30 August 2017

Buying your first car or upgrading? The most reliable small cars revealed

Here on The Root we’ve got our heads screwed on, knowing that many newly-qualified and young drivers between the ages of 18 and 25 can only buy first cars and replacement cars that are relatively affordable, as motoring isn’t cheap.

Your car breaking down in the early years of your driving history sucks, so to help our customers and their parents out, we always like to keep our eye on which makes and models of superminis and other small or ‘city’ cars are rated as reliable by experts from car magazines and other organisations.

Slightly older and cheaper cars for students starting the new term

First Car magazine has teamed up with Warranty Direct ahead of the new academic year which will soon be starting, to reveal the most reliable small cars on a budget, well suited to students. With 50,000 cars’ records that include repairs and breakdowns, their Reliability Index is well respected. Check it out.

  • In 10th place among older and cheaper small cars | Mazda2 (2007-2015)
  • 9th | Fiat 500 (2008 or newer)
  • 8th | Toyota Yaris (2006-2011)
  • 7th | SEAT Ibiza (2006-2009)
  • 6th | Peugeot 107 (2005-2014)
  • 5th | Toyota Aygo (2004-2014)
  • 4th | Skoda Fabia (2007-2014)
  • 3rd | Ford Fiesta (2008-2017)
  • 2nd | Citroen C1 (2005-2014)
  • In 1st place, the most reliable older small car | Honda Jazz (2008-2015)
Most reliable best supermini city small cars for young new drivers insurance blog survey UK - Honda Jazz


The most reliable newer small cars upto around 3 years’ old

Each year, Auto Express magazine crunches the results of 50,000 feedback responses from drivers across the UK, and sister website CarBuyer has recently published the low-down on the top 10 small cars produced from 2014 onwards that are more likely to give you trouble-free motoring. Brand new cars ‘depreciate’ or lose value quickly once they’re driven away from the garage, meaning buying a car a few years’ old can be a real bargain, sometimes complete with a warranty.

  • In 10th place, which is still really good | Peugeot 208
  • 9th | Citroen C1
  • 8th | Toyota Yaris
  • 7th | Honda Jazz
  • 6th | Peugeot 108
  • 5th | Hyundai i10
  • 4th | MINI hatch
  • 3rd | Toyota Aygo
  • 2nd | Hyundai i20
  • In 1st place, the most reliable small car from 2014+ | Skoda Fabia
Most reliable best supermini city small cars for young new drivers insurance blog survey UK - Skoda Fabia


WhatCar? magazine’s favourite small cars in general

We imagine that reliability could understandably be your parents’ top priority when shortlisting a new (to you) car, which could even be your first ever motor – but we understand that for young drivers looks matter, inside and out, and a car has to be fun even if it can’t be very powerful for insurance and safety reasons. To get a good idea of which small cars are great all-round buys ticking all the boxes, WhatCar? magazine’s top 10 is a great place to look:

  • 10th | Honda Jazz (2008-2015) – they recommend the1.4 –VTEC ES Plus
  • 9th | Nissan Note (2012-2017) in 1.2 Acenta Premium trim
  • 8th | Hyundai i20 (2009-2014) in 1.2 Active trim
  • 7th | Vauxhall Corsa (2006-2014) in 1.2 Exclusive trim
  • 6th | Audi A1, 2014 model in 1.4 TFSI Sport trim
  • 5th | MINI hatchback, 2014 model in 1.5 Cooper trim
  • 4th | Renault Clio (2012-today) in super-economical 0.9 TCe Dynamique MediaNav trim
  • 3rd | Volkswagen Polo (2014-2017, not the brand new one) in 1.4 Match Edition
  • 2nd | Ford Fiesta (2008-2017, again not the brand new one) in economical 1.0 Zetec trim
  • In 1st place as their favourite small car in general | Skoda Fabia (again!) in 1.0 75bhp SE trim
Most reliable best supermini city small cars for young new drivers insurance blog survey UK - Skoda Fabia 2015


Over the last couple of years on The Root we’ve also test-driven the latest Corsa, Mazda2, Skoda Fabia and VW Polo, which will soon be replaced by a new model.

As a newly-qualified or generally young driver, or perhaps as a parent or guardian, we hope you found this lowdown on the most reliable small supermini and city cars helpful. We recommend that you read the various publications’ websites to get more detailed information on each model. If you have any experiences with any of the models mentioned, we’d love to hear from you on Facebook

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.