Best Small Automatic Cars 2021

There are lots of great small cars on sale, but if you want one with an automatic gearbox, then your choice is rather more limited. It's not so much that small automatic cars aren't available, but more that many of them are quite flawed.That said, there are still some small cars that are every bit as impressive with an automatic gearbox as they are with a manual. So, here we count down our top 10 – and name the models that are best avoided.

Mini hatchback Cooper Sport 5dr Auto

While the Mini's sporty character means it feels more suited to a manual gearbox than an automatic, the six-speed auto that's offered generally shifts quickly and smoothly. The five-door model solves many of the three-door's flaws, too, providing more rear space and a bigger boot, while retaining the retro charm that has made the Mini so popular.

Modern car makers love unusual and dramatic-sounding names that have next to no relevance to the model in question. But thankfully the Mini 5dr is an easy one to work out. Yep, you guessed it – it’s a regular Mini with five doors.
Clearly, having an extra couple of doors makes the Mini 5dr more practical than the popular three-door hatchback we all know and love, simply because anyone sitting in the back won't have to squeeze through a tiny gap behind the front seat to get in or out. However, the five-door model is actually more spacious when you get in the back, too, and has a bigger boot.

It a bit pricier than the three-door car, mind, and you might think the additional doors and higher roofline make the Mini 5dr look a little less sporty. Nevertheless, it's still spot on in terms of other classic Mini strengths, which include a smart interior, strong engines and a myriad of personalisation options.But is the Mini 5dr a convincing alternative to other posh small cars with five doors, including the Audi A1 Sportback? Read on over the next few pages to find out, and we’ll also look at which engines and trims make the most sense.

If you decide a Mini 5dr is for you, check out how much you could save by visiting our New Car Buying pages. And don’t forget, if you're after even more boot space in a Mini, there's also the Mini Clubman estate to consider.

Number of trims17
Available fuel typespetrol, electric
MPG range across all versions40.4 - 50.4
Avaliable doors options3
Warranty3 years / No mileage cap
RRP price range£16,400 - £37,000
What Car? Target Price range
£15,618 - £37,000
What Car? PCP range
£174 - £422
Renault Clio 1.3 TCe 130 S Edition EDC

The 1.3-litre TCe 130 version of the new Clio offers a big step up in performance over the 95 model, so is worth the extra. Plus, your extra outlay gets you a slick-shifting automatic gearbox as standard. Okay, the Clio isn't the most fun or comfortable small car, but it's still a fine all-rounder.
Since its introduction in 1990, we’ve got used to the Renault Clio going through more looks than an ageing pop star. Whether it’s just a nose job or a complete transformation, you know that the Madonna of small cars will be almost unrecognisable every time it comes back into the limelight.

So, imagine our surprise when we first saw pictures of the latest Clio, which clearly opted for evolution rather than revolution. But, then, the previous generation of Clio changed its image from sensible and practical to glamorous and desirable, so why mess with its good looks anyway?
It's only really when you see the latest model alongside its predecessor that you notice the larger front grille and C-shaped daytime running lights that bring it into line with the rest of the Renault range. And if you whip out a tape measure, you’ll find that it’s a little shorter, a touch lower and quite a bit wider for a more athletic shape.
Yet, despite losing a few inches, and indeed kilos, the Clio is actually more spacious than ever. And its interior is more upmarket, with a much greater focus on fit and finish, plus increased use of soft-touch plastics, especially on higher trim levels. This generation also marks the first appearance of petrol-electric hybrid power in the Clio, promising excellent emissions and fuel economy. There are also three plain petrol engines in a range of power outputs, as well as a single diesel. 
However, as ever, the Clio has its work cut to stand its ground in a small car class that’s packed full of great cars. Keen drivers have the Ford Fiesta, those after something plusher might consider an Audi A1 and you can’t forget the talented all-rounder that is the Volkswagen Polo.

To find out if the Clio has what it takes, click through the next few pages to find out if the interior impresses with its plushness and space, if the driving experience is up to scratch and how it compares to those rivals. And, whichever model takes your fancy, peruse our New Car Buying section for sizeable discounts on plenty of makes and models, all without any awkward haggling.
Number of trims5
Available fuel typespetrol, hybrid
MPG range across all versions53.3 - 65.7
Avaliable doors options5
Warranty5 years / 100000 miles
RRP price range£15,895 - £23,645
What Car? Target Price range
£13,868 - £21,021
What Car? PCP range
£164 - £225
Hyundai i10 1.2

The i10 has long been one of our favourite city cars, and while the automatic version isn't as economical as the manual, performance is still sprightly enough, and the gearbox copes well with both town and motorway driving. Standard kit includes air-con, front and rear electric windows and six airbags.
They come in all shapes and sizes, and to every taste and budget, but here's the thing: you can spend a gazillion quid on a Breitling or a Rolex and it'll tell exactly the same time as a Swatch, which you can pick up for the cost of a round of fish ’n chips. So what's the point?

