The never-ending wave of new SUVs might suggest otherwise, but the most popular type of car across Europe is still the B-segment hatchback, otherwise known as the supermini. 2021 didn’t see any significant new models introduced, but there have been a fair few facelifts which have shaken up the rankings somewhat, with the Volkswagen Polo, Seat Ibiza and Mini Hatchback all receiving updates.
To make our top 10 list at all these days, a supermini needs to be so much more than just capable of carrying a couple of adults, a couple of kids and a decent amount of luggage. It must be desirable, well-packaged, easy-to-drive and pleasant-to-use.
A dynamic character that mixes in some simple agility, litheness and driver appeal is one route to standing out, but it’s now only one among several. Increasingly superminis offer a level of perceived quality, performance and technological sophistication that bears comparison with that of bigger hatchbacks; and the very best combine some or all of that with the agility only a small, light car can offer.
1. Seat Ibiza
The fifth-generation Seat Ibiza stormed to the top of our supermini class rankings when it appeared in 2018 and has had a very successful facelift in 2021. The Spanish company went to great lengths to replace the decent fourth-generation Ibiza with a handsome hatchback backed by real substance. It was the first of the Volkswagen Group's latest breed of MQB-based small hatchbacks – and since the recent facelift, it’s also the best.
Mimicking the bigger Seat Leon in many ways, the Ibiza is roomy, well equipped and much better finished than before. Combine that with its fine on-road handling and refinement manners, its value-for-money position, its impressive equipment features and its youthful styling, and it all adds up to a class-leading proposition for us.
It’s not quite as entertaining to drive as the Ford, but it’s close, and since the recent update, the interior is much-improved, with more soft-touch materials, a more interesting dashboard design and Seat’s latest infotainment system (even if it can be buggy on some cars).
The Ibiza is our current class leader because it is a more rounded, upmarket ownership proposition than the Ford, but still more fun to drive than the Polo and it has a nicer interior than either of them.