City cars pack a lot in their compact size. They often have room for four people or for a weekend, and come with a lot of must-have features, both in terms of connectivity and security.
Ironically, a city car is probably not the best choice for a city these days, as hybrid and electric cars are preferred over gasoline models – and smaller cars often do without this type of expensive technology; check out our guide to the best used electric cars if they better suit your needs. If you don’t have to worry about traffic jams or low-emission zones, city cars make a lot of sense, especially as short rides.
Top 10 best small used cars of 2021
City cars are not expensive to buy new, so they are cheap used. They are generally affordable to manage; many are capable of over 50 mpg without much effort. Buy one registered before April 2017 and the road tax is very likely to be minimal, while small tires and drum brakes are cheaper to replace than those fitted to large cars. They often have simple motors, which means there are fewer problems; insurance is cheap too.
Most of these used city cars are reasonably comfortable on occasional freeway trips, so you don’t necessarily need to stay within city limits. High end cars also benefit from some great car features; some of the following models are available with cruise control, satellite navigation and even heated seats.
While most of the cars on this list are probably easy and inexpensive to own, the Kia Picanto gives you extra peace of mind. Kia’s seven-year / 100,000-mile warranty even applies to the Picanto, and it’s transferable to subsequent owners.
But a generous aftermarket package isn’t the only reason the Picanto takes its place here. It’s economical, smart, and the engines make it easy to keep up with traffic. Trim levels include “1”, “2”, “3”, GT-Line, and X-Line, and from “3” you even get an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Avoid the automatic gearbox unless you can’t have the manual; this makes the car slower and less economical.
The Skoda Citigo has been one of our favorite city cars since its introduction ten years ago, and it’s still one we recommend. It’s mechanically identical to the Volkswagen up! but it’s cheaper – and this also extends to used Citigos.
For most of its life, the Citigo was sold with simple, economical 1.0-liter gasoline engines, but later examples were fully electric. These are more expensive, but they retain the star qualities of the Skoda.
All Citigos are surprisingly practical, with a deep trunk and room for four. In addition, they are built like a more expensive car; you won’t feel like you’re in a paper box. The Citigo is even fun to drive, even with the somewhat messy 59hp engine.
The Hyundai i10 was replaced in 2020, so depending on your budget, you can look at a used example of the current model (shown here) or the previous generation. They look pretty similar, and both are spacious and covered by Hyundai’s warranty for up to five years.
If you don’t mind a touchscreen, we recommend that you save some money and go with the older model. Higher end cars have had one, but most models have a more basic radio. There are more choices on the new model, including a sporty N Line version with a lively 99bhp engine.
The Toyota Aygo isn’t the most practical city car (it has a smaller trunk than the original Mini), but there are plenty of reasons to consider one. Its styling is braver than many rivals to begin with, and the Aygo is surprisingly well equipped. Almost all trim levels come with a smartphone mirror and even a rear view camera.
In 2021, Toyota announced a new warranty plan that adds one year of coverage when you have the car serviced at a major dealership. A car can be covered for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles; Find a car in this holder and you can get additional warranty coverage for peace of mind. The Aygo is a straightforward car, however, and Toyota’s reliability record is excellent.
The Volkswagen in place! still looks fresh and funky, which is quite a feat considering how long it is on sale. We think it’s slightly better than the Citigo and Mii (although the differences are minimal), and the interior is of better quality. The interior is dated though !, because your phone is supposed to be used as an infotainment system; there is no touchscreen available.
But the top! is well built, great fun to drive and very economical. It is possible to exceed 65 mpg by driving very carefully, even with the 74 hp engine. There is even an up! Hot GTI mini sedan that adds a bit more power and character tartan upholstery.
The SEAT Mii is the third of the Citigo and more! trio, and it is sometimes a bit neglected. But since it shares its foundations and engines with the Volkswagen, the Mii is a great city car option. It’s equally practical, spacious and economical, and has its own sense of style.
Sporty looking FR Line versions are available and special edition models created in collaboration with fashion brands Mango and Cosmopolitan, should you want additional design touches compared to the base models.
Like the Citigo, the Mii has only been sold as an electric car for the past two years, but for most of its lifespan it has used the 1.0-liter gasoline engine fitted to the other models of the VW group. The electric SEAT Mii uses a 37 kWh battery and an electric motor, and travels up to 160 miles on one charge.
Peugeot’s small city car 108 is part of another trio, being mechanically similar to the Toyota Aygo and CitroÃ«n C1. Of the three, we think it looks the most sophisticated, and there were a lot of customization options available to new buyers.
Many opted for premium Allure or Collection finishes, featuring alloy rims, Bluetooth, automatic headlights, keyless access and a rear view camera. Access to basic specifications is worth avoiding; you don’t get two-piece folding rear seats or even a radio.
What sets the 108 / C1 / Aygo family apart from most of their rival city cars is the option of a fabric roof, which Peugeot calls “Top!” It’s not a full-fledged convertible, but the retractable section is larger than a sunroof and gives you the flexibility to drive outdoors.
Discover used Peugeot 108 offers on BuyaCar.
The CitroÃ«n C1 has a less generous warranty than its sister Aygo (you can buy an extended warranty if you want) but it’s cheaper to buy used. As of this writing, the C1 starts at just Â£ 5,000 on BuyaCar, which isn’t a lot of money for a reasonably modern car. CitroÃ«n calls its fabric roof models âAirscapeâ, so this is something to watch out for if you want to feel the wind blowing your hair.
The C1 has its own style and a similar distribution of trim levels to the cars it shares parts with. Unless you’re actively trying to avoid the latest tech, we recommend looking for a Feel or Flair trim, which comes with air conditioning, Apple / Android phone connectivity, and a satellite navigation system, without talk about the two-part folding rear seats; these two also had the option of the Airscape roof.
The engine is a bit dated but has a proven track record, and the fact that it’s a simple, Toyota-made unit should help with reliability concerns.
No city car has as much style as a Fiat 500, with chic retro-inspired lines. It was offered as a convertible long before the Peugeot 108 and Toyota Aygo, and many used models have been available since 2007. The cheaper examples will feel beyond their best; more modern models are a better bet if you can afford them, and later versions even include a touchscreen with smartphone connectivity.
For many, the 500 will have enough character to ignore its flaws. But it’s worth wondering if you can live with the small trunk, narrow rear seats, and relatively thirsty engine options; the sparkling 0.9-liter “TwinAir” has only two cylinders, but it’s not as economical as some competitors.
The entry-level Pop trim doesn’t have a lot of standard equipment, but should be fine as a first car or a small race.
You might have forgotten everything about the Renault Twingo, as it hasn’t been on sale in the UK for a few years now – and even when it did, many buyers have opted for alternative city cars instead.
The Twingo is an interesting option which in fact shares its foundations with the Smart ForTwo and ForFour; all of the other cars on this list are front-engine and front-wheel drive, but the Twingo’s engine is mounted behind the rear seats, sending power to the rear wheels.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this; the upside is that the Twingo has a fantastic turning radius as there is no motor in the way, making it easier to park in narrow streets or parking lots. The downside is that the trunk is relatively small and your ice cream can melt when placed on the motor.
Otherwise, the Twingo is surprisingly practical, with storage under the rear seats and the option of a front passenger seat that folds flat to let you carry long items like skis or curtain rods.