Best petrol-powered small cars

Plenty of great choices of small cars if you’re not ready for electric or diesel

It’s been a difficult time for car sales, but now that showrooms are open again there are plenty of tempting deals out there as manufacturers look to get people buying, especially if it’s a small car you’re after.

There are plenty of great choices of small cars, but don’t worry if you’re not yet ready for an EV or don’t need a diesel. There are excellent petrol alternatives that all claim around 50mpg, so for frugal motoring here’s our pick of the best.

Audi A1

Mike Brewer Motoring - Small cars

Available only with five doors now, the latest A1 is more spacious than before and remains a classy choice of small car. In three-cylinder 30TFSI form it’s a decent performer, too, while top-notch cabin quality and a digital instrument cluster add to the premium appeal. It’s easy to boost the price with options, so it’s best to go easy on the box ticking, but the smallest Audi has plenty of appeal.


Ford Fiesta

Mike Brewer Motoring - Small cars

Great to drive and equipped with plenty of standard kit it’s no wonder the Fiesta is rooted to the top of the new car sales charts. This latest incarnation offers a terrific blend of ride and handling, while the punchy three-cylinder EcoBoost engine is an absolute peach. One of our favourite small cars, factor in the smart styling and a wide choice of trim levels and it’s a real winner.


Mazda 2

Mike Brewer Motoring - Small cars

Thanks to Mazda’s ‘Kodo’ design language this is one of the best-looking small cars on the market, and the style is backed up by a slick powertrain. With 74bhp the 1.5-litre Skyactive engine is both frugal and peppy, and plumping for SE-L Nav trim will bring all the kit you need. The cabin is smart and uncluttered and there’s ample space on offer, making this a smart and practical choice.


Nissan Micra

Mike Brewer Motoring - Small cars

After the somewhat uninspiring predecessor the fifth generation Micra was a return to form, bringing bolder styling inside and out. Spacious and practical, the cabin is a nice place to be while showroom appeal is boosted by plenty of standard equipment and the full gamut of safety tech. The driving experience is much improved, too, while the refined and economical three-cylinder, turbocharged motor results in a very polished all-rounder.


Peugeot 208

Mike Brewer Motoring - Small cars

Few small cars look quite as sharp as this one, and the stylish theme continues inside with Peugeot’s i-cockpit layout featuring 3D digital instruments. That dashboard arrangement doesn’t suit everyone, so try before you buy, but that aside there’s plenty to recommend here. Sharing the same CMP platform as the Vauxhall Corsa, the 208 offers an accomplished mix of ride and handling and in 1.2-litre PureTech form it’s refined, too.


Renault Clio

If it’s carrying space you’re after then the latest Clio should prove ideal, the boot offering useful capacity with the rear seats up or down. That does impact on passenger space a little, but the rest of the package is still enticing thanks to an upmarket cabin with sound build quality and plenty of connectivity tech. The turbocharged three-cylinder engine feels lively, too, and is allied to a slick manual gearbox.


Skoda Fabia

It might be viewed as the sensible choice with styling that lacks verve compared to some rivals, but don’t let that put you off. There’s much to recommend the Fabia, including a refined and comfortable cabin, ample space for passengers and luggage, and a quality feel to the fixtures and fittings. And the grown-up driving experience is accentuated by the 1.0-litre TSI engine which delivers on both economy and performance fronts.


Seat Ibiza

Larger in key dimensions compared to its predecessor, the Ibiza feels like a far more mature effort this time around which makes for a tempting choice. Passengers will certainly enjoy the improved space and comfort, while the 355-litre boot is amongst the larger offerings in this sector. Its 1.0-litre TSI engine is shared with various Skodas and VWs and provides enough punch to make the most of the well-judged handling.


MINI Cooper

The claimed economy just cracks 50mpg, so not only is this MINI frugal but you’ll have bagged one of the most fun cars on the market. There’s plenty of cabin tech, and with funky looks inside and out, a 136bhp engine providing 0-62mph in 8.0 seconds and the sort of sharp handling to put a smile on your face on any journey what’s not to like? It’s the proper sporting choice here.


Vauxhall Corsa

Developed in less than two years after Vauxhall were bought by the PSA Group, the latest Corsa is notably more refined and better to drive compared to its previous incarnation.  Smart looks add to the appeal as do impressive levels of kit across the range and good infotainment options, and we’re fans of the punchy turbocharged three-pot engine. And with plenty of trim levels there’s something to suit every pocket.


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