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Best Of

First published: 20th November 2015

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Best Of

Top 5 best City Cars

Just because you're buying something that's destined to spend much of its time on city streets, it doesn't mean you have to sacrifice style, comfort or refinement

First published: 20th November 2015
It’s a fact of 21st-century life that more and more of us are living in cities, which means that more and more of us need a set of wheels that can cope with the urban jungle.

Fortunately, car makers know that, too, and the choice of ‘city cars’ is wider than ever before; and, more than that, pretty much whatever you want from a car, you can find it in a city car. That means that there’s no problem if you’re downsizing from a larger, supposedly more prestigious, car; you can still buy all the creature comforts you have come to expect. Climate control, sat-nav, the latest in safety and connectivity – you name it, you can have it.

In our list of today’s best city cars below, each model has its own set of qualities, but there is a common theme running through all of them. Naturally, they’re all pretty small and easy to drive, which makes them easy to guide through even
the most congested city streets; but, they’re also cheap to run, with good fuel economy and low insurance ratings.

On the other hand, they’re not necessarily cheap to buy, which is perhaps something of a surprise. Or, look at it another way: yes, you can have style, class and high quality in your city car – but only as long as you’re prepared to pay for it.

What’s also clear is that a city’s abilities don’t stop at the city limits. On the contrary, such are the levels of comfort and refinement in today’s city cars that it’s easy to find one that’s up to much longer journeys as well.

Perhaps the toughest job when looking for a city car is to decide where to start. But, if that’s the case for you, let our experts’ opinions below be the best first step towards drawing up a shortlist.
Volkswagen Up
Volkswagen Up
Volkswagen Up – the high-class one
Almost inevitably, city cars tend to be small and relatively cheap, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice high quality. The Up, for example, may be the cheapest model in VW’s range, yet you can’t tell: inside, it feels just like a shrunken Golf, with the same sense of class. The tight turning circle and good all-round visibility mean It’s easy to drive around town, but what really sets the Up apart is that it’s more than able to cope with longer, higher-speed journeys beyond the city limits. And, as if that wasn’t enough, the car has a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, as well as the (reasonably priced) option of the City Emergency Braking system.

Expert review | Owner reviews | Find one in our classifieds
Hyundai i10
Hyundai i10
Hyundai i10 – the one with the long warranty
Hyundai is a Korean company, but the reason the i10 is such a success is that so much European knowledge has gone into it. Designed and built in Europe, Hyundai’s smallest car is a smart-looking thing; the cabin is livened up by some nice two-tone finishes, and is big enough to take four adults, while the boot is one of the biggest in the city car class. You’ll certainly enjoy driving the i10, and even the entry-level three-cylinder engine is well up to the job of getting this little car around. Finally, you can be assured that the standard kit on this city car includes peace of mind: not only does Hyundai sit well up in reliability surveys, the car is backed by a five-year warranty.

Expert review | Owner reviews | Find one in our classifieds
Smart Fortwo
Smart Fortwo
Smart Fortwo – the two-seat one
The Fortwo is a unique proposition among city cars, having only two seats. And, while that compromise does mean it will only suit a certain group of buyers, it brings plenty of benefits. Above all, it’s full of character, and that starts with the way it looks, marrying its combat body panels to some exquisite details. But, beyond that, it’s also a superb city car, with a best-in-class turning circle that means it’s fantastically easy to thread through the most congested city streets; and, as for parking, well, you can squeeze a Fortwo into spaces that would be off-limits for most other city cars. True, it’s not the cheapest city car, but it will be cheap to run; and, besides, there’s no rule that says a city car has to be a cheap car.

Expert review | Owner reviews | Find one in our classifieds
Fiat 500
Fiat 500
Fiat 500 - the retro-chic one
Fiat 500 – the chic one
The 500 is a car that’s small in size, but big on style. Unashamedly taking plenty of styling cues from the famous 1957 500 – such as the round headlights and front indicators – it’s a thoroughly retro, and totally distinctive, model on today’s roads. The huge range of personalisation options means you can specify a 500 that is genuinely your own – and quite possibly unique – while, despite those classic looks, it has its feet firmly in the modern day, with engines that are capable of around 70mpg. True, it’s not the best of its type to drive, but if you’re looking for a car that’s a chic fashion accessory, they don’t come any better than this.

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Toyota Aygo
Toyota Aygo
Toyota Aygo - the one from a set of triplets
The Aygo was developed alongside the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108, but we think Toyota’s effort is the most distinctive of the lot – which is important in a car like this. By judicious choice of trim and a few tactical ticks on the options list, it’s quite possible to create a unique Aygo. You can even swap over several of the pieces after several years of ownership. It’s a great little car around town, with a willing 1.0-litre engine and a tiny turning circle. And, although it’s not quite as impressive out of town, the excellent fuel economy and sub-100g/km CO2 emissions will make for low running costs.

Expert review | Owner reviews | Find one in our classifieds

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Related topics: City Cars