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FREE 30-Day Returns
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Rated Excellent
Road Tax & Roadside Assistance Included
FREE & Fast Delivery
Lowest Price Guaranteed
FREE 30-Day Returns
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Rated Excellent
Road Tax & Roadside Assistance Included
FREE & Fast Delivery

How To Choose The Right City Car For You

As the name suggests, a city car is designed specifically for busy urban environments and aims to give you as much interior space as possible without taking up too much room on the road. They’re always a hatchback, and they’re usually the smallest, least expensive model in a manufacturer’s range - although the popularity of crossovers means that there are now some SUV-style cars that are compact enough to be perfect for the city too. Either way you’ll be surprised just how versatile, safe, well-equipped and sophisticated today’s smallest cars can be. 

So, we’re going to take you through what you should be looking for when considering your next city car runabout, and we’ll give you the best examples of cars that have those specific qualities along the way. 

What's The Ideal Size For A City Car?

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If you think about a car from a side view, generally a city car will have a short wheelbase - that’s the space between the axles, which determines interior space, especially rear legroom. It’ll also have short front and rear overhangs, which is how far the body extends beyond each wheel; think of the phrase ‘wheels pushed out the corners of the car’ and you’ll have a picture of a vehicle with short overhangs. Cars designed this way tend to feel easier to manoeuvre and park, because both the bonnet and the rear tailgate feel closer to you, the driver. 

Best for compact dimensions: Volkswagen Up, Smart Forfour, Fiat 500

How Important Is Manoeuvrability?

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The manoeuvrability of a car isn’t just linked to its size (although the smaller the better, of course) but also to factors like a tight turning circle, good all-round visibility, sharp steering, and responsive low-speed acceleration. The last of those is where electric cars really shine, because their pick-up is near instant, giving you a strong sense of control of the car. Good manoeuvrability is especially important in urban environments, for nipping out of junctions and roundabouts, and parking in tight spots, and generally getting around more easily in busy traffic situations. 

Best for manoeuvrability: Smart Fortwo, Toyota Yaris, Fiat 500 Electric

Which Models Have Good Visibility?

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Seems obvious, but how well you can see out of a car is paramount to confident city driving. There are 2 things to consider here: how much glass the car has, and how high up it sits you above the road. On the former, you’ll find that cars with more complex designs (like a Nissan Juke) often have shallow windows, which can give a car a sort of external visual dynamism, whereas a more ‘basic’ design (a Volkswagen Up, say) has a greenhouse vibe, making all-round visibility better. On the driving position specifically, this is where the newer breed of compact crossover-SUVs can be highly advantageous, because by nature they offer a raised seat. This naturally means you have a greater view of the road ahead. Some smaller cars do this too though, like the Renault Zoe

Best for visibility: Peugeot 2008, Volkswagen Up, Suzuki Ignis, Toyota Aygo X

City Cars With Comfort & Refinement

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Modern city cars and small SUVs are far better designed and engineered than they once were. Long gone are the days when you’d have to fold yourself into a small car and then driving on the motorway felt like being strapped to a trampoline in a wind tunnel. Of course, though, some small cars do it better than others; there’s no excuse now for poor basic driver ergonomics, sloppy ride quality, and excessive engine, wind and tyre noise. The Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10 are 2 examples of proper small cars that feel like much bigger, more ‘grown-up’ ones on the move. And if you want even more sophistication, think about one of the SUV-style crossovers, like the Peugeot 2008, Hyundai Bayon or SEAT Arona.

Best for comfort: Hyundai Bayon, Kia Picanto, Renault Captur

Costs & Efficiency

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You’d expect a small car to be very efficient and relatively inexpensive, and of course most of them are, but it’s worth noting that the smallest cars don’t come with diesel engines or hybrid set-ups, and so they tend not to have the headline-grabbing mpg figures of those things; basically, you’ll have to move up to a bigger ‘supermini’-sized hatchback for 65mpg+ efficiency, like the 64mpg Renault Clio E-Tech Hybrid, or the 71mpg Peugeot 208 diesel. That said, the advances in small-capacity turbo petrol engines especially means that the real-world efficiency of city cars can be fantastic: the 1.0-litre petrol Toyota Aygo X nudges past 60mpg officially, for instance, which means 50mpg in real life. 

General costs like tax and insurance are something to consider carefully, because the insurance rating of a car isn’t just linked to the list price, but a variety of factors like safety features, security, performance and cost of repair. Look for the lowest insurance group (a 1-50 rating) for an indication of costs. The Hyundai i10 and Fiat Panda are both in group 3, whereas the bigger (and very cheap) Dacia Sandero is in group 7, but the Vauxhall Corsa starts in group 2.

**Best for low costs: Vauxhall Corsa, Hyundai i10, Fiat Panda **

Safety

AudiA1Sportback-Blog

Euro NCAP is the body that gives cars their official safety rating, scoring each in 4 categories including their general resistance to an impact (occupant safety), and safety features for both occupants and other road users. It then assigns the car an overall score out of 5. But today that overall score isn’t an average; rather, it is the lowest individual rating that the car achieves. So it’s worth digging into the Euro NCAP rating to find out how a car you’re looking at actually performs in a crash, and that’s especially important in the smaller car classes, because they’re likely to be missing a lot of the most modern active safety systems - stuff like lane keeping assist, speed sign recognition and automatic emergency braking. That’s not always the case (the VW Up has auto braking, for instance) but it’s easy to be led into thinking a small car is fundamentally ‘unsafe’ via a low score, when in fact it’s not. 

Best for safety: Audi A1, SEAT Ibiza, Volkswagen Up

Find your next perfect city car lease at a fantastic price on our car leasing deals page or head to this handy article for our top 10 suggestions.

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