litre three-cylinder model, while at the top of the Picanto tree is a turbocharged 1-litre three-cylinder unit, producing 99bhp. Driving either flat out is entertaining.
While the Picanto felt a bit bargain-basement in the past, over time it has evolved into one of the most sophisticated and grown-up cars in its class.
Like most models here, it’s not at its happiest on high-speed motorway trips but it’s the pick of the bunch if motorway jaunts are a semi-regular feature of your driving itinerary.
With its five doors and 255-litre boot, it’s a reasonably practical vehicle and with prices starting from £13,400, it’s the cheapest car here (thanks to basic petrol power), though it doesn’t feel like it.
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