Top five city cars
- Holden Hatchback range
- Holden SUV range
- Holden Wagon range
- Holden Spark
- Kia Hatchback range
- Kia SUV range
- Kia Picanto
- Skoda Hatchback range
- Skoda SUV range
- Skoda Wagon range
- Skoda Fabia
- Audi Hatchback range
- Audi SUV range
- Audi Wagon range
- Audi Q2
- Mazda Hatchback range
- Mazda SUV range
- Mazda Wagon range
- Mazda CX-3
- Small Cars
Tour the inner-city suburbs of Sydney or Melbourne and you’ll see all sorts of jumbo warriors squeezing along tight alleyways, blocking tiny intersections and generally annoying people.
Hell, spend enough time there and you’ll even see 70-Series LandCruisers, Jeep Wranglers and Land Rover Defenders plodding about - three cars as naturally suited to inner-city life as a polar bear is to water-skiing.
But the owners of these cars must have rocks in their heads and holes in their wallets, as there are so many other vehicles on offer that are practically purpose-built for city life. They’re small, easy to park and drive, and offer great vision, technology and safety equipment. And are a damn sight cheaper, too.
So if your only criteria for what makes a good city car is a car you can technically drive in the city, then take a moment to peruse our list of our five favourite city cars. Before you spend another hour wrestling your four-wheel drive into a parking spot that’s fourteen sizes too small for it.
In dropping the 'Barina' part of the name, Holden helpfully also dropped the soggy South Korean dynamics, turning one of the brand’s most pilloried products into one of its most lauded. But nobody seems to care. The micro-car segment is vanishing faster than a post-lap-band Packer in Australia, and so cars like the Spark (from $13,990) just aren't sparking.
And that’s a shame. It might be designed and built in Korea, but the Spark is still plenty dinky-di under the skin, with Holden’s Aussie engineers sending the Spark to finishing school on the company’s local proving ground, tuning the suspension and steering for our roads. And the results are great, with the Spark now probably the most dynamic in its segment, and genuinely fun to drive.
Powered by a perky 1.4-litre petrol engine that'll generate 73kW/128Nm, and paired with a five-speed manual or CVT auto, the Spark is just right for inner-city manoeuvres: peppy enough to zip through traffic, but with a miserly thirst for fuel.
Equally important, with a 7.0-inch touchscreen that’s both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto equipped - even on the cheapest model - your tech stuff is covered, too.
Kia’s cheap and cheerful city car now feels less cheap and more cheerful, ticking all the boxes for a no-frills city runabout.
Tech is covered by a new 7.0-inch screen that will mirror your smartphone (unlocking the delights of navigation, provided your phone’s in range), and there’s a smattering of USB points and power outlets around the cabin, too. Power is supplied by an admittedly slightly underwhelming 1.25-litre petrol unit good for 62kW/122Nm, paired with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.
But the Picanto’s true party trick is its Tardis-style boot, which offers up 255 litres of luggage space with the rear seat in place, and a massive 1010 litres with the 60/40 split rear seat folded flat. And that means a weekend trip to Bunnings or Ikea is definitely doable in the pint-sized Picanto.
Skoda Fabia Wagon
And none are more clever than the wagon (from $17,990 drive-away) version - a best-of-both-worlds proposition that blends the alley-hopping gymnastics of the hatch, with genuine load-lugging ability. Rear seats up, you can squeeze 505 litres into the boot, but drop them and that number grows to a massive 1370 litres. That's a lot of room.
Skoda’s 'Smartlink' system is now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto ready, so you can beam your phone up onto the central screen, and the standard safety kit is absolutely outstanding, with the usual airbags and reversing camera joined by AEB across the range, which is impressive at this price point.
It might be big(ish) for this list, but its clever small outside/big inside design makes it a perfect inner-city runabout. Its SUV body shape means there’s tons of room inside, while it's still easy to park and to manoeuvre through cramped inner-city streets.
Audi is unashamedly targeting a younger, funkier audience with the Q2 (though with prices from $41,100, they'd want to have deep pockets) and so design flourishes are everywhere, from the awesome light ribbons that wind along the dash to the two-tonne alloys and buffed-up body styling, the Q2 looks every bit the urban fashion accessory.
While others might have invented the micro-SUV segment, Mazda’s stylish CX-3 has made it its own. The Japanese powerhouse shifted more than 18,000 of the things in 2016 (not bad for a car in a segment that didn’t even exist about three-and-a-half minutes ago), helped along by a killer design and a sharp (from $20,490) price point.
Less a small SUV and more a taller and better looking Mazda2, the CX-3 is more than just a pretty face, with a heap of clever technology and some critical safety stuff, like AEB right across the range.
Its tiny dimensions make it a treat to pilot through the city (though vision out the back is a challenge), and it’s still one of the most dynamic offerings in its segment. It is, however, tiny - so squeezing any more than two humans into the backseat for longer than a cross-town bolt would be unwise.