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The best city cars of 2021

We look at some of the firm favourites and a few game-changers, all ready to strut their stuff in a city near you in 2021.

The Fiat 500e is among the best city cars currently available.

The Fiat 500e is among the best city cars currently available.

BMW i3

Famous for its powerhouse vehicles and cruising confidently along motorway stretches, the German manufacturer has introduced a neat and tidy EV which can manoeuvre tricky city streets with expected efficiency.

The BMW i3 has a sporty, peppy exterior, with BMW’s signature kidney grille providing a familiar touch. Elsewhere in the exterior, it has the neatness of a city car and extremely smart dual-colour paintwork surfaces.

For charging performance, BMW claims a range of 182 – 190 miles fully charged, the equivalent of a London-to-Brighton commute and back – more than what 90% of the drivers in the UK will do on a daily basis. And BMW’s EV technology is so advanced that its I3 can even be charged through domestic solar panels, a forward-thinking slant on an already progressive fuel choice.

Find the BMW i3 at Harry Fairbairn

Volkswagen up!

While it’s the most diminutive model in the German manufacturer’s range, the up! still punches above its weight in both style and performance. Available with 3- and 5-door versions, its bright and fun outer bodywork is matched by a stylish interior. Featuring intricate stitching on its front seats and room to fit two passengers comfortably in the rear, even families can take to the town in the up! with confidence. All models above entry level come with air conditioning, too, helping keep you cool no matter how many pesky traffic lights halt your progress.

A notable addition to the up! range is the R-Line, with VW promising ‘attitude’, amongst other quantifiable things like tinted side and rear windows and 16-inch alloys, with 17-inch ‘paragon black’-coloured alloys an additional option.

Can’t hear yourself think in the noise of the city? Then it’s time to block it out, with up! beats, a system featuring six loudspeakers, an 8-channel digital amp, and, most impressive of all, a subwoofer in the spare wheel well. The ‘beats’ style package also contains ambient lighting for in-cabin immersion to go along with that driving music, and a leather multi-function steering wheel ensuring you can keep a handle on the up! at every turn.

Ford Fiesta

It’s Fiesta by name, and still Fiesta by nature – but there are notable improvements in this compact car for Ford fanatics to enjoy.

In terms of practicality, you want to have the space for urban errands like the weekly shop, so it’s good to know the Fiesta’s boot capacity is 292 litres, and 1,093 with the rear seats folded down. In the top-of-the-range Vignale, the immersive cabin is a real joy, with comfy sports seating featuring soothing air bubbles to rest against, and even better, across the board there’s an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that’s user friendly, with WIFI connection and app pairing like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to stream music or to use your preferred sat nav. Better still, the split screen allows you to manage two functions at once.

But if you’re looking for exterior finery and interior bliss without the premium spec price tag, opting for the Zetec trim will get you 15-inch alloy wheels, a refreshing air con system, and a heated windscreen for frostier mornings.

Toyota Aygo

If city cars have personalities, then the Aygo strides around town with a sparkle in its eye and a song in its heart. With the Japanese car maker’s reputation for reliability, you know it can handle the early morning bustle or your weekend trip to the shops, time after time. The car has excellent build quality, with a stunning front grille that retains a striking 3D ‘X’ design from previous iterations. On the bodywork are front and rear LED lights as standard, a great addition to an already smart city car. However, the Aygo’s street smarts aren’t just for show; in the cabin, the driver and passengers can enjoy great in-car tech, with smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. So not only will you be guided effortlessly around the city streets listening to your favourite tunes, but you’ll be also able to manoeuvre this pint-sized car into the tightest of parking spots with ease.

Fiat 500e

A classic city car with renewed sophistication, the Fiat 500 navigates the busy piazza just as well as it does the open road – and now it’s available with electric power.

Starting with the 500’s exterior, the front bumper is emblazoned with the ‘500’ logo, and a metallic matte paint finish, giving the outer bodywork a stunning look from the front.

Other exterior features include LED lighting at both the front and rear of the car in the range-topping Icon trim, complete with 500 logo in the rear lighting, a neat little detail touch.

The car’s two-spoked steering wheel has a nice feel and is easily adjustable, while there’s a digital instrument display for the driver and a touchscreen infotainment system with app pairing connectivity for the rest of the crew.

And while a new-age powertrain, featuring a 24kWh battery with 115 miles’ driving range or a 42kWh battery with a respectable range of 199 miles on full charge, perhaps deprives the 500 of its sports car compatriots’ powerhouse appeal, as a city car it could prove the pride of the peninsula.

Hyundai i10

Fast emerging as a reliable and likeable city car, the i10 is more refined than ever. There are a range of trim options for this city car favourite, including the N Line, with design and performance plucked from the Korean marque’s N Performance division. A city drive gives passers-by a glimpse of aesthetic cool with the N Line’s LED daytime running lights and quirky anvil-shaped grille, while the interior is laden with gadgetry including sports-style seats and Hyundai-badged gear knob and steering wheel.

And if you regularly take a motorway cruise, you’ll feel settled for longer-haul drives with a 1-litre, T-GDi and 3-cyclinder engine giving added punch, in the form of 100 PS and 172 Nm torque.

Kia Picanto

Another highly rated South Korean city car that’s available in five trims; if it’s sporty street style you’re after, then you’ll want to get your hands on either the GT-Line or GT-Line S, with stunning aesthetic details like twin exhausts, tinted windows, and chrome exterior panelling. In the cabin, too, these sporty lines are strongly laid out, with leather-effect seating and vibrant design and colour stitching on the seating and instrument trims.

Even the more basic trim lines offer air conditioning, body colour door handles and alloy wheels for a smattering of sporty flair. However, it’s the range-topping GT-Line S where, amidst all the buzz of the city, you’ll benefit from a 7-inch touchscreen and steering wheel controls at thumb’s reach – all the better for firing up the sat nav and charting your path home. And for that drive back to the banlieue, you’ll benefit from the car’s punchy choice of engines, such as the top-spec’s GT-Line S’s turbocharged 1.0-litre T-GDi with 99 bhp, going from 0-62 mph in 9.9 seconds.

About the Author

John McCallum