The Best City Cars 2021< Back to blog
City cars these days offer a lot more than their dinky proportions suggest. Many of them have the latest technology equipped, surprising practicality and – on the rare occasion – you can get grin-inducing performance. But if you were to choose one, which is best?
We show you the best city cars to buy in 2021.
1. Volkswagen up! GTI
When we mentioned earlier about a city car having grin-inducing performance, this wasn’t some sort of sick joke.
Nope – the Volkswagen up! GTI is a hot city car that has a lot in common with the original Golf GTI. It proves how you can have fun in a car without breaking the bank.
Despite being the smallest GTI car you can buy in Volkswagen’s lineup, the performance and handling are spot on. This is mainly thanks to the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine which produces a healthy 113bhp. Now this may not sound like a lot, but when you consider that this car weighs just over a tonne, you’ll be thrilled with the zip it promises.
VW have put a sports suspension in the up! GTI too which lowers the car by 15mm so that you can keep up with faster cars going into corners.
The Volkswagen up! GTI is our favourite city car because there isn’t one out there that looks cooler (in our opinion). As standard you get sporty alloy wheels, GTI badges on the front grille, front wings and boot, plus athletic black stripes down each side of the car.
Inside there are plenty of visual cues that are homage to the MK1 Golf. Tartan cloth seats are the standout feature here, but there’s also red stitching on the steering wheel and a red and black gear knob.
When selecting your Volkswagen up! GTI, you can choose between a three-door or five-door version – the latter of which adds an extra sprinkle of practicality. Speaking of which, the up! has always been good at offering a surprising amount of space inside, especially in the back seats where you’ll be able to sit a couple of adults comfortably, even on longer journeys.
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2. Hyundai i10 N Line
Hyundai’s answer to the up! GTI is its very own city car with a bit of poke under the hood. The Hyundai i10 N Line may not be as fun to drive or as powerful as VW’s mini hot hatch, but with 100bhp and a cheaper starting price, you get a lot of bang for your buck still.
There are plenty of cosmetic changes over the standard i10 which have meant that it makes our list. For example, there’s a new, sporty front grille, 18in alloy wheels, smart N Line badging on the body, plus dual chrome exhaust tips and a sportier steering wheel and seats which add to driver enjoyment.
With a 1.0-litre, turbocharged engine that can do 0-60mph in 10.5 seconds, it’s hardly going to compete with a hot hatch. However, it’s still more than four seconds faster than the standard engine – and more than two seconds quicker in this regard than the slightly more powerful 1.2-litre unit.
Despite being a sportier spec, the i10 N Line doesn’t sacrifice any of the easy-to-live-with elements of the standard i10. It’s slightly longer (by 10mm) and wider (by 20mm) than the normal version, but you can still park it very easily, while manoeuvring it around town is a doddle too.
On top of this, Hyundai has packed the i10 N Line with advanced safety and technology features for an easy driving experience. As standard the car comes with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, hill-start assist and forward collision warning.
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3. Seat Mii Electric
We’re switching over to an entirely different kind of city car beast in the Seat Mii Electric. Just like the discontinued Skoda Citigo e iV and Volkswagen e-up! on which it shares a chassis with, the EV Mii has swapped its 1.0-litre petrol engine with a battery and electric motor setup.
Namely, the all-electric Mii has a 36.8kWh battery and 82bhp electric motor. In human language, Seat say this is enough juice to give you an official range of 161 miles on a full charge. However, when you factor in real world driving elements such as cold weather and use of the electrical systems, you’re likely to get a range of around 130 miles. Still, this is more than most people drive on average in a week.
In terms of performance, the Seat Mii Electric is very nippy off the line to reach city speeds (0-31mph takes just 3.9 seconds). Even 0-60mph takes 11.9 seconds, which is far from being slow. Once you get to motorway speeds this speed does trail off because of the car’s 81mph top speed. But you’ll be surprised at just how comfortably this car cruises at 70mph on high-speed roads.
We don’t recommend regular long-haul journeys cruising at 70mph though, simply because it’s not efficient. For this type of driving, you’d want to consider a slightly bigger, longer-range model such as the Renault Zoe or Nissan Leaf.
Charging the Mii from your home is quite simple. If you have a 7kW wallbox then a full charge from 0%-100% would take 10 hours. However, you’re likely going to have a bit of charge left so plugging in overnight will probably result in you being fully charged in the morning.
Rapid charging comes as standard on all Seat Mii Electric models, so if you ever need to top up the battery on a longer journey, a 20%-80% charge only takes around 40 minutes.
4. Fiat 500 Cabrio
We couldn’t write an article about great city cars without mentioning the Fiat 500. But this isn’t just any ol’ 500 – oh no, it’s the latest ‘Cabrio’ (or, convertible) model.
With such a rich history that dates back to the 1950s, the Fiat 500 does a great job of retaining its retro style. At the same time, the drivetrain is a modern all-electric one, consisting of a 42kWh battery pack which offers up to 188 miles officially. Again, like the Seat Mii, the real-world range sits at around 150 miles, which is still good for a car this size.
Just as impressive is the 117bhp electric motor which accelerates from 0-60mph in a mere 9.0 seconds. Around the city, the little Fiat zips around competently too, with its tight turning circle coupling brilliantly with the punchy motor to get around with little effort. It’s also better than rivals at soaking up potholes – a big bonus considering how diabolical the surfaces are on most UK roads.
Another good feature of the Fiat 500 Cabrio is that folding roof doesn’t blow you around as much as you’d expect. That’s because on top of the windscreen there’s an ‘air cap’ that assists in diverting air over your head when sat in the front.
As for the inside of the 500 Cabrio, you’re in a fairly raised position which some people might like, others won’t. The positive to take from this is that you’ll have a commanding view of the road. A steering wheel which can be adjusted up and down, plus in and out to get your most comfortable position.
As for equipment levels, these are generally good across all trim levels of the 500 Cabrio. The entry-level Action trim comes with front and rear parking sensors, traffic sign recognition, lane keeping assist and autonomous emergency braking. However, if you want to spend a bit more on a nicer trim, you’ll get more convenience features, such as a 360-degree reversing camera on top-spec La Prima models.
If technology is what you’re after, then look at mid-range Icon levels and above where you’ll get a fully-fledged 10.25in touchscreen infotainment with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. This allows you to wirelessly mirror your phone’s display onto the central screen and use apps such as Spotify for your music in the car.
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5. Toyota Aygo
The Toyota Aygo has had plenty of surgery since its first generation came about in 2005. Two mid-life facelifts added a more angular bumper, then in 2014 the second generation came along, adding a bold X-shaped grille which inspired much of the current range’s names (i.e. x-play, x-trend, x-cite etc.)
In 2018 this was taken one step further and the new front bumper was updated to have a 3D-effect for the ‘X’ face. Adding to this new look were fresh headlights, taillights and a new 1.0-litre engine.
Every Aygo comes with a generous amount of safety kit as standard, promised by Toyota’s Safety Sense advanced technology. The likes of emergency brake assist, lane departure warning and hill-start assist are all included.
Rather amusingly, the Aygo comes with a reversing camera which, seen as though it’s very easy to see out of anyway, makes parking even more of a simple task.
The only engine available throughout the range is a 1.0-litre 72bhp petrol unit that is best when you specify the five-speed manul gearbox. It’s a lot faster off the mark than the ‘X-shift’ automatic transmission, cutting the 0-60mph time from 15.2 seconds to 13.8 seconds.
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