Best Small Car

By Luke Caesar - General Manager - July 28, 2017

Best Small Car

The number one advantage of buying a used car rather than a brand new car is that you can read owner reviews to find out which models are the best and the most reliable before you make the purchase. It's a lot less risky!

When you buy a used small car, you have the assurance that the model has been road tested, and any little niggles have probably been resolved by the first owner.

As small cars have been the highest selling vehicle segment over the last few years, your options for buying one of the best small cars second hand are quite extensive. You can browse through a huge selection of options and find exactly the right small car for you.

Here's the places to look to find out which cars are best for whatever you need it to do:

Best Small Car Owner Reviews

When you look online for reviews of the best small cars, you’ll find both reviews from experts and keen car enthusiasts, as well as reviews from everyday Australians like yourself.

Searching forums like Yahoo or Whirlpool can give you a pretty good idea of what the car is like to own and drive, before you make a commitment that will cost you thousands of dollars.

Auto Club Annual Best Car Awards

Each year the 7 state auto clubs - NRMA, RACV, RACQ, RAASA RACWA, RACT and AANT - conduct comprehensive car awards throughout the year of up to 200 different car makes and models.

After rigorous testing, including factors like running and repair costs, fuel consumption, depreciation and safety are considered. The winner is a car that exceeds customer expectations, through technology and innovation.

For example, if you’re thinking about buying a 2015 model, the best small cars award that year include the Hyandai Accent Active, Mitsubishi Mirage ES, and the Hyandai i30 Active. If you’re looking to spend a bit more, the BMW 1 Series 118i Sportline was picked out as the best luxury level small car for 2015.

Any of the finalists in these awards would be deserving of your consideration, so have a read of the judges comments to help you decide which small car is going to be right for you.

One thing to remember is that most cars do come with at least a 5 year warranty/100, 000km, so if you’re buying a reasonable new car it will still be under the manufacturer’s warranty.

What Can You Expect From A Great Small Car?

First of all, high fuel efficiency is an absolute non-negotiable for a small car.

1. Affordability

The whole point of buying a small car is that it’s going to be affordable to buy and to run. This means low repair costs too. If you’re not looking at these factors, you may as well go for a larger car!

And if the small car you’re looking at right now doesn’t score well here, then it might be worth your while to do a little more research. It might take a little longer right now, but in the long run you’ll be much better off.

2. Can a small car be fun to drive?

It definitely can! With little power required to generate acceleration in a small car, models like the Suzuki Celero stand out for their drivability, handling and comfort. One of the things you’ll appreciate most about a small car is that it’s also super easy to park, essential if you live in the city.

Sharp and weighted steering with quick transmission response makes a huge difference to the handling and feel of a small car, especially if you really enjoy driving.

3. Safety

Most newer small cars come with a 5 star ANCAP safety rating, and features that make it easier to drive like a reversing camera. If you’re buying a newer car, bluetooth connectivity with voice control is also a must to limit distracted driving.

Autonomous emergency braking is also becoming more popular in the small car market, but at the moment it often isn’t available in the base model car, so if you’re buying second hand, ask about the upgrades the first owner selected to find out more.

Auto dimming headlights are another handy feature that prevents you blinding oncoming traffic.

4. Looks

Alloy wheels add a sporty edge and save you from the never-ending task of replacing missing hub caps. The interior presentation can vary greatly between models, to feel the difference between a ‘cheap’ interior and a nicer one, test drive some different models on your small car shortlist.

5. Comfort

Depending on the driving that you do, you may spend quite a lot of time inside your car, so you want something that makes you feel comfortable. If there’s little details that bother you at all, there might be another model that fits you better.

Comfort can be quite personal, styling that appeals to one person may not appeal to another. The little details, like the size of the cup holders, (something the Renault Megane has been criticised for) to the use of space and arrangement of the dashboard can make a big difference to your comfort or frustration down the track.

Canstar have found that the driving experience of small car owners plays a huge role in the owners’ overall satisfaction with their purchase.

Choosing Your Best Small Car

Once you have shortlisted the small cars you want to consider, check out our guide to test driving a car in Adelaide and take the test drive checklist along with you to make it easier to compare each car after you get back home.

The second key to long term satisfaction with your small car purchase is being confident that you’ve gotten good value for money. If you need extra space, but still want to buy a small car, a hatchback might be perfect.

Have a read of our cheap cars comprehensive costs checklist to get an idea for the long term value of a small car, taking into account your repairs and running costs.