Most reliable small cars 2024
Small cars have to put up with a lot. They must be up to the challenge of dealing with potholes, roundabouts, regular gear changes, stop-start traffic and speed bumps, so it pays to buy something reliable.
Fortunately, today's small cars are more reliable than ever, which is remarkable when you consider that they're built to strict budgets. Drivers expect them to offer the same level of dependability as larger cars with more expensive price tags, not to mention a strong safety rating and a long list of standard equipment.
Here, we've created a list of some of the most reliable small cars you can buy today, many of which are backed by long warranties. It's no surprise that our list features cars built by Japanese and South Korean manufacturers.
Most reliable small cars
Toyota Aygo X
Thanks to its bold styling, the Toyota Aygo X isn't a small car for shrinking violets – you will stand out from the crowd. And that's fine, because life's too short to drive a dull car. Fortunately, the Aygo X comes with plenty of substance to go with the style, including a peppy and efficient 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, official fuel economy up to 58.8mpg and a long list of equipment, even on the entry-level Pure trim. An optional 10-year warranty is available if the car is serviced at an approved Toyota dealer.
Look up ‘reliability’ in the dictionary and it'll mention the Honda Jazz. Okay, that's not strictly true, but the Jazz has become a byword for reliability, regularly finishing top in dependability surveys. This latest version adds a dash of desirability to go with the reliability, including a revamped interior, an excellent media system and clever hybrid technology. The so-called ‘magic’ rear seats remain, making this one of the most practical small cars you can buy.
The Kia Rio might not be as desirable as the likes of the Volkswagen Polo or Ford Fiesta, but its rivals can't offer the reassurance of a seven-year warranty. We'd avoid the dated 1.25-litre petrol engine and opt for the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol, which offers a blend of decent poke and excellent fuel economy. Yes, the Rio is a little dull, but this straightforwardness is part of the appeal. Besides, if you want some extra flash, you should choose the snazzy GT Line trim. Yes, we did say ‘snazzy’.
Thanks to the availability of a 4x4 version, the Suzuki Ignis offers something unique in the small car market. It means that the little Ignis can venture to places other small cars cannot reach, although the limited ground clearance means you're not going to be chasing Land Rovers over mountains and through deep ravines. The four-wheel-drive doesn't put a massive dent in the fuel economy, with around 50mpg achievable, regardless of the model. For a small car, it's surprisingly big on the inside, with enough space for four adults to sit in comfort.
Toyota Yaris Cross
The Toyota Yaris Cross is one of the latest cars to join the burgeoning small SUV market and is designed to rival cars likes the Renault Captur and Vauxhall Crossland. Toyota's reputation for reliability means it's likely to be one of the most dependable choices, while the 1.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid system means it'll be one of the cheapest to run. Officially, you should see up to 64.1mpg, which could be enough to make you think twice about buying a small electric car.
Toyota Yaris Hybrid
The standard Toyota Yaris has strong appeal. It’s not the cheapest small car you can buy, but its smart looks and high-tech interior make it feel like you're driving a little Lexus. It's a feeling that's backed up by its quiet hybrid system and standard autonomous driving aids. Amazingly, you can expect to achieve up top 68.8mpg on a combined cycle, with the Yaris Hybrid doing its best to stay in electric mode at low speeds. Beefy styling means it looks like the GR Yaris hot hatch, especially if you opt for the GR Sport trim.
The Hyundai i10 is one of the most compact vehicles in our round-up of the most reliable small cars. The five-door city car nonetheless offers an impressive amount of room for passengers inside, so even adults should find the rear seats acceptable for shorter trips. The boot isn’t vast, but it’s enough for a decent weekly shop. Hyundai’s well-proven technology also means the affordable i10 boasts a good reputation for reliability, something backed up by the South Korean firm’s highly regarded five-year, unlimited mileage warranty. If you want a compact city car to depend upon, you could do a lot worse than an i10.
If the Hyundai i10 is a little on the small side, how about its supermini-sized sibling, the i20? Sharing much of its technology with the previous car on our list, the i20 is likely to prove just as reliable, while offering more lounging space in the rear and an appreciably larger boot. The engine range is broader too, while a bigger footprint on the road makes it feel more settled on country lanes and motorways. There’s an even more comprehensive choice of equipment as well – all without impacting the car’s likely long-term reliability. We should also mention the i20 N, which is a fantastic hot hatchback.
Kia is another brand with a comprehensive range of small cars – and an equally impressive seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty. The Picanto is its most compact offering, and the 2017-on version sports stylish good looks that can be enhanced with neat alloy wheels and a body styling kit. An economical range of engines includes a punchy little turbocharged petrol motor, creating an interesting take on the hot hatch genre. Owners rate the Picanto highly, particularly in terms of reliability, although some comment that they wish the boot was a little larger.
The Mazda 2 is one of the most stylish small cars you can buy. It's also one of the nicest to drive, feeling agile in town and surprisingly sporty on a country road. Power is sourced from a 1.5-litre petrol engine available with a variety of power outputs: 75PS, 90PS and 115PS. It'll be cheap to run whichever output you choose, with up to 60.1mpg achievable if you opt for the 90PS version with a manual gearbox. For even lower running costs, take a look at the Mazda 2 Hybrid, which is essentially a rebadged Toyota Yaris Hybrid.
Which small car is the most reliable?
We'd look no further than the Honda Jazz or Toyota Yaris. Both cars are built by manufacturers with an excellent reputation for reliability. Alternatively, consider the likes of the Hyundai i10, Hyundai i20, Kia Picanto and Kia Rio, which are backed by long manufacturer warranties.
Which is the most reliable and cheapest small car?
The Dacia Sandero has, for years, been the cheapest new car you can buy in Britain. This makes the fact that it’s also one of the most reliable cars in the hands of Honest John readers all the more commendable. Early Sanderos (the car was originally launched in 2013) are now available for outstandingly low prices on the secondhand market. It’s a great option if you want a reliable small car, but don’t want to spend a fortune.
Are small hybrid cars reliable?
Toyota has proven that hybrid systems can be extremely reliable. Its ‘self-charging’ hybrid technology has been fitted to millions of cars around the world, with no major issues being reported. This same system, pioneered on the Prius, is used by the Yaris hybrid, which enjoys the same peerless reputation for dependability. It shows small hybrid cars can be very reliable indeed.