Small cars make up about 22% of the new car market in Ireland. At the cheapest end of the scale you have city cars, which are basic and largely powered by small non-turbo 1.0-litre petrol engines.
Step up to the supermini class and you’ve got more space, improved comfort and a wider choice of engines, petrol and diesel.
At the upper end of the market there’s the premium supermini, which offers more in the way of sophistication, but commands a high price for what is still a small car.
Here I’m giving you a round-up of what I’ve reviewed so far, from city cars to larger superminis. Click on the links to read the full reviews!
The Volkswagen up! and Seat Mii are some of the best examples of city cars out there. They share the same underpinnings, along with the Skoda Citigo. The little 1.0-litre engine with 75bhp is sprightlier than it sounds and ride comfort is also a strong point. Space has been used very efficiently so these three have some of the best rear seat and boot space in the class. I did fall a little bit in love with the little Volkswagen in Club up! trim. It carries a list price of €15,510.
The Opel Karl is a relatively recent arrival to this segment and is well-built and good to drive though road noise could be an issue if you aim to take it out on the motorway a lot. Still it feels like more of a substantial car than some. A mid-spec Karl SC has a list price of €13,695.
If you need a small car with four wheel drive (yes it’s possible) you’ll be heading straight for the Fiat Panda 4×4. The diesel engine is noisy and refinement wouldn’t be the best, but it’s fun to drive and feels like it’s up for pretty much anything. This little mountain goat will set you back €19,650.
The Renault Twingo blends a little of the style of something like the Fiat 500 with the practicality of a five door city car. Much fuss was made about its rear engine, rear wheel drive layout when it was launched but don’t expect fireworks on the road. A mid-range 1.0-litre 70bhp Play model has a list price of €14,590.
If you are looking for something a bit bigger, the Ford Fiesta was Ireland’s bestselling supermini in 2015. It’s really good to drive but is let down by an interior that’s starting to look a bit long in the tooth compared to rivals. My money would be on the 1.0-litre EcoBoost (65bhp) petrol in Zetec trim for €16,850.
Another Irish favourite is the Opel Corsa. It’s a good all-rounder and is particularly strong in terms of interior design and finish. The new 1.0-litre turbo petrol is excellent but with prices starting upwards of €19,000, a bit of an indulgence. More wallet-friendly is the 1.4-litre petrol with 90bhp. A five door in Excite trim is €16,495.
A favourite of mine is the Seat Ibiza. It’s good value and good looking, and a middle of the road 5-door SE model with a 1.0-litre 75bhp petrol engine comes in at €15,420.
One of the most impressive small cars I drove last year was the new Honda Jazz. There’s just the one engine, a 1.3-litre petrol and the Jazz starts at €17,395 for an SE model. That might look a bit expensive but the car is actually really well-specced and there’s cabin and boot space rivalling a larger car.
The Volkswagen Polo is on the expensive side but the quality and refinement is really unrivalled. I reviewed a 1.4 TDI diesel that would make an ideal commuter car. It’s spacious inside too. A 1.0-litre petrol powered Polo in Fun trim has a list price of €17,475, while a 1.4 diesel in the same trim comes in at €19,500.
If you want to splurge a little on a small car and pay upwards of €20,000 for something a bit fancier, there’s the Audi A1, which has the kerb appeal, and a new 1.0-litre turbo petrol offers good performance and economy. The finish of the car is excellent, and it’s a mature and refined drive.
The Opel Adam Rocks is the best variant in the Adam line-up with improved ride comfort and steering over its cheaper sibling. It’s pricey for such a small car but it has a strong image. The 1.0-litre turbo petrol is the engine to go for and comes in at €21,250.