Three small cars that won't make you feel bad about downsizing

Carlton Boyce / 06 October 2016

Driving something small doesn’t always mean driving something that feels cheap.



There comes a time in your life when downsizing becomes a positive thing, when the lure of a large and expensive car is insufficient to warrant the extra cost of buying and running it over a smaller model.

This is something that car manufacturers understand, so driving something small doesn’t necessarily mean driving something that feels cheap: here are three cars in which parsimony doesn’t mean austerity.

Four ways to save money buying a new car

Audi A1

The Audi A1 range spans a frugal 1.0-litre petrol engine that sips fuel at the rate of one gallon every 67 miles through to a fire-breathing, turbo-charged 2.0-litre with four-wheel-drive and an artificially limited top speed of 155mph.

No matter which engine you choose from, the interior fit-and-finish is beyond reproach because no one does interiors as well as Audi; no matter what car you’ve downsized from, you’ll feel just as cossetted and comfortable inside the tiny A1. 

Just beware of ticking too many optional extras without taking a close look at how much they are going to set you back; it’s easy to get carried away and end up with a ludicrously expensive car, which might defeat the whole point of the exercise.

Engines are uniformly refined and while the suspension is a bit firm across the whole range, the pay-off is decently sharp handling. Quattro, the name Audi gives to its four-wheel-drive models, is a useful thing to have if you want to stay mobile no matter what the conditions underfoot.

Best suited to: sybaritic downsizers who appreciate a premium cabin

Unlikely to impress: keen drivers might find the handling a bit numb

Price: the Audi A1 range starts from £14,530, with small savings of around £1,000 being reported as being available in the showroom.

Read our review of the Audi TTS

Fiat 500

The Fiat 500 makes a virtue of its poverty status, bringing a smile to the face of even the most impoverished driver. The 500’s party trick is remaining completely classless, so no one will be able to pigeonhole you when you arrive behind the wheel of one.

Engines are loud and free-revving in true Italian style, designed to be driven with gusto. The TwinAir is wonderful but can be alarmingly thirsty: the official fuel consumption figures suggest that up to 74.3mpg is possible. It isn’t.

Otherwise the Fiat has a vim and brio that is addictive, making it the perfect car for anyone who enjoys the cut-and-thrust of city driving.

Best suited to: extroverts who enjoy long, loud lunches

Unlikely to impress: drivers who prefer to hide their light under a bushel

Price: the Fiat 500 range starts from £10,890, but you can expect to be able to knock around 10% off this if you haggle hard.

Read our review of the Fiat 500

Citroen DS3

The Citroen DS3 is a car that’s stuffed full of intriguing details and quirky design features. Infinitely customisable, owners can choose from 44 different roof and body colour combinations, 9 roof stickers and 15 different alloy wheels. It’s not a restrained look, but it is an appealing one.

The DS3 is available as a hatchback, but given how civilized and refined the cabriolet is there is no need to deprive yourself of the opportunity to enjoy drop-top motoring if feeling the wind rush through your hair is your thing.

The DS3 range is good to drive too, offering a duality that sees it wafting quietly at motorway speeds while remaining able to run with the best of them along windy country lanes. The ride sometimes edges towards uncomfortable over speed bumps, but is otherwise relaxed, even if it is nowhere near its legendary namesake.

Best suited to: fashionistas who frequently carry rear-seat passengers

Unlikely to impress: lovers of the original Citroen DS

Price: the DS3 range starts at £13,995, although carwow suggests there are large savings to be had.

Read our review of the Citroen DS3

Have you recently downsized your car? If so, what did you buy? We’d love to hear about your experiences over on our Facebook page!

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.