Thinking of getting a new city car? These little motors won’t break the bank and have what it takes to navigate and manoeuvre around the tight urban streets. Each one has been selected for looks, performance and reliability. So in reverse order, leading up to our favourite pick – here is our top ten city cars:
Without a doubt this is one of the cheapest, economical and easiest cars to run. Explore the range available out there to find a host of nippy little variants with lively engines, whilst qualities like a decent ride and handling are a staple of the range.
Surprisingly spacious for its size and a very good all-rounder, you only need to spend a few days with the Vauxhall Corsa to see why it was voted What Car of the Year 2007. Downsides? It is getting a little dated when compared to its rivals out there, but even this fact means that you’ll be able to pick up a good bargain.
Our Pick: 2014 Vauxhall Corsa 1.2i 16v SE with 37,000 miles for £5K
We’re talking good German build quality. Roomy in the front and back, and that refined, classy feeling you always get behind the wheel of a Volkswagen. The Polo is a safe purchase that floats you down the road on its supple, trim suspension adding that extra dimension of comfort on today’s broken city streets. Yes, these cars are a little pricier because of the quality – but then you do get what you pay for with a VW.
You’ll be impressed by the lack of noise coming from the car, with very little engine noise and the aerodynamic set up nicely filtering away the wind. User friendly controls sit mere fingertips away from your driving position and you’re looking at quality materials for a hard-wearing interior. You’ll easily fit 4 adults in here, with space in the boot to avoid the squeeze.
A good bet is the 1.2 TSI petrol model, great for moving it around town whilst basic S specs are best avoided in favour of the mid-range SE with alloy wheels, air-con, digital radio and touchscreen interfaces. You’ll be able to look good and feel great even in rush hour.
Our Pick: 2011 Volkswagen Polo 1.2 60 with 60k miles for £5K
Without making any TARDIS jokes, this is one of the most spacious small cars out there, with the whopping 354 litre boot on a par with the Vauxhall Astra’s and a front and back that sits 5 adults relatively comfortably. Good reliability and reputation make this a safe bet from the mechanical standpoint too. Expect big headroom and easily flippable seats that allow those big loads to be bought back from the DIY store.
Quiet and smooth ride spells pragmatic and practical over power and performance – this car is not that nippy and the bulkiness of the ride does lose a little something in the corners. Still, comforts reside in even the standard models with BlueTooth, DAB radio, air con and cruise control on all models. As a final word, note that these cars hold their price quite well, so if price turns your head towards a higher mileage Jazz, then insist on a full service history.
Our Pick: 2014 Honda Jazz 1.2 i-VTEC with 45,000 miles for £5K
An iconic classic with a cheeky character, funky styling and low running costs. More practical than the bubbly, smaller Fiat 500 and endearingly cheap. You can always get something with a new look for your money. Unfortunately you’re looking at something of a squeeze in the back seat, but even if your passengers are moaning you’ll find the ride comfortable and quiet.
These little fighters are famously affordable to run and durable in all the elements. However you might want to look above the basic entry level models if you want creature comforts that aren’t stapled to the bottom of this list. Avoid the 1.1 litre petrol model as it tends to be a little slower, but if you want to spend a little money there are plenty of options out there.
Our Pick: 2015 Fiat Panda 1.2 Easy with 25k miles for £5K
You knew it was coming. The massively popular Ford Fiesta gives you everything you could ever ask for in a small car. Reliable, practical, good value and surprisingly fun to drive this little motor holds its value well. With fairly stylish looks, multi award winning engineering and cheap servicing – there’s a reason why this car has been the UK’s number best seller for years and is still going strong.
Sit back and enjoy the comfortable ride in the front, but remember that the back is cramped compared to others on the list if you’re looking for a family motor. For couples or singles there’s plenty of room in the front seat and a good sized boot albeit with a little bit of a spartan dashboard with no touchscreen for phone interfaces.
