Best city car UK
City streets are becoming increasingly congested, so the choice of car to traverse them is becoming more and more important.
We’re spending more time in our cars as journey times for even short trips get longer, so we want something comfortable. We also want something that's efficient and cheap to run.
And there’s a new factor. Concerns about air quality in UK cities have led to the government creating Clean Air Zones in Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton by 2020.
London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) has been up and running since April 2019. Drivers who enter these zones in older, more polluting cars will have to pay for the privilege.
Given all of this, if you mostly drive in cities, electric vehicles (EVs) are ideal. No tailpipe emissions are persuasive enough, but the clincher is the low running costs. No petrol or diesel to buy, and you won’t be charged to enter Clean Air Zones.
There are plenty of fuel-powered city cars that are still impressive and perfect for motorists in urban areas. Plus, hybrid options are a happy medium to consider.
Iconic city cars of years gone by are now also popping up with electric car tech, so you can take an old favourite with a fresh approach.
All of this considered, which is the best city car for you?
The Renault Zoe was one of the first electric cars from a major manufacturer to go on sale and is a one of the best city car options.
Initially the range wasn’t great, but the battery pack has been improved: now the Zoe can officially cover 186 miles. In real-world driving, this is probably closer to 120-130 miles, but that’s still plenty for city use.
It's a neat and stylish car, with a decent infotainment system to keep you company when stuck in traffic (DAB, Bluetooth audio streaming, handsfree phone, satellite navigation). There are just two trim levels, but both cost less than £20,000 after buyers receive the government’s £3,500 EV grant, making it excellent value.
Volkswagen e-up! and up!
The conventional petrol-powered Volkswagen up! is the best city car you can buy and is relatively efficient car for urban use. However, better still is the electric variant, the e-up!
A compact car that was already fun to drive now has the added benefit of being silent and quicker. The official range is just 99 miles, but again, this is enough for commuters and city drivers who only have to make short journeys.
The cabin is basic but well put-together, with a nifty mount for your smartphone enabling it to be used as sat-nav, phone, audio source etc.
An honourary mention if you love the VW up! but have a smaller budget, the SEAT Mii is a perfect alternative and one of the best city cars.
Built on the same platform as the up! (and the Skoda Citigo) it gets all the same tech and high quality as the VW but is styled slightly differently.
It's easy to drive and available as a manual or automatic, plus running costs are seriously low.
Hyundai Kona Electric
If you like SUVs, but still want a clean EV for city use, the Hyundai Kona Electric is one of the best city cars you could pick.
This is a groundbreaking car, as the 64kWh version (there’s also a version with a smaller 39kWh battery) has a range of 279 miles. That official range is also possible in real-world driving, so the Kona Electric can also be used for trips outside the city.
The interior is comfortable, there’s tech such as smartphone connectivity (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available), plus the boot capacity can extend to 1,143 litres – enough for flatpack furniture shopping.
Volkswagen Golf and e-Golf
The Golf is one of the best-selling cars ever, so Volkswagen has cannily made an electric version that will feel familiar to drivers new to EVs. It's one of the best city cars on the market.
The e-Golf has all the attributes that has made the Golf so popular, but it just has an electric motor instead of a conventional petrol or diesel engine. So it's well equipped, easy to drive, practical and ideal for families.
OK, so it can’t go as far as conventional Golfs, as the official range is just 144 miles, but that’s still a lot of city journeys.
If switching to an electric car isn't your style, the original Golf is still a brilliant city pick.
The Audi e-tron is very impressive, with great interior quality, making it the bset city car that you won’t mind spending a lot of time in.
There’s plenty of room for four adults, too, and more than enough bootspace for the weekly shop or luggage for a trip.
The e-tron is also packed with technology, such as twin touchscreens in the centre console and another display in the instrument panel.
The e-tron is seriously quick, given the opportunity (0-62mph in 5.7 seconds), while its official range is 248 miles. This is the shape of EVs to come.
The Fiat 500 is one of the best city cars on the market - and is also one of the most iconic.
It's charming and packed with character, and the interior is still comfortable while prioritising style.
The 500 is really affordable to run as well. You can expect to achieve over 60mpg and road tax is seriously cheap.
Despite its small size, you'll still get a 185-litre boot that's perfect for a day shopping in the city or a work commute.