And city cars, such as the Hyundai i10, are the Swatches of the car world. Yes, a limousine will literally massage your backside while you're driving along, but when it comes to the act of getting you from the suburbs to the centre a city car is just as good. In fact, better, because you won't be on tenterhooks squeezing it through the narrow streets and, when you reach your destination, parking it will be far less stressful.
Like a Swatch, the i10 comes in a multitude of colours and represents great value for money. Unlike a Swatch, Hyundai says it'll also carry up to five people and some luggage; so, while it's not as big on the outside as other value cars, like the Dacia Sandero, it's still relatively practical.
It sounds like the i10 has all the basics covered, then, but don’t forget the alternatives. We've mentioned the Sandero, which is a bit bigger, so sticking with city cars, you can pick from the Kia Picanto, Toyota Aygo, and Volkswagen Up to name but a few.
Over the next few pages, we’ll report on how the Hyundai i10 drives, what it’s like inside and how much it’ll cost you to own and run. We’d also point you towards our New Car Buying service, which can offer tidy savings on an i10 or a huge range of other new cars.

Renault Zoe R135 Iconic
The Zoe solves one of the problems most often levelled at electric cars – the cost. This five-door hatchback will officially do up to 250 miles on a full charge, and comes with plenty of equipment, yet it costs roughly the same on monthly finance as conventional alternatives such as the Renault Clio and Ford Fiesta. As a bonus, there are no gears to worry about.
The Renault Zoe sets out to resolve two of the most common complaints about electric cars: the high price and the often feeble range between charges.

This five-door, Ford Fiesta-sized hatchback can comfortably do almost 200 miles on a full charge, costs less to buy than most rivals and comes with plenty of standard equipment, including a wall-mounted 7kW charger installed at your home.

It's been around for almost a decade, but regular tweaks over the years have upped its interior quality and infotainment gadgetry, given it a longer range between charges, and boosted its performance, with two power outputs now available.
You can pay a bit extra for the ability to use rapid 50kW CCS charging points, which allow the Zoe to be charged from 0-80% in just over an hour. Without this option added, a regular 22kW public charger will give you a full charge in around three hours, while it'll take about 9.5 hours for a full charge using a home charging point.

The Renault Zoe's main rivals are the similar-sized Honda E, Mini Electric, Fiat 500 and Peugeot e-208, as well as the bigger but closely priced Volkswagen ID.3. So how does it stack up against those alternatives in the areas likely to matter most to electric car buyers? Read on over the next few pages and we'll tell you everything you could possibly want to know.
RRP price range£29,995 - £34,495
What Car? Target Price range
£26,260 - £32,495
What Car? PCP range
£281 - £325

Audi A1 30 TFSI 125 Sport S tronic

If you're looking for a pocket-sized car with a premium badge, the A1 is a great choice, thanks to strong resale values, impressive refinement and a high-quality interior. Plus, it's available with Audi's impressive dual-clutch S tronic automatic gearbox.
If you want a small car with a properly posh badge, your options are actually quite limited. In fact, you could argue the Audi A1 is in a class of one.

In reality, the Mini hatchback (built by German rival BMW) is seen by many as similarly premium and is roughly the same size. But otherwise you have to go bigger and more expensive (think Mercedes A Class) or accept a less glamorous badge (i.e. a Volkswagen Polo).

The Audi A1 is available with a broad choice of engines, all of them petrols, with power outputs ranging from a sensible to very spicy indeed. As well as Technik, Sport and S line trim levels, there’s also Citycarver model that gets SUV-aping exterior body cladding and a raised ride height. Sadly, Audi's traction-enhancing quattro four-wheel drive isn’t offered on any version of the A1. 

So, is the Audi A1 actually any good compared with the Mini? And is it really upmarket enough to justify its price premium over big-selling mainstream rivals, including the Polo but also Peugeot 208 and Ford Fiesta? And which versions make the most sense? Read on to find out.

And, afterwards, head over to our New Car Buying pages to check out the latest Audi A1 deals. You could save a packet without any awkward haggling. 
Audi's badging policy bears no relationship to engine size and, to prove the point, the range kicks off with a 25 TFSI, which is actually a 94bhp 1.0-litre petrol. We haven't tried this yet, but we have tried the 30 TFSI version with 114bhp and its performance is more than adequate. It pulls well from around 2000rpm and, if you let the revs build to 6000rpm before changing gear, 0-60mph takes a respectable 9.1sec.

