The onslaught of high-riding crossovers and full-size SUV paints a different picture, but small, B-segment hatchbacks – that is, superminis – remain the most popular cars in Europe.
In recent years, few significant new models have been introduced, but there have been a fair few facelifts which have shaken up the rankings somewhat, with the Volkswagen Polo, Hyundai i20 and Seat Ibiza, among others, receiving updates. An all-new Mini is also on the way, which explains the absence of the old car on this list. When it arrives and we’ve driven it, expect it to rank fairly highly, as past iterations have.
To make our top 10 list for 2023, a supermini needs to be so much more than just capable of carrying a couple of adults, a couple of kids and a decent amount of luggage relative to its small footprint. It must now also be desirable, well-packaged, easy-to-drive and pleasant-to-use. A pedigree performer, in other words.
Dynamically, the key attributes are transparency and good basic agility – superminis should be inherently nimble and at least moderately fun to drive in all their forms. Sluggish steering is a worse crime than soft suspension, and contenders like the Yaris show that modest power and five doors is no impediment to a rewarding driving experience.
Increasingly superminis also offer a level of perceived quality, performance and technological sophistication that bears comparison with that of bigger hatchbacks; and the very best combine some or all of that with the agility only a small, light car can offer.
The fifth-generation Seat Ibiza stormed to the top of our supermini class rankings when it appeared in 2018 and has had a very successful facelift in 2021. The Spanish company went to great lengths to replace the decent fourth-generation Ibiza with a handsome hatchback backed by real substance. It was the first of the Volkswagen Group’s latest breed of MQB-based small hatchbacks – and since the recent facelift, it’s also the best.
Mimicking the bigger Seat Leon in many ways, the Ibiza is roomy, well equipped and much better finished than before. Combine that with its fine on-road handling and refinement manners, its value-for-money position, its impressive equipment features and its youthful styling, and it all adds up to a class-leading proposition for us.
It’s not quite as entertaining to drive as the Ford, but it’s close, and since the recent update, the interior is much-improved, with more soft-touch materials, a more interesting dashboard design and Seat’s latest infotainment system (even if it can be buggy on some cars).
The Ibiza is our current class leader because it is a more rounded, upmarket ownership proposition than the Ford, but still more fun to drive than the Polo and it has a nicer interior than either of them.