City living can be quite hectic, especially if you don’t own a vehicle that suits your urban lifestyle, so we’ve picked some of our favourite compact cars to point you in the right direction.
Whether you’re considering switching to a more practical car, or are looking to purchase an additional smaller, yet family-friendly model, our guide should help.
As you'll see, city cars tend to have a few things in common – they’re compact, agile, easy to drive and cheap to run, if a little cosy in the back.
The really good news is that small electric cars are becoming more affordable too, so we've included a few of the latest options. Not only are they zero emissions, but running costs are lower and you pay no road tax or congestion charge in London...
Buckle up for 10 of the best city cars on the market, starting with the cheapest...
The award-winning Kia Picanto ticks all the right city car boxes. Good looking, fun to drive and well equipped, its little 1.0-litre petrol engine can return as much as 55.4mpg with CO2 emissions as low as 117g/km.
Add Kia's generous seven-year warranty and you have one of the best small car packages on the market. There's also a decent 255 litres of boot space (1,010 with the back seats down). Go for the upgraded Picanto, on sale from late 2020.
The cheeky Citroën C1 was developed alongside the Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 108 and is a familiar sight on UK roads. Available with three or five doors and as an open-top ‘Airscape’, it's also cheap to run.
The C1’s thrummy three-cylinder engine is good for up to 52.2mpg, while CO2 emissions are a low 108g/km. There's also 196 litres of boot space (780 litres with the back seats flipped).
The distinctive five-door Aygo is engaging to drive, well-built and powered by an eager 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine (72bhp), just like its distant French cousins, the Citroën C1 and Peugeot 108.
Capable of up to 56.4 mpg (CO2 emissions are a low 112g/km), it's also available with an automatic gearbox. Boot space is a cosy 168 litres, expanding to 812 litres with the rear seats flat. The Aygo comes with Toyota's five-year/100,000 mile warranty.
Developed alongside the SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo, the Volkswagen up! has always been entertaining to drive and the classiest of the trio. Its VW Group cousins have gone electric-only now, but the up! is definitely still worth considering as a petrol-engined city car.
Its eager 1.0-litre engine can return up to 51.4mpg, while CO2 emissions are 124g/km. If you want something sportier, then go for the pocket rocket GTI version (£16,140). For zero emissions motoring, then the pure electric e-up! (£20,555*) should be just the ticket.
Suzuki’s quirky and very capable mini urban crossover is a breath of fresh air in a city car market dominated by hatchbacks. Surprisingly spacious and easy to drive, the Ignis is also available as an automatic and with four-wheel drive.
Its efficient 1.2-litre petrol engine (89bhp) is a mild hybrid returning up to 54.1mpg with CO2 emissions of 117g/km. Boot space is 267 litres, rising to a modest 501 litres with the rear seats folded.
Fiat's popular retro-styled 500 hatchback sits somewhere between the city car and supermini sectors in terms of size. Available as a more expensive 500C convertible (£16,050) and with an automatic gearbox, it's fun to drive, oozes character and has more room inside than you might think.
Its 1.0-litre mild hybrid petrol engine (68bhp) is good for 53.3mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 119g/km. Luggage capacity is 185 litres, or 550 litres with the rear seats down.
The all-new third generation of the popular Hyundai i10 is bigger, better-looking and boasts the latest infotainment and safety tech. With low running costs, it's also backed by Hyundai's generous five-year/unlimited mileage warranty.
Available with both 1.0 and 1.2-litre engine options and as an automatic, the smaller of the two units (65bhp) is capable of 50.4mpg with CO2 emissions of 126g/km. Boot capacity expands from 252 litres to 1,046 with the back seats down.
The popular Citigo (a cousin to the Volkswagen up!) has now morphed into an electric-only CITIGOe – Skoda's first EV. With a range of up to 170 miles on a single charge, it's great value. With a 7.2kW AC wall box, the battery can be charged to 80% in 4 hours 15 minutes, or 12 hours 37 minutes using a lower-powered 3.6kW home‑charging station.
Despite the addition of the new battery and electric motor, the CITIGOe iV has decent levels of boot space (250 litres or 923 litres with the back seats folded flat). The bad news is that the initial UK allocation of the CITIGOe iV sold out, so Skoda temporarily stopped accepting orders in mid 2020.
Now only available as a pure electric car, the Smart EQ forfour makes more sense than ever in the city. With a range of just 80 miles it's more of a nippy runabout, but it's also a blast to drive, well built, generously equipped and can be charged up to 80% battery capacity in just 40 minutes using a rapid charger (or three hours, 18 minutes via a wall box and eight hours, 30 minutes using a domestic socket).
Luggage space is 185 litres, expanding to 975 litres with the rear seats down. If you don't need four seats, then go for the dinky Smart EQ fortwo two-seater, also available as a cabrio.
Like the Volkswagen e-up! and Skoda CITIGOe iV, the SEAT Mii Electric is another great introduction to zero emissions motoring. A whizz around town (accelerating to 31mph in only 3.9 seconds), it has a range of up to 160 miles.
A charge to 80% will take anything from 16 hours via a three-pin domestic socket, four hours using a wall box or one hour at a public rapid charging station. SEAT reckons the charge cost is about £5.29 for a full battery. Boot capacity is 251 litres (959 litres with the back seats flipped).
*Price includes the £3,000 Government Plug-in Car Grant (PIGG).
I'm an experienced journalist, digital editor and copywriter, now specialising in motoring. I’m editor of Automotive Blog and have worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online for household names including the BBC, GMTV, ITV and MSN. I’ve produced digital content in the financial sector for Lloyds Bank, Nationwide and the Money Advice Service. I'm married with two children and live near Bath in Somerset.