Which of these neat and funky city cars is the best used choice?
Cheap motoring doesn’t have to mean cheap and nasty motoring. Today’s city cars are among the cleverest cars you can buy, with the designers competing hard for your attention (and money). And it’s been that way for long enough for you to be able to pick up a great-value used example that will fulfil all your style and economy needs.
Like a second-generation Fiat Panda 0.9 TwinAir, featuring a small two-cylinder turbocharged engine for good urban performance plus low running costs. Or, for only slightly more money, a well-equipped and economical Skoda Citigo Greentech.
Skoda Citigo 1.0 75 Greentech Elegance 5dr
Engine: 1.0-litre petrol
List price when new: £10,370
Price today: £5000
Torque: 70lb ft
Top speed: 107mph
Fuel economy: 67.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 98g/km
City cars have to perform decently on the motorway as well as in the town, and the Skoda certainly ticks that box. Its engine isn’t quite as punchy as the Fiat’s, but its power delivery is more linear and refined. Its low-speed ride is quite firm, but relative to the even firmer Panda it’s reasonably comfortable.
The Fiat’s town ride is undeniably jiggly and its engine, though zesty, is vocal at most speeds, partly because it needs to be revved hard to make progress. Go fast in the Panda and you’ll begin to be irritated by wind noise. Go slower and you’ll like the light steering and tight turning circle, but when you’re back on the motorway the vagueness of the steering can put a damper on things.
The Citigo loves fast roads, twisty or otherwise, thanks to its accurate and nicely-weighted steering and well-judged suspension.
The Panda has an upright driving position, which some may like. It certainly makes entry and egress very easy, and the car’s boxy shape lives up to its visual promise by providing plenty of vertical space. Kneeroom isn’t quite so generous, the boot isn’t the biggest, and not every Panda has split-fold rear seats. The amount of equipment in general wasn’t a Panda strong point.
Fiat Panda 0.9 Twinair 85
Engine: 0.9-litre petrol
List price when new: £10,750
Price today: £4500
Torque: 107lb ft
Top speed: 110mph
Fuel economy: 67.3mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions: 99g/km
Compared to the Skoda’s greyness we do like the Fiat’s stylish dashboard, if not so much the quality of its plastics. The Citigo exudes more of an aura of quality and its controls are pleasant to use. Like the Fiat it offers plenty of front head and leg room, and a bit more rear seat space. It beats the Panda on boot space too, although you do have to hoist cargo over a bigger sill.
This version does have split-fold rear seats, but others don’t, so as with the Fiat make sure your prospective car has them.
On costs, the Panda will be a little cheaper to buy and run, especially if it’s the 67.3mpg 0.9 Twinair, but these models aren’t that common: you may have to put up with the less efficient and lower-performing 1.2-litre. The Skoda Citigo 1.0 also gives an official 67.3mpg average, and neither car will cost you anything on tax as they are below the 99g/km CO2 tax threshold.
Servicing will be cheaper on the Panda and if you have it done at a Fiat dealer they’ll throw in 12 months’ breakdown assistance cover, which could be useful as Fiat finished fourth from bottom of 25 car makers in the 2017 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study. Skoda came third from top.
The Fiat looks appealing inside and out, and its little engine punches well above its weight, but the rackety and bouncy driving experience spoil things. There’s not much kit to play with and the back is a bit cramped.
The Skoda isn’t quite as jolly to look at, inside or out, but many might prefer its more mature style. Add in its extra space, equipment, refinement and comfort and you’ll soon realise it’s worth paying a little extra for it.
‘Price now’ based on 2013 model with average mileage and full service history