Disclaimer: Data on this website was sourced from Canstar and Chasing Cars in January 2021 from their latest available data. Auto & General Services Pty Ltd does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the data and accepts no liability whatsoever arising from or connected in any way to the use or reliance upon this data.
Small cars have it all. On the city drive, they’re usually quiet, plucky, and economical. When the weekend rolls around, even the modest size can offer enough space in the boot for all the essentials. Together, it makes sense why more and more Australians are turning towards small cars.
The recommendations below are based on Canstar’s most recent customer satisfaction survey, and Chasing Cars’ reviews of small cars. So, with the most accurate modern data and the advice of the experts, let’s take a look at the best new small cars currently on the Australian market.
All of the cars below start somewhere around the $20k mark, although certain features and extras may push the costs higher.
Australians love their Mazdas, and the Mazda2 has certainly no exception. It’s shown its worth over the years as a solid choice for cost-conscious city drivers who value comfort, safety and fuel economy.
In recent years, the base model has been arriving with more safety tech included, which does drive up the starting price. But all-round, it’s hard to ever declare the Mazda2 anything but a prime choice for Australia.
- It's a genuine pleasure to drive
- The engine is quite spritely for its size and class
- The safety tech is top-class.
- Mazda has become a tad more expensive than its competitors in recent years
- Road noise can be loud
- The boot is a tad smaller than similar cars in the class.
For an in-depth and independent review of the Mazda2, check out the Chasing Cars website.
#2. Toyota Yaris
The Yaris has been going strong in Australia since its arrival in 2005, providing practicality and affordability at around the $18,000 mark. It may not be the most exciting, luxurious or macho vehicle on the road, but its hard-working engine will get you from A to B while providing all the basics you’ve come to expect from a light car: safety, comfort and good fuel economy.
If pushing beyond $20k isn’t your biggest concern, the higher-end variations (such as the Hybrid or GR) both offer tremendous tech, and worthy features for the money. But even in the lower end of the budget bracket, the Yaris earns its place in our list.
- Agile handling thanks to a quality suspension and responsive steering
- Impressive fuel efficiency even for a subcompact car
- Complete suite of advanced safety features
- 7-inch touch-screen multimedia system includes Bluetooth and voice recognition
- Lacklustre acceleration – it lacks the ‘oomph’ found in other vehicles of similar size
- Interior space for both passengers and cargo is limited
#3. Honda Jazz
Honda have been the masters of small cars for decades. So while it isn’t surprising that the latest Jazz has been brilliant, it is surprising why. For a small car, it offers an unbelievable amount of cabin room, and storage space.
The curved backs on the front seats give passengers in the back more room than you’d expect from a small car. When the weekends roll around, the outrageous 414L boot will fit everything you’ll need – including the kitchen sink.
The only minor red flag is overall satisfaction. Buyers haven’t ranked the Jazz all too highly for value-for-money, or for driving experienced. Really it’s horses for courses – if space is what you need, the Jazz is your best bet.
- Above-average interior comfort and design
- Exceptional boot space (even better than some small SUVs)
- Good interior space for a light car, especially in the back seats
- Features driver and front passenger airbags and side curtain airbags extending to the back seat row.
- Survey data suggests the driving experience and value for money aren’t on par with other small cars.
#4. Suzuki Swift
Out of the cars on this list, the Swift was definitely the toughest one to place. Historically, the Swift has always been a good car, but hardly the one to lead the way in the market. Now though, the technology, features and overall customer satisfaction are pushing this humble hatchback into great territory.
- Amazing value for money
- Most satisfied customers
- New tech innovations are leading the way for cars under $20,000.
- After-sale servicing could be cheaper
- Internal space is good, without being anything to write home about.
Read more on the 2021 Suzuki Swift in Chasing Cars’ latest article.
#5. Kia Rio
The Kia Rio could unfairly be called the jack of all trades, but the master of none. It ranks highly across the board in terms of value-for-money, overall satisfaction and a wide range of other metrics, but fails to lead the pack across any.
The base-model Rio comes with an auto window defog system, rain-sensing aero blade wipers, 60:40 split-fold rear seats, plenty of other technological goodies.
- Superior design, inside and out – a great-looking vehicle
- Quality multimedia
- Surprising amount of internal space, especially passenger legroom
- Plenty of quality tech
- It doesn’t quite have a unique selling point
- The cheaper S and Sport versions lack newer active safety features
- Servicing costs tend to be a little higher than in similar models
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