Feature article

The top 5 small cars in NZ

Despite the prominence of SUVs and utes, small cars are very popular in NZ. We look at why and recommend 5 of the best.

While we love our utes and SUVs in NZ, there’s no doubt that big isn’t always beautiful and, in lots of cases, smaller cars rule the roost. Whether you’re using it for a city commute runaround, a sporty weekend whizz about, or for ferrying your small family here and there – loads of Kiwis are going petite. Here’s why, and five of your top small car options in NZ.

Small but perfectly formed

These are some of the things Kiwis love about small cars:

  • Fuel efficiency – generally speaking, when it comes to filling your tank, you’re going to get a heck of a lot more bang for your buck in a small car.
  • Convenience – there’s a versatility to a small car that appeals to practical Kiwis. Parking the vehicle is a lot less hassle, and you’re rarely going to be troubled by height restrictions.
  • Fun – the familiar phrase, “a fun little run-around” is used for good reason. Small cars can provide heaps of fun and innocent joy to the driver. It cuts out a lot of the distractions from driving and gets things down to brass tacks.

What should I look for in a small car?

To get the most out of your small car, you need to make sure it meets all of your requirements. It needs to have enough room for you and your regular number of passengers, ample room for whatever cargo you generally transport, driver and passenger comfort, and to keep you and your loved ones safe on the road.

5 of the best

We don’t like to discriminate, and there are heaps of amazing small car options in NZ, but here are five of our favourites.

Suzuki Swift

It’s hard to talk about small cars in NZ and not mention the Swift. Kiwis love this car, in both the sporty or standard version. It’s funky, it’s fun, it’s very affordable and reliable. In terms of safety, you really need to be looking at the New Zealand-new models from 2010 onwards, then you can count on a five star ANCAP safety rating. Older models are a lot more variable in their safety credentials. The Swift also doesn’t provide much in the way of boot space, so will only work for you if your cargo needs are on the light side. All of these factors combine to make the Swift most ideal as a commuter car or city run-around.

Toyota Corolla

The Corolla is not only one of NZ’s favourite compact cars, but it’s arguably numero uno all over the planet – ranking as one of the best selling cars in the world since as far back as 1974. This is quite simply one of the most reliable cars you can buy which, considering the generally excellent price you can pick one up for, is not to be sniffed at. Factor in that models from 2006 onwards offer a five star ANCAP safety rating – meaning you can drive with increased confidence and peace of mind.


There’s just something about the Mazda2 that we love. Could it be the exceptional fuel efficiency? Maybe the fact that it’s super reliable and rarely lets you down? Or perhaps it’s that it’s a little bit cool, rather sporty, but also an ideal first car? The UCSR give Mazda2 models from 2014 onwards an impressive 5 star safety rating, so its safety credentials aren’t shabby either. No wonder we see so many of these lovely little cars hooning around our roads.

Honda Jazz

Notable for having a pleasingly spacious interior for a small car and exceptional reliability, the Honda Jazz is an excellent small car. Even more notable are its safety ratings – models from 2014 onwards receiving the full five star treatment from both ANCAP and UCSR. It’s generally a little more expensive than some of the other cars we’ve featured, but the increased reliability and safety help to justify those extra dollars.

Volkswagen Golf

The VW Golf is something of an international icon. It’s also the most successful Volkswagen ever, which is some feat when you consider the other legendary cars in their ranks. The key thing to note with a Golf is that pretty much nobody regrets buying one. Also, models going as far back as 2009 achieve top of the class five star ratings from the UCSR. In a nutshell, the Golf is as reliable as your BFF, as steady as a sharpshooter’s handshake, and as safe as houses.

It’s a small world

There aren’t many places that offer terrain as varied as New Zealand, and it’s up to you how you choose to get around these incredible islands, but when it comes to town or city mobility and versatility, small cars will always make a compelling case. We believe the five referenced above are some of the best, but don’t be afraid to do your research and we’re sure you’ll find the perfect small car for you and your family.