If you need more poke, though – enough to match the Mini Cooper – you might want to look at the 35 TFSI instead. This 148bhp 1.5-litre gets into its stride even earlier, at around 1500rpm, so not only is it faster outright but it's also more flexible than the 30 TFSI. A 197bhp 2.0-litre (40 TFSI) is also available; we'll let you know what that's like once we've had a go. 

If you go for the A1 Citycarver, you only get a choice between the 30 TFSI and the 35 TFSI engines. It’s very slightly slower from 0-62mph than a regular A1, with either engine, but not enough to notice. 
A smooth, controlled ride is something of a novelty in the small car class. Fortunately, the A1 offers just that — as long as you pick the right trim level. Around town, the SE and Sport trims, which come fitted with 16in wheels and standard suspension, deal with pockmarked urban roads very well; even the nastiest bumps don't ruffle its feathers. It’s a wholly calmer experience than you'll endure in the Mini, which rarely stops jostling.

It’s the same story on the motorway. Where the Mini struggles to settle, the A1 only fidgets on particularly corrugated sections and, in the main, proves itself one of the comfiest cars in its class. The A1 Citycarver has effectively been jacked up by 50mm and also rides smoothly; it actually deals with obstacles such as speed bumps better than the regular A1.

S line trim is a different ball game. This comes with bigger, 17in alloy wheels and sports suspension, which inevitably firms things up. The ride is more brittle over potholes and the like in town, but calms down at motorway speeds.
The A1 is surprisingly grown-up to drive, in a similar vein to the closely related Polo. Its steering is well judged: light around town, but with enough weight thrown in at faster speeds to give you confidence. Those virtues are backed up by enough accuracy to let you place the car's nose exactly where you want on a meandering B-road.
If the bends tighten and you maintain a spirited pace, you’ll find a slight tendency for the car to lean in corners, but it's comparatively minor and there's plenty of grip on offer. The Citycarver leans more in corners than other A1 models, but not to the point that this detracts from the driving experience.

S line trim, with stiffer sports suspension, helps keep the A1's body more upright through bends, but does that make it the best-handling car in the class? No. For something truly entertaining, we’d recommend you get yourself behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta. However, compared with the Peugeot 208 or Mini, which is often perceived to be a sporty little number, any A1 is noticeably better balanced and more composed.
The A1 does a fine job of delivering peace and harmony on the move. Let’s start with its three-cylinder petrol engines (badged 25 and 30 TFSI); these aren't quite as muted as the Mini's 1.5-litre or the Ford Fiesta’s 1.0 Ecoboost, but are hardly boisterous and settle down at a steady cruise. You can feel a little vibration through the controls, but not an excessive amount. The four-cylinder engines (35 and 40 TFSI) are even smoother. 

And while you can hear a small amount of road and wind noise, there's not enough of either to irk on a long drive — as long as you avoid the largest 18in wheels. These not only increase road roar, but give rise to more suspension noise, too. Broadly speaking, the A1 is pretty similar to the Polo and proves a quieter cruiser than many other rivals, such as the Mini. The Peugeot 208 is quieter still, though.

The standard manual gearbox has a light and reasonably precise shift, certainly compared with the Mini's. Thankfully, the optional automatic ‘box doesn’t suffer from the initial hesitation that some other Audi autos do, so you won’t have your heart in your mouth when exiting busy junctions. 
RRP price range£18,920 - £31,760
What Car? Target Price range
£18,199 - £30,527
What Car? PCP range
£183 - £350
Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 110 SE DSG

Skoda's Fabia hatchback is a former What Car? Car of the Year, thanks to its spacious interior, intuitive infotainment system and reassuring drive. And while a few small cars have since surpassed it, it remains very well priced, even as an auto.
The Skoda Fabia is a pretty decent representation of the brand's 'simply clever' ethos, as long as you understand that 'simply' equates to 'few frills', and 'clever' means 'decently roomy for a bargain price'.

In order to grab a share of the market, the Fabia needs to be both of those things and more. It occupies one of the most fiercely contested classes of all, vying with umpteen direct rivals from pretty much every car manufacturer. But it's hardly surprising that there's so much competition, given that small cars (or superminis as they're also known) outsell every other type of car.
With the Fabia you get a huge choice when it comes to engines and trim levels, and, while it isn't the cheapest small car on sale (that title goes to the Dacia Sandero), it leads the chase for the runner-up spot.

