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A Guide to Choosing a Supermini

SMALL WONDERS

 

Thinking of choosing a supermini? Experienced motoring journalist Jonathan Crouch guides you through your options…

 

Despite the rise and rise of small SUVs, Britain’s favourite class of car remains the little supermini hatch – and of course, there are plenty of choices. If you’re looking to buy or lease in this segment, just where do you start when it comes to investigating your choices? Well, a bit of expert advice would be nice wouldn’t it? I’ve driven every one on the market and I’m going to guide you through what’s on offer right now.

 

The best sellers

You’ll probably be familiar with the main market leading models, Ford’s Fiesta, Vauxhall’s Corsa and Volkswagen’s Polo. The Fiesta sells well because it’s good to drive and Ford dealers are usually not averse to doing a few deals. Vauxhall’s Corsa has efficient engines and can be good value too. And the Volkswagen Polo sells on its strong build and quality image.

Often overlooked but good

Before opting for one of those three though, cast your net a bit further. Renault’s Clio has taken a big step forward in its latest guise and offers a much higher quality interior. SEAT’s Ibiza is arguably nearly as good as a Fiesta to drive. And Nissan’s Micra, recently updated, is far better than its budget price suggests it might be.

Electrified options

If you want a supermini with some form of engine electrification, your first option is to look at one of the new breed of so-called ‘mild hybrid’ models. These aren’t proper hybrids in the sense that they can’t ever run in a ‘Prius-like’ fashion independently on electric power. Instead, a tiny battery merely helps out the stop and start system, powers various ancillaries and gives the acceleration a slight mid-range boost. Mild hybrid engines are now available in superminis like the Ford Fiesta, the Hyundai i20, the Kia Rio, the Suzuki Swift and the Mazda2.

Full-Hybrid options

Mild hybrid powerplants though, won’t make much of a difference to your day-to-day running costs. If you want your supermini to have an engine that does and you don’t want a diesel, then you’ll need to pay a bit more for one of the full-Hybrid models now available in the supermini segment. There are three, the Renault Clio Hybrid (which is the most affordable); the Honda Jazz (which has the more versatile and flexible cabin); and the Toyota Yaris (which is the best looking and most economic).

Statement choices

What if you want your supermini to have real pavement presence? A fashionable choice is the MINI Hatch, offered in either three or five-door forms and recently mildly updated. Or, if you’re on a budget, you might like the Citroen C3, recently thoroughly revamped and easily the most customisable supermini in the segment – you can specify a range of coloured highlights for the exterior, decals for the roof and there are trendy cabin finishes too. For me though, the trendiest supermini around currently is the Peugeot 208, which really stands out with its striking, angular lines and LED light strips.

Budget picks

If you’re on a tight budget, you can really save the pounds by checking out either a Mitsubishi Mirage or an MG3. For me though, the best budget pick is the Dacia Sandero, recently thoroughly updated. One of these can cost half as much as some of the other superminis we’ve just mentioned here; and that’s despite the fact that the Sandero is one of the most spacious choices you could make in this segment.

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