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City Car Buyers Guide

by Frank
city car buying guide

A city car is a small car intended to be used primarily in urban areas like New York, London, and LA. The term is used as well as other terms for smaller cars such as subcompact in North America.

To purchase a good city car, you’ve got to take inventory of your needs, your needs, and your budget. Here are 5 new cars ideal for city driving and a number of tips to make an educated buying decision.

Read Next: 5 New Cars for 2018 Under $20K

How to Choose a Great City Car

Driving in the city limits is a completely different ballgame than a highway commute. It can be made easier by choosing the ideal vehicle. A preferable city car is usually modest, easily maneuverable, and has a balance between peppy performance and decent fuel economy.

The best vehicles for city driving are often smallish cars, nevertheless, subcompact SUVs are equally viable, and an argument could be made behind some compact SUVs also.

More electric cars and plug-in hybrids are beginning to show up on the current market, and these vehicles are also excellent options for driving around town. This is particularly true if your town has access to a good public charging network.

See also: 8 Things to Consider When Purchasing a Family Car

Choose a City Car with Care

A fantastic city car can offer excellent value for the price, but it could also give an entertaining driving experience and will not put you to sleep with drab styling.

City cars are typically purchased with a budget in mind and will provide rock-bottom running costs, but the ideal city cars pack a high number of major car features in their diminutive bodies. Selecting well will guarantee a perfect match.

Assessing the congestion of city roads takes a car that is nimble enough to dart to openings in snarled traffic and be tough enough to show a pothole who is boss. Urban driving also takes a city car with great outward visibility (to readily identify pedestrians) and a contortionist-like capability to fit into miniature parking areas.

How many seats?

Recent advances in car design mean more space than ever inside for people and things. Clever packaging can offer interior and trunk space that can rival cars the next size up. Many can hold four adults in reasonable comfort, but they’re perfect for young families, too. Evaluate your needs.

Fuel consumption

For some, using a city car comes down to little daily trips when others use it for business trips or for your holidays. This variable affects your mileage and fuel consumption.

Related: How NOT to Save Money on Gas

3 Essential City Car Features

A city car must behave in an exemplary fashion in urban traffic. It must, therefore:

  • Provide perfect visibility both in front, at the back and in blind areas More than with another vehicle, you will frequently have to prevent pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Be simple to drive, providing you with perfect maneuverability from the more congested areas and a great, stable ride on highways.
  • Be simple to park with driver assistance and, Maybe, video Help for backing up.

5 Best Small City Cars

For city dwellers, small cars can be a wise way to make urban driving easier. And small doesn’t need to mean flimsy. In my research, I’ve learned that small cars do not need to feel like they were built with materials from a 2-year-old’s pedal car.

The big city life has much going for it but there are loads of problems too. Personal transport, for example, is a problem — particularly for those people who aren’t fans of public transportation and revel in their own private way of mobility featuring more than two wheels. So if you are into city life, but want your car to run around in, I have picked the 5 best city cars you can purchase.

Every car here is recommended by Consumer Reports. That means that they did well in their road tests, with sprightly acceleration and crisp handling that is rare to find in smaller cars. These mini-mighties have better or average reliability and praiseworthy fuel economy, and they did well in national or insurance-industry crash-safety tests.

These five amazing city cars prove you can go small yet still drive a vehicle that doesn’t make you feel as though you have to have invested more money. After all, in town, size matters.

2018 Audi A3

audi a3

The 2018 Audi A3’s small size makes it an excellent selection for entry-level luxury in town. Handling is responsive, and the 170-hp four-cylinder turbo engine has ample midrange power as soon as you pull away from a green light. The interior is austere for an Audi but well-made. Front seats are comfortable; the back seats are somewhat tight. The ride is firm, but the A3 absorbs downtown’s large ruts well. All-wheel drive is optional.

The 2018 Audi A3 is configured in four-door sedan and two-door convertible (Cabriolet) body styles. Both are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The trim levels are called Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige in Audi talk, which is listed in order of increasing content.

While the A3 Cabriolet is an eye-catching city car, many buyers will be well-served from the A3 sedan. I recommend the Quattro version not solely because of its all-wheel drive but for the wonderful increase in power that upgrade delivers over the front-wheel-drive models.

Keep it simple, staying with the base Premium trim, to stop the purchase price from slipping up to A4 levels. The Convenience package has a great deal of bang for the dollar, and the Sport package’s updated seats and selectable drive modes make it a worthwhile option, too.

Video Review: 2018 Audi A3 Premium Plus Sedan

2019 Chevrolet Sonic

2018 chevy sonic

For basic transport, the subcompact 2019 Chevrolet Sonic feels like a more completed product than most cars in its category. It is pretty quiet and evens out the ruts and bumps of town streets surprisingly well. Of both 4-cylinder engines you can have, the smaller-displacement 1.8 turbo is faster. The sedan version has a huge trunk, but the hatchback provides more cargo space. Forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning are available safety options.

Utility is part of the 2019 Sonic game program. The sedan version comes with an enormous 14.9-cubic-foot back, while the hatchback features 19 cubic feet behind its folding back seats. Both specs are more than what you typically get from a city car.

