These cars are small but perfectly formed. They are cheap to buy and run and a terrifically competitive market means they drive better, look better and have better interiors than ever before. These are now viable cars for nearly every household; even families would find them useful as second cars or an excellent first car for a teenager or twenty-something.
These cars are small. I do mean small. Their length is around 3.5m. Specific examples are as follows; Seat Mii 3.56m, Fiat 500 3.55m, Compact Fiat Panda 3.65m, Skodo Citigo 3.56m. For a good comparison the Ford Focus is 3.95m and the Mini Cooper S is 3.73m long. But why is small so special? Well you will be able to fit these cars into the microscopically small garages in today’s new builds and open your door allowing you to exit the car whilst still in the garage! They are so small you can squeeze them into tiny spaces in car parks and in front of your house. Their small size will help nervous parkers to manoeuvre with confidence.
Its no good being small if you handle like a cruise ship. To nip around busy city centers and squeeze into tiny parking spaces you need a car with responsive steering and a small turning circle. A good benchmark is the Mini which reviews well as a nippy city car. Its minimum turning circle is 10.7m. Compact cars perform better; VW up 9.8m, Fiat 500 9.3m, Fiat Panda 9.7m and Toyota iq 7.8m. Then there are a few models with really tiny turning circles – Hyundai i10 4.8m and Kia Picanto 4.9m.
Turning circle is only one measure of the handling ability of these cars. The responsiveness and security of the drive depend on a whole host of factors. Even though the Hyundai and Kia have tiny turning circles reviewers don’t rate their handling that well compared to other cars in the category. Instead the overall handling offered by the VW up and Fiat Panda seem to be the best in this group.
City driving and manoeuvring mean you need a car with excellent all round visibility. Most compact cars are well designed to provide this. The consumer organisation Which performed comprehensive testing of visibility in 2010. No compact car appeared in the list of 10 worst cars for visibility. However the Fiat 500, Hyundai i10 and Smart ForTwo Coupé all appeared in the top 10.
These cars are designed to be as cheap as possible. You can get an entry level Fiat Panda, Kia Picanto, Skoda Citigo, Seat Mii or Ford Ka for £8,500. Add another £1,000 and Renault Twingo, Hyundai i10 and even an VW up are in your range. Of course optional extras can quickly add to the entry price.
Any car that emits less than 100g/km of CO2 is not taxed. Many compact cars do not attract road tax but choose certain combinations of model and engine type and you can end up paying tax. For example all fiat 500 models do not attract road tax whereas a Panda can be free or up to £130 per year if you choose the 4×4 option. Nearly all versions of the Hyundai i10 attract tax.
The most fuel efficient petrol cars have an mpg (combined) in the 70-75 range. Several of the compact cars fall just under this level; the VW up Bluemotion, Fiat Panda, Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo all deliver 69mpg. Fuel economy does depend on the engine type and size and can vary enormously within a range so if this is important to you check the brochure specifications carefully.
Compact cars are cheap to insure. Several compact cars are in cheapest insurance groups (1 & 2 ); Hyundai i10 1.0, SEAT Mii and the Skoda Citigo. Of course certain options will take these cars into higher groups. In group 3 you find the following; Kia Picanto, Smart ForTwo and Toyota iQ. The Fiat’s are in group 5.
Several compact cars stand out for their performance and options. Take the Fiat 500 for example which has been designed to be an ideal Compact City Car. There are 7 models with 13 colour options and that’s before you start to differentiate between trim levels and interior oprtions. The Seat Mii has 4 models and 7 colour options, the Skoda has 8 models and the list goes on. These options let you spend your money in the areas that are important to you and add a bit of individuality to your car.
We can compare facts and figures all day but how do they combine and what does the overall car deliver to the owner? We have selected a couple of trusted reviewers and collected their overall conclusions on a selection of compact cars, see below.
“City car that feels more grown up than its size would suggest. Hyundai has hit on a winner here.” Top Gear
“Our former city car favourite is replaced by a more grown-up model” Auto Express
“A car from whose existence we all benefit, even if we don’t want to be seen in one.” Top Gear
“The Fiat 500 is a deserved success story for the brand, offering bags of style, a fine drive and low costs” Auto Express
“Will shake up the city car segment and could become a game-changer for the whole class.” Top Gear
“The Volkswagen Up city car isn’t revolutionary, it’s just quantifiably better than the opposition” Auto Express
“Built in conjunction with Fiat, Ford drew the short straw here. Go for a Fiat 500” Top Gear
“The Ford Ka is another competent effort by the Blue Oval, but it’s no class leader” Auto Express
“Rio is a sensible choice. It looks better, drives more ably and is now not too boring to be considered.” Top Gear
“Unlike its more one-dimensional forebears, this new five-door supermini offers appealing style and tangible quality as well as typical Kia brand value” Auto Express
“Better than ever, the new Fiat Panda is a worthy rival to the VW Up.” Top Gear
“The Fiat Panda doesn’t have class-leading build quality but it makes up for that with its quirky personality and cute looks” Auto Express