What is a supermini?

If a city car is too small but a family car is too big, a supermini might be perfect for you. We’re here to explain what a supermini is

Simon Ostler
Jan 5, 2022

You may have come across the term ‘supermini’ and wondered what on Earth that means. Judging by the name, you’d likely think they are powerful, miniature-sized vehicles, and you wouldn’t be too far from the truth. Superminis are indeed small sized cars, though they usually don’t offer much in terms of performance apart from a select few. Superminis are slightly bigger than city cars such as the Volkswagen Up! and smaller than a typical family hatchback like the Seat Leon.

Some of the best superminis, such as the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo offer a great balance between manoeuvrability and practicality. These cars come with five seats and a hatchback boot whilst remaining relatively compact, making them great for use in cities or around country roads. Superminis are also some of the most affordable cars on the market and offer great value compared to slightly larger cars such as the VW Golf or Ford Focus. This practicality and affordability has made superminis some of the most popular cars for British roads.

To give you an idea of where this class of compact hatchbacks sits in terms of size, here is a quick run-down of where these cars fit in their respective ranges.

MakeCity carSuperminiFamily hatchback


What are the defining characteristics of a supermini?

It’s relatively straightforward to spot a supermini. You will usually see superminis with 3-doors, though 5-door models have become increasingly popular in recent times thanks to the added comfort for rear passengers. Both 3- and 5-door superminis tend to be smaller than most other cars on the road, though city cars are usually much more compact in size. Superminis don't usually feature the large boot space you’d find on a family car, though the hatchback boot door and foldable rear seats will help maximise any available luggage space.

The interior of a supermini is usually surprisingly spacious as a result of large spacing between the front and rear wheels, providing additional legroom and comfort for the driver and passengers.

Superminis also offer great value for money as a result of their low running costs, reliability and fun driving experience. The Ford Fiesta has been the UK’s best selling car for years, perfectly demonstrating the love Britain has for this compact-car setup.

You can get performance superminis as well with more powerful engines and sporty styling. Because of their small size these cars are often extremely fast and incredibly nimble making them incredible fun to drive. The best example is the Ford Fiesta ST, while equally interesting alternatives include the Audi S1 and Abarth 595.

Used superminis

Small cars have become a popular choice for those who regularly drive around congested cities, and while city cars are completely focused on being small and manoeuvrable they can be just a bit too cramped for many. This is where superminis really come into their own, because they're still compact - much more so than a VW Golf or BMW 3 Series - but they don't sacrifice all of the space and practicality that you get with those larger cars. There are plenty of stylish and speedy superminis available on the market, so you’ll have plenty of choice to get whatever features and performance you’re looking for with a supermini.

Renault Clio

Used deals from £11,949
Monthly finance from £219*

Audi A1

Used deals from £16,291
Monthly finance from £0*

Peugeot 208

Used deals from £14,495
Monthly finance from £0*

Superminis: pros and cons


Low running costs
Reliable and simple to fix
Can be fun to drive


Lack practicality
Not as comfortable as larger cars
Generally not great on motorways

What to look for when buying a supermini

  • Euro NCAP crash test rating: Euro NCAP is a crash test expert and rates how safe a car is. The tests are different depending on the size of a car, with larger cars having harder tests. With this in mind, you want to make sure the supermini you are looking at has a great safety rating – especially if you will be transporting kids in the back. What is Euro NCAP?
  • Emissions: thanks to a shake-up of the car taxation rules, buying an older car could actually save you money when it comes to road tax.
  • Folding seats: in a relatively small car, being able to fold some of the rear seats instead of all of them is incredibly useful, especially on trips to your household waste recycling centre.
  • Warranty: if you are buying a nearly new car you should be able to snag a bargain with a warranty. Toyota offers an industry-leading ten-year warranty, but many manufacturers only cover their cars for the first three years of its life.
  • Transmission: superminis are perfectly suited to manual gearboxes, thanks largely to their small rev-happy engines. While automatic superminis are better than ever, it is good to test drive the auto versions to make sure you can live with it before you buy.


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