Even with the downsides this is still an excellent all-rounder and you’ll have no trouble finding the right model given the huge choice available with good prices too. 1.25 petrol engine isn’t that reliable but it is super exciting and the Zetec trims come with alloy wheels and a leather steering wheel if you want that spot of class.
Our Pick: 2013 Ford Fiesta 1.25 Zetec with 53k miles for £5K
Fancy Italian styling makes the Fiat 500 one of the most fashionable small cars money can buy. Pirouetting through traffic on its nimble chassis, it’s great around town and the range of perky little engines gives you the power you need for nipping around town.
With all this style however you’ll be looking at higher prices, so your choice might be a little limited, although there are a huge number of variants out there. However, the light touch on the steering and the easy parking can balance it out.
On the downside this car is form over function, it suffers from a very small interior and the fuel economy is not the best. Bumpy ride means it’s not good on country road and you’ll have trouble sitting grandma down in the back thanks to the smaller back seat. 1.2 litre has reasonable performance, whilst the 900 TwinAir engine is a bit better, but pops with noise.
Our Pick: 2013 Fiat 500 1.2 with 40k miles for £5K
A car that uses a proven engine and chassis combination. Essentially the same car as the Peugeot 108 with a different badge, the Citroen C1 offers contemporary styling and nimble handling all wrapped up in a lovely continental package.
It’s not the best in the back with a cramped passenger set up and a small boot, but this does mean it’s better for parallel parking on narrow streets. Prices are super low and you can find a low mileage car for a good bargain budget. Sun worshippers can get their dose of vitamin D with an open top model called the Airscape that comes with a retractable roof. The interior has a plastic feel, but retains that French funkiness that’s a hallmark of this brand.
Our Pick: 2015 Citreon C1 VTi Feel with 35,000 miles for £5K
First introduced way back in 2012, the VW Up rapidly turned heads, becoming one of the most celebrated city cars around. Sharing a common appeal with the Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo, this has the edge when it comes to classiness and a smarter interior, although the upmarket badge makes it a little pricier. Still it holds its value well and is worth the extra cost.
The VW Up provides good space and is fairly nippy. Delivering comfortable handling, nice styling and a good fuel economy, this is a safe bet when it comes to spending your hard earned cash. Easy to park and a joy to drive, the only thing you have to worry about is finding the right one for your money.
Our Pick: 2015 Volkswagen Take Up with 27,000 miles for £5K
Want a good middle of the market car that holds value well? The Hyundai i10 is a great choice that comes with a slick manual gearbox, is good to drive and makes little to no noise out on the road. Size is not an issue here, you’ll fit 5 adults in the car without too many painful elbows with entry through the 4 side doors.
Try to look a little beyond entry level as the trims get really good in the superior models with loads of equipment on offer. Cheap to run will save on the road and the long warranty means that you might find one with some warranty left. And whilst this isn’t the most glamorous vehicle on the list, you’ll feel that warm glow of terrific value when you’re behind the wheel.
Our Pick: 2014 Hyundai i10 with 22,000 miles for £5K
It’s Skoda’s smallest car. The Citigo was introduced in 2012 and whilst it may lack the smarter interior of its rivals like the VW Up it still gives you amazing value for money. Expect a spacious interior with a big boot bigger than many super minis and four adults will fit in the back comfortably.
This great all-rounder is reliable and with the lower prices it demands you can get a higher spec model such as the elegance that comes with all the best extras including air-con, electric front windows, remote central locking, heated seats and sat-nav (part of a clever touchscreen unit that sits nicely on top of the dash). And with awesome fuel economy, super low emissions and cheap running costs, what’s not to love?
Obviously before you purchase any second hand car it’s wise to check it properly and go for a good test drive and make sure everything is working as it should be.
Remember that no vehicle is ever worth ignoring your doubt and if someone tells you something of a sob story or you don’t get a good feeling about the buyer – then there are a million other cars to buy out there. Do your homework and purchase with confidence.