Small cars come in all shapes but limited sizes - how much variation can you get on a theme you might ask so here is our guide to the best that 2008 has to offer.
One of the most keenly received small cars has been the Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 Club. This was one of the leading cars of any class in 2007 and it continues to hold its own in the super-mini category. It is keenly priced but mixes this with a big-car feel that has enticed critics for many months.
Though classed as a super-mini this car comfortably sits four people and has so much space that it feels like a small family car - even the boot has plenty of space - but you wouldn't use it to take a family of four on holiday for two weeks. A nice little quirk is the removable floor that gives that little extra room.
A lot of thought has gone into this vehicle so that it hits all the right spots. The design is solid without being clunky and smart without being showy. It is also a joy to have well weighted controls surrounding the driver. The entire impression is one of a car whose designers have put real thought into its construction. A nice touch is the ease and room of adjustment in the driver's seating position, which is only added to by the placing of the controls around the steering column.
It has a keen suspension without being over savage and excellent fuel economy to accompany it, with the extras and standards being of exceptional quality for a small car.
At the bargain end of the market comes the Fiat 500 - it is far removed from its predecessors with the same name and carries all the qualities you would expect of a rejuvenated Fiat motor company.
At first impression you need to double-take that you are not looking at the original 50 year old styled automobile. This is no bad thing though - a company that is proud of its past and prepared to make use of its heritage in such a model is something to be welcomed. Unlike the Corsa this really is a super-mini - but perfect for what it has been designed for. Boot space is cramped but adequate for such a small car and you can't complain at the price.
The car is very short at just over 3.5 metres but handles better than you would expect due to the wheel placement as close to the corners as possible. The engine is responsive but you will not be buying this car for its power performance. With a 0-60 of just under 13 seconds and a top speed of 100mph it is certainly at the lower end of the market but its real strength lies in it fuel consumption - the Lounge version supplies up to 90 mpg on the open road.
This car would be ideal for urban use - it is small but still demonstrably a car rather than a Smart car and its superb fuel efficiency makes it a no-brainer for commuting and popping off down the shops. It also has the classic Italian styling of the early Fiat 500 but none of the obvious drawbacks associated with those fiats.
Generally, competition has never been tighter in the Super-mini market. Car manufacturers stopped treating this market with disdain a long time ago as it became apparent how demographics were changing society. So many people now live in or around cities and do not settle down to start families, that the small car market has really boomed over the past decade. Furthermore, concern for the environment and increasing fuel costs have concentrated buyers' minds on the economy of the vehicle they are buying whilst they are not keen on compromising on quality.
The two cars above are examples of this development. The Corsa is an outstanding car that has improved over the years and been embraced by the government as an equal brand leader. The Fiat 500 on the other hand has risen Phoenix-like from the ashes of the disaster that was Fiat in the 70s and 80s. A good sign is that they have embraced their old traditions whilst melding it with their current confidence. Two cars from completely different backgrounds - in much the same way as the eye of the Octopus and Human have come from two completely different evolutions but appear so similar, so these two cars symbolise the end product of differing evolution strands.
Both are good cars and demonstrate the health of the small car market admirably.