If you live in the city, these are the best ways to get around.
The big city life has much going for it, but there are plenty of problems too. Personal transport, for example, is an issue- especially for those who aren't fans of public transport and enjoy their own private means of mobility featuring more than just two wheels. This brings us neatly to a list of the best cars for the city. Now, we're not necessarily talking about big cities like NYC or LA. They don't even rank on the top 10 list of cities with the highest percentages of households with cars. In fact, NYC is one of the lowest-ranked cities.
Ideally, you want a small city car, but lifestyle choices will dictate the size of the car. We included the smallest vehicles plus a few slightly larger options.
So if you're into city life but want your car to run around in, we've picked the 10 best compact cars for the city you can buy new today.
This list was initially published in 2018 but has been updated with new models and relevant information from 2023.
The Chevrolet Bolt is on the way out, but it remains a top choice if you're looking at the best city cars. Yes, Chevy went through that whole fire ordeal, but it turn out to be the battery supplier's fault, which means this tiny vehicle has an unfortunate reputation it doesn't really deserve.
As a package, it's perfect for the city. It has 200 horsepower, so it's zippy enough to blast through traffic, and the 259 miles of range is more than enough for city-bound folk. Most large cities now have enough DC fast chargers, which you'll only need once a week, considering the average driving distance in the USA.
It's safe, spacious, and still a stunner. We think Chevrolet is only ending production to make space for the upcoming Equinox. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, the Bolt EV is also the cheapest EV on sale in the USA.
If you're a gearhead with a family, this is the only real option. Hyundai's N products have a nasty habit of upsetting the cops, and the GTIs have always been better-balanced cars. Most hot hatches have stiff suspension setups, but VW always finds that sweet spot between an engaging ride and comfort. It's one of the best city cars for driving.
The 2023 GTI has an annoying infotainment interface, but that's the worst thing you can say about it. VW carried the reliable EA888 2.0-liter turbocharged engine over, and here it produces 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque.
You can have it with a sweet six-speed manual, but if you spend most of your time in the city, stick to the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Another electric option, but it costs quite a bit more than the previously mentioned Chevrolet Bolt. Hyundai is in the process of building a battery plant in the USA to qualify for tax credits, but the plant will only be online in a couple of years.
The Ioniq 5 is a brilliant product and likely the best city car for urban driving. If you commute between the city and the 'burbs and you maybe have to drop kids off at school along the way, this is where it's at. This car is so good it swept the World Car of the Year awards, so it, therefore, has to be one of the best compact cars for the city.
If you can stomach the base model's 168 hp and 220-mile range, it's a good buy. Spend a little more, and you'll get 225 hp and 303 miles of range.
The Mini Cooper two-door is one of the best small cars for city driving if you actually enjoy the process of driving. It's like the GTI we mentioned earlier, but arguably even more fun. Like the Bolt, the Mini will be replaced soon, and the new model looks even smaller. We love the idea of Mini going miniature again, and the result will likely be one of the best small city cars with an ICE engine.
We'd stay away from the electrified Cooper. Even in a city setting, the 110-mile range is not enough. You'll have to charge it at least twice a week.
On the ICE side, two engine options are available, both turbocharged. The 1.5-liter three-pot produces 134 hp and 162 lb-ft, while the 2.0-liter takes it up to 189 hp and 206 lb-ft. We suggest you drive both because they are equally charming but have different benefits. The 2.0 is fast, but the turbocharged triple delivers great fuel efficiency.
Previous generations of the Prius used to be ugly and slow. While the former is subjective, the latter made it far from one of the top city cars to buy. In the city, you need brisk acceleration, precisely what the new Prius and its 2.0-liter Dynamic Force hybrid powertrain provide.
With around 190 hp on tap, the latest Prius can sprint to 60 mph in about seven seconds. Thanks to the low-down torque the electric motor provides, it feels even faster.
The interior is comfortable and spacious, and Toyota has been extremely generous in the safety department. It's equipped with all the low-speed advanced driving assist features all new city cars should have.
Also, look at it. To our eyes, it's the best-looking car on this list. It looks sportier than the Golf GTI.
Keep an eye out for the Prius Prime because it will have a rather useful 39-mile all-electric driving range, and that alone will make it one of the best cars for city life.
The Nissan Leaf is getting on in life, but it still falls under the category of good city cars. Not excellent like the Ioniq 5, but perfectly okay if you're working on a budget. Since the Leaf's battery pack is built in the USA, it qualifies for a tax credit, and the same can't be said of the pricier Nissan Ariya. The latter will only be eligible for a tax break in 2026.
The entry-level Leaf S is just on the right side of useful, with a 40 kWh battery and a 149-mile range. For added peace of mind, we'd go up to the 60 kWh battery and get 219 miles of range.
There's nothing spectacular about the Leaf, which can be seen as a highlight. It's just another hatch that happens to be electric, making it one of the top city cars for folks who don't like virtue signaling.
Not in the mood for electricity but still want something reasonably small? There's not much left in the segment. The Chevrolet Spark is dead, the Kia Rio has been left behind, and the Mitsubishi Mirage is too terrible to contemplate.
Luckily, the Nissan Versa has soldiered on quietly in the background. It's the cheapest four-door sedan in the USA and one of the smallest. Nissan also made several updates since it was introduced, so expect all the latest safety and comfort features.
The naturally aspirated 1.6-liter engine is sluggish, but at least it's frugal when mated to the CVT gearbox, which you have to go for if the car is going to spend most of its time in the city.
The Kia Rio may be old and outdated, but the Seltos is brilliant. First of all, it looks interesting, and it's a compact crossover, one of the most significant segments in the USA.
It's also a bargain in this company, and the list of standard features is generous from the base LX upwards.
The only downside is a slightly sluggish 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-pot, which produces 147 hp and 132 lb-ft. As is the norm these days, the power is sent to the wheels via a CVT transmission.
You can get a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine coupled with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Unfortunately, these models cost around $30,000, which makes the Seltos less of a bargain buy.
The Kia Seltos' design might be too wild for some, but luckily, Honda went more elegant with the HR-V.
This is an essential model for Honda, so it didn't want to mess up. It has been a strong player in the midsize crossover segment, which grew from a 4% market share to a 40% market share in less than 20 years. With downsizing being a popular trend, this segment is expected to grow even faster.
Honda is playing it safe, which is a good move. The HR-V rides on the previous generation Civic's platform and uses a tried-and-trusted naturally aspirated 2.0-liter engine. Given Honda's reputation for reliability, that's enough of a reason to buy one.
We called this car annoyingly bland when it was new, but sales figures proved us wrong. A large chunk of the population wants a no-nonsense hybrid, and design be damned. Why not include the Toyota bZ4X since EVs are so hot right now? Well, it's not a good car and came swinging out of the gates with a bad reputation for losing its wheels.
The Corolla Cross is joyously unpretentious. It's just 175.6 inches of generic crossover design, equipped with a 195-hp hybrid electric powertrain. It may sound zippy, but this car isn't built for speed. Nothing in the suspension makes you feel the need to push on a bit.
This car is all about impressive fuel consumption figures. According to the EPA, it will only consume 37 mpg combined, and the electric motor helps make it exceptionally frugal in the city.
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