So how much cheaper is it than the Ford Fiesta and the Seat Ibiza? Is the Fabia better to drive than the Vauxhall Corsa and the Volkswagen Polo? These are all the questions (and more) that we'll be answering in this review, as well as pointing you in the direction of which engine and trim make the most sense. 

And, don’t forget that if you want to buy a Skoda Fabia, or any of its rivals, head to our New Car Buying section to get the very best deals with no hassle and no haggling involved.
RRP price range£14,365 - £19,015
What Car? Target Price range
£13,790 - £18,244
What Car? PCP range
£153 - £195
Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost 100 ST Line Powershift

There's an awful lot to like about the latest Ford Fiesta, and that includes its Powershift automatic gearbox, which is particularly good when combined with the punchy 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol engine. True, this combination does push the cost over £19,000 if you also go for our favoured ST Line trim, but our New Car Buying service can get you a sizeable lump off that.
Imagine a city the size of Glasgow. Now imagine every single person living in it driving around in the same car. Well, that gives you a fair idea how many people have bought a Ford Fiesta in Britain over the past decade. Yep, Ford's small hatchback has been the country’s most popular car for years.

And with good reason. It has a well-established reputation as the most fun-driving car in the class, and there are some jolly fine engines to choose from, too – the most noteworthy being the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol that comes in a variety of power outputs.
There’s also a Fiesta to suit most tastes. You can have a regular one that looks like butter wouldn’t melt, a sportier-looking ST-Line model that apes the near-200bhp Fiesta ST hot hatch, or you can opt for a touch of luxury with the chrome-adorned Vignale. Ford has even considered the booming popularity of small SUVs by offering an Active version, complete with tough-looking black wheel arches, jacked-up suspension and roof rails.
However, the Fiesta has some extremely strong competition, including the Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo, while the Skoda Fabia offers space and value in abundance. Does the latest Ford Fiesta have the talents to compete? And which engines and trims make the most sense? We’ll tell you all you need to know over the next few pages.
The entry-level 1.1-litre petrol (called the 1.1 Ti-VCT 75) has just 74bhp and feels rather gutless on faster roads; the pokier 1.0 turbocharged Ecoboost engines are much stronger.

They come in a variety of power outputs, starting with the Ecoboost 95. It's a fine engine that pulls well from low revs and delivers decent performance, hitting 0-62mph in 10.6sec. Indeed, we reckon it's the sweet spot in the range. The more powerful Ecoboost Hybrid 125 is worth considering if you have a bit more cash, though; it cuts over a second off the Ecoboost 95's 0-62mph dash and proving more muscular at low engine speeds. You can opt for a seven-speed automatic gearbox with the Ecoboost Hybrid 125, but, be warned, it doesn't react that quickly when you ask for a burst of acceleration. 

Then there's the Ecoboost Hybrid 155, which is also worth a look if you want something really quite nippy because it sprints from zero to 62mph in just 8.9sec, although it isn’t available with Trend trim. However, the fastest Fiesta of all (by far) is the Fiesta ST hot hatch, which we've reviewed separately. Avoid the 1.5 TDCi 85 diesel engine; it isn't especially quick, nor is it worth the price premium.
One of the most appealing things about the Fiesta is how it combines small-car fun with big-car sophistication, and that’s true of the way it rides. Steer clear of 18in alloy wheels and the Fiesta deals brilliantly with the sort of sharp-edged bumps and potholes that are all too common on British back roads.

Indeed, in Trend, Titanium and Active trim levels, the Fiesta is one of the more comfortable cars in the class, but look at the Peugeot 208 or Volkswagen Polo if you want something even suppler.

ST-Line models have firmer sports suspension, so you feel more of the bumps as they pass beneath the car, but the ride is still very well controlled; you won't be bouncing up and down wildly over undulations like you would in a Citroen C3.
The Fiesta may be a small hatchback but it's as fun to drive as some sports cars, thanks to its sharp handling and precise, well-weighted steering. Indeed, it’s the Fiesta’s ability to put a smile on your face, even on the most mundane journey, that’s arguably its most endearing trait. 

ST-Line versions receive sports suspension with a lower ride height. That makes the Fiesta super agile, which is great if you want hot hatch-style handling without the bigger bills that a powerful engine brings. Indeed, ST-Line models will embarrass all rivals through the corners, even the Seat Ibiza, but if you want the full-fat hot hatch experience, the range-topping Fiesta ST is sharper still.

