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A guide to small carsBack

FordFiestaSmall cars have increased in popularity as motorists seek to own cars that offer greener credentials, cheaper car insurance and will save cash at the pump.

If you’re thinking about buying a small car or downsizing your existing car to a smaller one, Trusted Dealers has put together a comprehensive guide below to help you to purchase the right car for the best price.

Before you enter the showroom, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you mainly stick to shorter journeys in your car?
  • Are fuel costs important to you?
  • Are you keen to be green?
  • Are you willing to compromise on cabin and boot space?
  • Is mpg more important to you than speed and/or performance?

If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to at least 4 out of the 5 questions above, you’re ready to consider purchasing a small car. Take a look below at some further points to consider:

The badge

If you’re looking for a smaller car, but you still seek the quality of a larger car, choosing a premium badge such as an Audi A1 or MINI One will ensure you get just that. However, some standard versions are less equipped, so if spec is important to you, a Ford Fiesta or Vauxhall Corsa will offer a better overall package. It is well worth comparing and contrasting what the different manufacturers are offering, to make sure you get the best deal and the most comfort possible.

031012 Petrol pricesFuel economy

Small cars are generally cheaper to run than larger ones, but if you want to be really frugal, opting for an eco-branded model will ensure you get the most miles per gallon (mpg) and the lowest CO2 emissions. Despite the manufacturer’s recommendations, the real world mpg figures usually differ slightly from what is quoted, so don’t be caught out. Always take a car for a test drive to find out for yourself the true mpg figures.

Hybrids & Electric Options

Opting for a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid car which runs on a combination of electric power and fuel, will reduce costs even further and many cars will exempt drivers from road tax altogether if CO2 emissions dip below 100g/km. Some hybrids can run for a short period on electric power only, so if you remain local, you can charge your car at home and avoid the costs at the pump. The Government is currently offering a £5,000 grant to all buyers of electrics cars – an added incentive if you’re thinking about going green.

CarInsuranceCar Insurance

Just because you’re purchasing a smaller car, don’t assume the car insurance will be cheaper – some of the top end Minis are placed in a higher tax bracket than the BMW 3-series models so it pays to do some thorough research to find out which small cars will offer you the very best all-round value for money. In general, smaller engines should effectively come with a smaller insurance premium.


Most manufacturers offer a basic spec model to get punters through the door. In reality, hardly anyone opts for this model as successful dealers will always try to ‘up sell’ more expensive, better equipped cars to customers. Be aware of this prior to entering the showroom and make sure you have a clear idea of what you’re prepared to pay before you enter into any negotiations.


In general, it is widely assumed that smaller cars are more dependable and that less things go wrong with them. Certainly, parts and repair bills will be normally be reduced, however, there’s a large difference in the best and worst in the class so it’s important to check out car reliability surveys first to find out which small cars are the most reliable and which are best avoided.

FordC-MaxSmall cars for kids

If you’re looking for a small car suited to family-style living, choosing a 5-door model could make life much easier. Some of the smaller compact MPVs such as the Mercedes B-Class or Ford C-Max include sliding doors which are easier for off-loading the kids in a car park or anywhere else where parking space is limited. In addition, a large boot is essential for housing buggies and you’ll need to check there are sufficient ISOFIX points for car seats.

Small cars for dogs

If you’ve got a dog, you don’t necessarily have to opt for a larger car, there are a few smaller cars that can house a dog just as well. The Honda Jazz is an excellent choice due to its “magic seats”. If passengers aren’t sitting in the back, you can lift up the rear seat squab, and store it vertically against the seat back, opening up a wide, tall space for dogs to be harnessed into. Or the Peugeot 308 offers a split tailgate system ideal for canine friends.


Safety is always a top priority when purchasing a new car and there are plenty of smaller cars that score the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash test ratings as well as offering a wide selection of safety equipment as standard. Take a look at our feature on ‘Safest small cars‘ to find out which cars we think are currently the safest on the market. In general, electronic stability control (ESC) is a must, but you’d be surprised at how many small cars still do not include this feature as standard.


If you’re planning to stick to city driving, choosing a car with a smaller engine or a hybrid or electric model is an excellent idea if you want to be frugal with your fuel costs. However, for longer journeys, the smaller 1.0-litre cars will quickly run out of puff, particularly if the car is fully loaded. Take time to consider your needs before you make an informed decision – there are some feeble options on the market that really are best avoided.

Trusted Dealer's Neil Addley 19Trusted Dealers’ Team Top Choices 

Neil says: “A Corsa is great but crossovers are too, for example, a Nissan Juke or Vauxhall Mokka doesn’t cost much more to buy and offers more space and a higher driving position – a great thing if you’ve small kids who want to see over the hedgerows!”

Paul says: The Toyota Yaris is a great little family workhorse and plenty of fun to drive for day to day trips to schools and supermarkets. Like most cars in the class, it isn’t suitable for taking a family of five on a week-long camping trip, but it is well-appointed, frugal and comes with Toyota’s legendary reliability. The perfect small car for people looking for utility over style.”

Leana says: “I’ve always loved driving a Volkswagen Polo. If you’re a young professional or a mum with 1/2 kids, it’s a great choice for comfort, fuel economy and safety – you can even squeeze a weekly shop AND your pram in the boot!”

Mike says:The Ford Fiesta is a long-established favourite in the UK, and has developed over the years into a very well appointed and surprisingly spacious car. Fitted with the award winning 1.0 eco-boost engine, it combines good mpg with quite astonishing performance. Add to that features such as a heated front screen, sat nav and Bluetooth, and this really is a car for the modern world.”

Pauline says: “Small cars are great if you need to park in tight place,  however, be aware of the restricted boot space. Having young kids with a Fiat Punto, I realised that I could not fit a pram in the boot due to the car not being wide enough.” 


Trusted Dealers’ Top 15 Best Small Cars

Take a look below at our list of favourite small cars available to purchase in 2015.


Make & Model Priced from Insurance Group Tax Band CO2 (g/km)
Ford Fiesta £10,145.00 3-17 A-E 87 – 138
Vauxhall Corsa £9,175.00 2-21 A-D 85 – 126
Volkswagen Polo £11,300.00 3-23 A-E 93-139
MINI Hatch £13,955.00 11-26 A-E 89-133
Audi A1 £14,355.00 9-28 A-G 92-162
Skoda Citigo £8,275.00 1-4 A-B 95-105
Fiat 500 £10,690.00 9-19 A-G 92-155
Hyundai i10 £8,705.00 1-5 A-C 98-114
Suzuki Swift £8,999.00 9-11 C-F 116-147
Citroen C1 £8,345.00 1-7 A 88-99
Honda Jazz £11,695.00 13 B-D 104-129
Citroen DS3 £13,295.00 9-27 A-D 94-150
Volkswagen Up £8,870.00 1-10 A-B 105-108
Vauxhall Adam £11,630.00 2-15 C-E 114-139
Ford Ka £8,995.00 2-6 C 115

Posted by Leana Kell on 31/05/2016