Mini Cooper S
Don’t be fooled by the garish orange paint job, this all-new Mini Cooper S has grown up, with greater fuel efficiency and a more polished driving experience. That sound a little lacking in knockabout fun for your liking? Fear not, it still knows how to let loose, too. Despite that improved efficiency – CO2 emissions are cut to 133g/km with the six-speed manual gearbox and 122g/km if you go automatic – there’s a bigger engine under the bonnet. It’s a two-litre lump from BMW’s new Twin Power range, with direct injection and turbo charging, and offers more power and torque than the outgoing Cooper S’s 1.6-litre. It’s a more mature all-round driving proposition, too. The old Mini was a bit ragged, but here there’s grip, poise and pace. It’s less manic, more controlled, but no less fun to drive.
£18,650 | Mini
It’s slick, available in a limited choice of colours, packs a techtastic punch despite puny proportions and even packs Siri voice control. We give you the latest Apple iPho… actually, no – it’s a limited-edition model of Vauxhall’s ADAM super-mini. In any colour you like so long as it’s black or white, ADAM takes the “smartphone on wheels” concept to the next level. The more old-school techy elements boil down to a trim package based on the existing 1.4-litre petrol model, with extensive colour coding, standard sports seats and 18-inch alloy wheels – the usual limited-edition drill. As a driving experience, this is pretty much off the peg. Like every ADAM, the chassis is much grippier, much more responsive than you expect and while, with just 87hp, it’s not exactly a piping hot hatch, this thing really handles.
£14,995 | Vauxhall
This is it, the big game changer in the form of a small car. Or so BMW would have you believe. You certainly can't fault the i3 for technical innovation. There's a carbon fibre passenger cell with alloy subframes front and rear, lithium-battery electric power and seamless multimedia that combines BMW's in-car ConnectedDrive kit with a smartphone app to deliver a door-to-door transport solution that even hooks into tubes, buses and trains.
Price: £30,680 | BMW
If any car captures the downsized maxim of premium motoring in a puny package, it's got to be Audi's delectable A1. It gives almost nothing away to its bigger siblings. You can have Audi's cutting-edge MMI multimedia system complete with 3D nav, for instance. Whisper this, but its cabin quality is actually more pleasing than some larger Audis costing £80,000 and more. Unless you're lugging the family, why buy anything bigger?
Price: £14,115 | Audi
Minimising the mundane in the mainstream is something of a long-time Volkswagen party trick. And that's exactly what the natty little Up! is all about. Going by the raw specifications, it's a pretty miserable little box with gutless engines. But thanks to VW's customary attention to detail, in reality it oozes class from every pore including the clever use of polished plastics inside, an aggressively priced touchscreen system and damn fine driving dynamics.
Price: £8,185 | VW
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Hyundai's old i10 was a bit of a grot box, albeit one with surprisingly good steering and a nice gear change. But the new one? It's absolutely, positively come of age. Comfortable and refined, the cabin quality is a revelation. This is now a small car in which you can happily do big journeys. It also has all the tech you actually need courtesy of a USB port and optional Bluetooth connectivity including music streaming.
Price: £9,995 | Hyundai
Not long for this world, the Smart ForTwo makes the cut on the basis of deserving a lifetime achievement award. Arguably, it was way ahead of its time when the first Fortwo appeared way back in 1998. In truth, the current Fortwo hasn't moved the game on much. But all the original upsides still apply. It's zippy and fun to drive and it's so small you can just about get away with parking the thing nose or tail to the kerb.
Price: £9,575 | Smart
Ever-so-slightly dowdy sister to VW's prettified Up!, the Citigo offers almost exactly the same technical package, just with the gloss factor cranked down a few notches. Highlights include the same semi-integrated touchscreen multimedia and navigation system seen in the Up! and likewise the same surprising appetite for being flung around on its door handles. OK, with 59bhp, this is no hot hatch. But it's good clean fun at a price you can afford.
Price: £7,990 | Skoda
Remember when Renault's Zoe was the future? Actually, it was just a few months ago. Then BMW's i3 arrived and swiped the 'techiest small car' crown from the Zoe's clutches. Then again, the pure-electric Zoe is about half as expensive as BMW's new techmeister but offers a similar 100-odd mile operating range and zero worries over the longevity of its battery pack thanks to a leasing arrangement that means you don't actually own the battery.
Price: £13,995 | Renault
Toyota's teensy four-wheeled tot was one of the first cars to truly deliver on the idea of squeezing a premium motoring experience into a puny package. It's been around largely unchanged since 2008, but it's still a high quality bit of kit and packs so seriously clever packaging. It looks like a two-man toy, but thanks to a pair of super-slim pop-up seats, there's actually space for four. There's also a sub-100g/km version, which is handy for dodging the tax man.
Price: £10,995 | Toyota
MINI John Cooper Works GP
It's a lot of money for small car. But then the Mini John Cooper Works GP is a lot of small car. Try 218hp's worth of small car and zero to 60mph in near-enough six seconds dead. It'll crack 150mph if you can find enough space and a legal frame work to allow for it. Like every MINI, you also get the outstanding MINI Connected multimedia system, which embarrasses equivalent tech on most larger and more expensive cars for both features and usability.
Price: £28,795 | Mini
Fiat's funky little four-wheeled fashionista deserves much of the credit of bringing some pizazz back to the supermini segment. Six years in and the 500 might still be the best looking small car on the market. Technologically, it's just as fresh. The addition of the steampunk TwinAir motor, a two-cylinder job that sounds like a cross between a Victorian locomotive and a huge lawn mower, pushed the 500's CO2 emissions below 100g/km.
Price: £10,010 | Fiat