Active versions, meanwhile, are slightly less agile than other Fiestas because of their 18mm increase in ride height. The car’s body leans over a tad more in corners  – although the difference isn't huge.
The 1.0 Ecoboost engines are remarkably smooth and quiet. Accelerate hard and you feel and hear less of a buzz than you do in rivals with equivalent three-cylinder turbocharged engines, such as the Ibiza and Polo. The diesel is unsurprisingly noisier, but not horrendously so. 

There's road noise in all versions but most noticeably in the trims with bigger 18in alloy wheels, although not enough to really irritate. However, there is a fair bit of wind noise at motorway speeds, especially with the panoramic glass roof fitted, and overall the Polo is a more peaceful cruiser.

Meanwhile, the Fiesta’s accelerator, brake and clutch pedals are all positively weighted, making it a really easy car to drive smoothly. The six-speed manual gearbox fitted to most versions is also very precise and enjoyable to use, as is the five-speed 'box that comes with the entry-level 1.1 Ti-VCT 75 engine. The seven-speed automatic gearbox (only available with the Ecoboost Hybrid 125) flicks smoothly through its gears most of the time, too. Happily, the Hybrid models bring further refinement; their stop start systems are exceedingly smooth and quick in operation, their brake pedals are easy to modulate (unlike some hybrids), and, because they have more guts low down, you don’t have to work the engine quite so hard to make progress, helping to keep noise levels down.
RRP price range£16,640 - £28,770
What Car? Target Price range
£15,411 - £28,770
What Car? PCP range
£156 - £320
Seat Ibiza 1.0 TSI 95 FR DSG
The latest Seat Ibiza uses the same automatic gearbox as the A1 and Fabia, but is better than both overall, with its handling and equipment particular strengths. Our favourite engine is the 1.0-litre turbo, although even with this, the Ibiza has to settle for second place on this list.

Most of the noise coming out of Barcelona these days surrounds the city's biggest football club and a certain Lionel Messi. But in recent times the local car brand has arguably been more successful, and the Seat Ibiza can take a lot of the credit for that.

Now in its fifth generation, the Ibiza is the Catalan brand’s small car offering, sitting below the Seat Leon hatchback and the higher-riding Arona and Ateca SUVs. However, with five doors, plenty of space inside and grown-up driving manners, the Ibiza offers plenty of big car perks for a surprisingly affordable price.
There’s a choice of three petrol engines with the most powerful offering the optional of an automatic gearbox. And you also get a long list of trim levels to choose from, including sporty FR trim and more lavishly equipped Xcellence trim.

But should rivals such as the Skoda Fabia, Volkswagen Polo and Britain’s best-selling car, the Ford Fiesta, really be worried? Read on over the next few pages to find out, and we’ll also tell you which of the Seat Ibiza’s engines and trims make the most sense.

If you decide the Spanish way of life is worth some consideration, head over to our New Car Buying service to check out our latest Seat Ibiza deals and find out how much you could save on the brochure price.
RRP price range£16,445 - £21,655
What Car? Target Price range
£13,546 - £20,770
What Car? PCP range
£161 - £211
Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI 95 SE DSG
The Ibiza used to be significantly cheaper than the Polo, but that’s no longer the case following a price rise. And while the Ibiza remains more entertaining to drive, the Polo counters with a classier dashboard, a more comfortable ride and stronger resale values. Finally, it also feels more suited to an automatic gearbox thanks to its easygoing character.
The Volkswagen Polo has always been highly regarded, but for most of its 45-year history it sat in the shadow of its bigger brother. You know the one we’re talking about, of course: the iconic Volkswagen Golf. But this latest generation is finally finding the spotlight, having brought the gap between the two models closer than ever.

That's because the Polo has grown up considerably over the years. Today’s model is bigger than ever and better to drive, too. Add to that a classy, roomy interior and keen pricing, and it's hardly surprising that it's such a huge seller.
The Polo finds itself in a very tough class, though. There are some seriously accomplished rivals in the small car class, and they’re also getting stronger and stronger. These include the big-selling Ford Fiesta, the sporty Seat Ibiza, the uber-practical Honda Jazz and the comfort-focused Peugeot 208. 

And the Volkswagen Polo can't completely ignore the premium offerings in the class either, which include the closely related Audi A1 and the Mini 5dr. 

In this review, we'll tell you how the Polo stacks up against its rivals in all the key areas, and we'll also fill you in on which engines and trim levels make the most sense.

If you decide the Volkswagen Polo is the car for you, make sure you check our New Car Buying service. You’ll find sizeable discounts on the Polo and loads of other new cars, and it’s all made super easy, without any need to haggle. 
RRP price range£17,125 - £21,955
What Car? Target Price range
£16,068 - £20,584
What Car? PCP range
£170 - £208