The supermini segment is one packed with options for new car buyers, but it is no longer sufficient for a car in this class to simply be small, frugal and practical.
To make our top ten list, a supermini needs to be so much more than a car that can seat five people and carry a decent amount of luggage. It must be desirable, well-equipped, decently spacious, pleasant to use and to spend time in, and have a dynamic makeup that mixes drivability and ease-of-use with agility, comfort, verve and refinement just so. So what tops our list?
Storming to the top of our supermini top ten is the fifth generation Seat Ibiza. The Spanish company has gone to great lengths to change the decent, but not great, fourth-generation Ibiza into this handsome hatchback backed up by real substance.
Mimicking the bigger Leon in many ways, the Seat is roomy, well equipped and better finished than before. Combine that with its superb on-road manners and it's a class leader for us.
Still the sensible supermini of choice. It is useable, refined, easy-going, desirable and very solidly built.
But compared to the previous-generation car, this new Polo is a huge departure, mixing a tad more technology with improved dynamic capabilities. The Polo's ascent up our top ten list shows how close it is to being the ideal supermini: and that's pretty painfully close. It's a little bit unimaginative to look at, reserved to drive, as well as typically expensive for VW - but in all other respects it's outstanding.
Our one-time class leader had the difficult task of bettering its predecessor, which was simply outstanding in most departments.
This new version is more than just a re-skin and in some respects – namely its supple ride and sparkling on-road dynamic characteristics - in remains the best in class.
A modern rework of a classic name, and now in its third generation, the Mini brand continues to build momentum, and none more so than with the three-door hatch. Just be warned that it is quite expensive to buy and you will need to tick a fair few option boxes to get all the equipment that many of its rivals include as standard.
The packaging isn't brilliant either, because space is tight in the boot and rear seats. But its selection of nippy three-pot engines and well-put together, premium feeling and quirky interior make it a great place to spend time and its go-kart handling makes the Mini 3dr hatch a superb choice.
The Mazda 2 has matured over the years to become a grown-up supermini that is very well-made. It may not be as vivacious as the quartet above it in our list of the best superminis on sale today, but there is much to admire about the little Japanese car, including its charming and vigorous drive.
The naturally aspirated engines do need to be worked hard but its perky handling will reward those willing to invest time and effort to search higher up the rev range.
The fifth-generation Micra is a huge departure to the one what went before. For this car, Nissan brought manufacturing of the small car back to mainland Europe.
Built on the same production line as the Renault Clio, gone are the dowdy looks and the fifty shades of scratchy grey plastic, replaced by an edgy hatchback. The Micra is available in a host of vibrant colours and personalisation options to match its sharp steering and impressive tech offering.
The rear seats are small and the turbocharged 0.9-litre triple is a little unrefined compared to its rivals, but it is nevertheless easy to live with.
Another solid effort from the Volkswagen Group, but unlike the Seat Ibiza, the current-generation Skoda Fabia plays it far more safely. In design terms, the Fabia lacks any visual flair, while interior space isn’t the best in class either, nor is the handling.
However, being a Skoda, it is very well built, decently equipped and has an attractively styled interior, albeit one that is feeling dated now compared to the plush looking Ibiza. The Fabia remains a strong contender nonetheless.
The dowdy, conservative image of the previous Clio has been shed for this attractive, stylish and fairly practical fourth-generation supermini. It's been done without losing its French traits of fluent handling and agility, while the Renault Sport versions of the Clio are typically riotous to drive.
It is not the most vivacious or compact supermini on sale today, but it is another solid effort from Honda.
The Jazz is simply and cleverly packaged, with its rear 'magic' seats tucking neatly out of the way when folded and offering something genuinely unique to this segment. It’s also fairly attractive to look at and handles reasonably well too.
Where the Jazz fails to impress is with its naturally aspirated 1.3-litre engine, which needs to worked very hard to make any headway, while the infotainment system is complicated to use.
The second-generation car looks similar to the original, but with a bolder black grille, which is good because the DS3 is still snappy to drive while the go-faster Performance version distils the essence of a true hot hatch. But there are down sides, particularly its ride and refinement, which aren’t great and fall behind the best in class, while its infotainment system is too convoluted to use compared to the slick systems found in Volkswagen Group cars.