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The Car About Town: City Hatchbacks

September 24, 2014

Whether you need a car to tackle the morning traffic, or to nip to the shops – city living definitely requires a specific type of vehicle. The general consensus is that smaller is better. With narrow streets, squeezing into tight parking spots and bumper-to-bumper traffic part of the everyday city charm, your priorities when buying a city car need to keep these factors in mind.

With that said, the small car market is perhaps the biggest in the UK, with super-minis like the popular Ford Fiesta breaking sales records up and down the country. And down-sizing on your car doesn’t mean sacrificing the fun. In fact, many of today’s super-minis are some of the best drives around – offering stylish design, great handling and strong economy figures in one compact package.

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Featured Expert: Andrew Jervis, co-founder of ClickMechanic.com, shares his recommendations when it comes to choosing a car for city life.

With city populations growing and available space shrinking, choosing the right car to get around town can keep money in your pocket and help the environment. Therefore, for me, it has to be a small car every time – and if you’re looking for a sweet little runner and value for money, you’ll be hard pushed to match what the Kia Picanto can offer. With being cheaper than most other major city cars but offering some sleek looks, great fuel economy and a 7 year warranty, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Easy parking

With parking at a premium in the city, it may be wise to opt for parking sensors as part of your vehicle’s spec. The vast majority of new cars today offer reverse parking sensors as an additional option – if they’re not already included on the standard model. The vast majority of systems use small radar detectors built into the bumpers of your car which alert the driver through an audible “ping”, increasing in frequency as you get too close to an object – be that another car, curb, bollard or wall.

High-spec vehicles may even be available with a reverse parking camera system. This uses a small camera at the rear of the car which feeds directly to a screen on the car’s dashboard when the car is in reverse. The camera is angled in such a way that the driver gets a wide angle view of their car’s rear bumper, allowing them to avoid any bumps or scrapes when manoeuvring in tight spaces.

Made for traffic

Most popular super-minis today come with super-efficient engine options – with the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa coming with a line-up of economical three-cylinder engines. If you spend a lot of your time in slow moving traffic, avoid diesel engines as these need to run at high speeds regularly in order to maintain efficiency. Petrol, hybrid and electric vehicles are far more efficient at low speeds and on short journeys than their diesel counterparts, saving you money on your daily city commute.

If you’re buying new, look for a car with a start-stop system. These systems automatically cut-out the engine when you come to stop and put your car in neutral as soon – as you put your foot on the clutch to get back into gear, the engine will automatically re-start. Surely all that stopping and starting can’t be good for your engine? Modern start-stop systems are specifically designed to efficiently stop and start the engine whenever you come to a stand-still, without draining your cars battery or inflicting any additional wear to the engines components. A start-stop system will save you serious Pounds at the petrol pump in the long-run, especially if you spend most of your time in traffic jams or waiting at the lights.

Congestion charges

For London based commuters who need a car to get around, paying the Congestion Charge on a daily basis can soon add up. There are, however, numerous workarounds for avoiding paying the toll on your daily journey through Central London. Transport for London offer exemptions or discounts known as ULED (Ultra Low Emissions Discount) for certain vehicle types. If you’re investing in a car in the Big Smoke, it may be worthwhile exploring vehicles which are either exempt or offer a discount on the Congestion Charge. For full details on escaping the expensive charge, check out the TFL website.

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About The Author

Jon Le Roux is co-founder and company director of The Car Loan Warehouse. Being a mad engineering and motorsport enthusiast, I spend more hours than is healthy, watching, reading or talking about cars, boats, motorbikes…..basically anything with an engine.