City cars should be both fashionable and practical. Here are three used ones that do both jobs well
Efficiency, a generous helping of style and a practicality punch well above its weight are the most desirable attributes of a successful city car. We’ve picked three used contenders to see which one best blends the right mix of qualities.
The Kia Picanto takes the middle ground, boasting the right blend of style and common sense. It is flanked on one side by the eminently sensible Hyundai i10, which concentrates more on practicality than it does on looks, and on the other by the Fiat 500, still achingly design conscious even after 10 years on sale.
Hyundai i10 1.2 Active
Price when new: £8795
Price today: £3000
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol
Torque: 89lb ft
Top speed: 110mph
CO2 emissions: 108g/km
On the road, while the Hyundai can manage all kinds of roads and situations, it undoubtedly feels slightly over-awed by motorways and fast B-roads. However, precise steering and equally exact gearshifts give it a well sorted feel at the kind of speeds for which it’ll generally be used.
The Kia feels comparatively bouncy at town speeds, with fairly low grip levels and equally woolly steering and gearchanges. However, it has good body control, and we love the tight turning circle at city speeds – if not the grabby brakes and on-off clutch.
Motorways are more attractive in the Fiat, thanks to the Italian car’s more planted feel and best grip of this trio. Slightly over-light steering makes easy work of urban manoeuvres. Unfortunately, the rides fidgets and jiggles at all speeds. At least its performance is perky, pulling well even on a high-ish-speed cruise. Neither does the i10 seem at all underpowered, but the Picanto needs some serious revs and working of gears to keep up. Consequently, it’s the noisiest of the three.
Fiat 500 1.2 Pop S/S
Price when new: £9665
Price today: £4000
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol
Torque: 75lb ft
Top speed: 101mph
CO2 emissions: 113g/km
You wouldn’t expect exec-car levels of calm inside these cars’ cabins, and you don’t get it. At least the Kia and its Hyundai cousin are well put together, with smart, durable materials. The latter isn’t very exciting, however, especially compared with the Fiat’s retro-chic interior. Pretty the Fiat may be, but some of its trim looks cluttered and cheap.
Once rear passengers have navigated the folding front seat, they’ll find that the three-door 500 is tight in the back as well. The other pair have five doors and more rear space, boosting practicality. A week’s shop will fit into the load areas of each of the three models.
Buyers will get the best used forecourt deal with the Hyundai, while the other two contenders are about level pegged, although how this can be we’re not sure, as the Fiat just looks more special. It’s not as cheap to run as the Kia, however, whose claimed 67.3mpg and 99g/km of CO2 trump the others here and mean free road tax as well. The Fiat claims 58.9mpg, the Hyundai 61.4mpg. Road tax is £30 and 320 respectively.
Kia Picanto 1.0 2
Price when new: £9595
Price today: £4000
Engine: 1.0-litre petrol
Torque: 70lb ft
Top speed: 100mph
CO2 emissions: 99g/km
Reliability is a major factor when buying used, and the cars here all have pretty good track records, with the Kia leading the scoreboard. Fiat and Hyundai’s respective menu service pricing programmes are worth looking at; you get one year’s free breakdown cover if you get your 500 serviced by a Fiat dealer.
While on paper the Picanto appears to offer the best balance of necessary city car qualities, it isn’t great to drive thanks to grabby, over-sensitive controls and a seemingly underpowered engine that is tiring to keep on the boil. We can’t see how it can command the same second-hand price as a 500.
The Fiat is a super stylish inside and out, and plenty of buyers over the past decade seem to believe this outweighs the jittery ride, sparse kit levels and only three doors. Ultimately, however, the chic Italian can’t compete with the much more sensible and better thought-through Hyundai i10. Look past its so-so styling to appreciate its better-value pricing, superior equipment levels, roomier cabin and peppier performance. It’s the best used city car here.
Current price based on 2011 model with average mileage and full service history