The ten best new small cars you can buy

With congestion worsening and the environmental agenda focusing taxes on car emissions, size matters more than ever now. Small cars are using their space more effectively, becoming better to drive and also safer.

The following list covers a range of small cars available today. Each has loads of appeal, but for varying reasons. Some are genuinely premium and quite expensive, but don't worry, we've left space for cheaper models too.

Starting price: £13,145

Audi's latest model, on sale since May, springs no surprises - it's well made, economical and not very cheap. Full of the latest entertainment and safety kit, if you're willing to fork out enough you'll feel you're sat in an executive car at times - the optional multimedia system is the same as the A8 limo's, for example.

Starting price: £11,700

The vivacious Citroen DS3 is arguably the MINI's only real competitor. Its material quality and general ambience make it every bit the premium small car, and it's also quite practical. Though what's most impressive is the way it drives, with none of the awkward sloppiness Citroen sadly became known for a few years ago.

Starting price: £12,265

The 500C's unique sliding cloth roof makes it the no-compromise open-top car. Set on rails, the roof concertinas back until it rests on top of the boot. Voila! There's no less space in the boot, no less rear room (not that there was much to start with), and no need for heavy extra chassis strengthening because the pillars remain intact. It's well priced too, for a posh convertible.

Starting price: £11,645

Predictable, but you can't make a list of great small cars without mentioning the Fiesta. What's superb about Ford's supermini is how well it balances day-to-day comfort with brilliant cornering and steering feel. Better still, Ford has just announced it will soon slash Fiesta prices by around 15 percent across the board.

Starting price: £9,220

The i20 might represent city cars of the budget persuasion, but there's much joy to be had behind the wheel of the little Hyundai. It feels basic inside, but it's great value, looks good, is comfortable, and has a useful five-year warranty. It's also a hoot to drive 'enthusiastically' without fear of losing your licence.

Starting price: £9,820

One of the neatest looking small cars on the road, the Mazda2 shares its underpinnings with the Ford Fiesta, so the drive is great. Mazda focused on making the 2 as light as possible, which equals good fuel economy as well as sharp handling. The 1.4-litre diesel offers almost 70mpg.

Starting price: £13,980

The MINI One is underpowered and the Cooper S very expensive indeed. That leaves the 122bhp Cooper as the best balance between price and performance. Cheap it is not, but you'll never struggle to sell it on for a good price later, the quality is still the class benchmark, and it's one of the most fun cars to drive at any price.

Starting price: £7,695

The Twingo isn't without flaw; it can feel cramped compared to more modern city cars and the driving position isn't ideal for taller drivers. There's no hiding its excellent chassis though, and it's one of the most entertaining small cars on the road. That's especially true of the Renaultsport 133 version.

Starting price: £9,395

The Swift will shortly be replaced with a newer model that looks very similar. That's not much of a surprise, really, because why mess with a winner? The Swift transformed Suzuki's image at a stroke. It's great looking, great to drive and very reasonably priced. The 1.6 Sport is still a dynamic benchmark.

Starting price: £9,995

It's the packaging that makes the iQ so appealing; it's not much bigger than a Smart Fortwo but has twice as many seats. Prepare to pay handsomely for that cleverness though, as the tiny city car starts at £10,000. That pales compared to Aston Martin's version, the Cygnet, which it's rumoured could cost up to £40,000 when it goes on sale. We'll take a used DB9 instead, thanks.

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