Up front, the Sonic comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, in addition to a 4G LTE data link and Wi-Fi hotspot. Again, these are attributes that are not always standard on other subcompacts.

For the most bang-for-your-buck, I advocate the LT trim. While the base LS is equipped okay, the midrange LT gets you a couple more extras you’ll probably find attractive, such as heated mirrors and upgraded wheels. Splurge on the optional Driver Confidence package for its useful forward collision warning system.

2018 Honda HR-V Crossover

2018 honda hr-v

The 2018 Honda HR-V is based on the Honda Fit. Its diminutive size makes this subcompact SUV a boon for city driving, with easy maneuverability in tight spots, good outward views, and a typical rearview camera. Like the Fit, the HR-V has a rear seat that can fit two adults comfortably or fold in a variety of configurations to accommodate a great deal of stuff. This cute-ute has a stiff ride and is noisy on the street, but it gets 29 mpg overall.

The 2018 Honda HR-V is a master of flexibility and a strong competitor in the subcompact SUV segment. Despite its small size, it is going to accommodate adults just fine up front or in the back, and there are tons of flexible cargo space choices.

Just like the Honda Fit, the HR-V employs one of Honda’s clever innovations called the Magic Seat. You can lift and flip up the rear-seat bottoms to make a cargo space from the floor to ceiling, which is fantastic for transporting taller items like a flat-screen TV or a bicycle. With all the seats in place, this city car is amazingly suitable for average-size adults, too.

I think you will like the HR-V’s EX trim level. It is a small price jump up from the bottom LX to the EX and with it, you obtain a range of modern conveniences, including keyless entry and ignition, heated seats and dynamic rearview camera guidelines.

The range-topping EX-L Navi is a bit more of a stretch, although still reasonably priced, and adds conveniences like leather upholstery, navigation, and satellite radio. However, for a city car, the midlevel EX makes the most sense and conveys an attractive cost, so it is the one I would recommend.

Video Review: 2018 Honda HR-V

2018 Kia Soul

2018 kia soul

There is more to the 2018 Kia Soul than quirky-cool stylings, such as ample interior space, vertical chairs, easy accessibility, and an airy interior space with large windows that afford excellent outward views. Go for the bigger of the two available engines, a 164-hp four-cylinder mated to a smooth six-speed automatic. The stiff ride might not be appreciated over rocky roads. Forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning systems can be found, together with a rearview camera.

When it was introduced for the 2010 model year, the Kia Soul was difficult to classify. Can it be a hatchback, a wagon or something else completely? In recent years since there has been a rising amount of so-called subcompact crossover SUVs that provide the elevated seating height and improved freight capacity of larger models but with a lower cost.

I think the midgrade Soul Plus is the perfect city car. It is a good deal yet comes well equipped with just about all the features you will probably need or enjoy, such as an automatic transmission and the 7-inch Uvo infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android automobile smartphone integration.

Its 2.0-liter engine is more powerful than the base Soul’s 1.6-liter engine optimization. Another wonderful part of the Plus is the array of alternatives available. While you could purchase a stock Plus and stick to your budget, just about everything in Kia’s update arsenal is available should you want it, including heated and ventilated power-adjustable front seats, a Harman Kardon sound system, and the latest advanced driver safety assistance features.

Video Review: 2018 Kia Soul

2018 Mazda CX-3

2018 mazda cx-3

Unlike many top city cars, the 2018 Mazda CX-3 does not make you wish that you’re riding your bike instead. It sits low and drives like a sports car, navigating sharp corners without difficulty. Its 146-hp four-cylinder likes to rev, and acceleration is not too quick. The car can be noisy at highway speeds, and the back seat is the definition of “snug.” 2018 CX-3s include a rearview camera. Forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot tracking can be found.

For its third year, the 2018 Mazda CX-3 receives a couple of updates that improve on some of its best attributes. The revisions to the suspension tuning guarantee an even better driving experience. There is also more sound insulating material and additional low-speed crash protection in the form of an automatic emergency braking system. And the 2018 CX-3 also boasts an upscale interior, comfortable seats and higher fuel economy.

The base Sport trim is a fantastic deal, but I recommend going with the Touring trim. The Touring adds useful safety features like blind-spot monitoring, conveniences like automatic climate control and proximity entrance, and a couple of extra interior upgrades. These might seem like little things, but they all add up to enhance the CX-3 experience, particularly if it’ll be your city car for the next few years.

Video Review: 2018 Mazda CX-3

Final Thoughts

While the term city car strongly suggests a car you use in town, the best are more than happy to escape from the urban jungle. They’ve evolved to become miniature all-rounders and have so much appeal that the city-car class is now one of the most fiercely contested.

More than anything else, the ‘city car’ name refers to their compact size and nimble character, ideally suited to cramped city streets. But the diminutive nature of the city car is not only a blessing in town. In addition to allowing access to the tightest of kerbside parking areas, a city car is easily swallowed by an average domestic garage. This makes it an ideal family car if you don’t need bags of space.

First-time drivers will appreciate their low cost, economic engines and sensibly priced insurance, also, today’s city cars are a whole lot more interesting to look at — and much better equipped — than used to be true. It’s not uncommon to find air conditioning, Bluetooth and sat nav, so going small needn’t mean going barebones.

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