Cars with the tightest turning circles

Need a manoeuvrable car with a tight turning circle to negotiate tricky driveways or other small spaces? Check out the sharpest turning cars

James Wilson
Aug 4, 2022
Fiat 500C Electric front three quarters view

Cars with tight turning circles can make driving far less stressful. Yes, they are great for a quick u-turn but their usefulness does not end there. A tight turning circle means that navigating everywhere from the gym car park to the school drop off gets easier. Parallel parking can become less of a stress, too.

Many drivers appreciate tight turning circles - some even need them out of necessity, including drivers of black cabs, which are able to turn particularly sharply. When looking at turning circles, it is important to understand the difference between ‘kerb to kerb’ and ‘wall to wall’ figures.

Kerb to kerb refers to the tightest turn a car can do between two kerbs, while wall to wall is the same but between walls. As the wheels of a car aren’t normally the furthest forward part (as the bumpers stick out), kerb to kerb measurements are slightly lower but less useful, as the bodywork of the car sticks out further than this figure, which is a problem when trying to turn between higher obstacles, such as walls.

A less common measurement for how sharply a car can turn is the ‘turning radius’, which is effectively half of the turning circle dimension, so make sure to remember that this is half of the relevant real-world figure of how tightly you can turn the car.

Generally speaking, cars with tight turning circles are short cars, although there are some exceptions. With that in mind, below are eight models with the smallest possible turning circles, although some are relative to cars of their type. For example, there is a large SUV, which for such a big car has a great turning circle but doesn’t impress much when compared to the smaller cars in the list.

Cars with the tightest turning circles

1. Renault Twingo

Our pick Renault Twingo 0.9 TCe Dynamique
Used deals from £5,799
Monthly finance from £132*

If quirky looks are high up on your ‘small car with a tight turning circle’ shopping list, then the Renault Twingo is a great option. Part of the reason it looks the way it does is because of where the engine is located. Instead of being at the front, it is kept under the boot floor, which helps reduce the length of the bonnet and maximises how spacious the cabin is. So much so that there is seating for five, which is more than four-seater rivals like the Peugeot 108 can offer.

Another benefit to having an engine in the boot is that the front wheels aren’t connected to the engine so their main task is steering. This allows the wheels to be turned further into the car's body, which therefore makes the turning circle smaller. Nifty stuff.

The Twingo is also quite narrow, making it great for threading through tight city streets and parking in small spaces. Are there any downsides? At 188 litres, the boot is relatively small - partly thanks to having the engine below it - which is the equivalent of a medium suitcase less than rivals.

RENAULT TWINGO BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Toyota iQ

Our pick Toyota iQ 1.0 VVT-i '2'
Used deals Limited stock

The first time you see the Toyota iQ in the real world it can look almost comical, due to how small it is. The only other car of comparable size is the Smart car, but the Toyota is more practical as it has seats for four. Truth be told, the cabin would be cramped with four people in it, but for occasional use the rear seats are a handy addition.

Toyota designed the iQ to be perfect for city and town use with features such as a tight turning circle, frugal petrol engines and lightweight controls. The latter might seem trivial, but when driving in lots of stop/start traffic, a heavy clutch will get tiring fast.

If you are concerned about how safe such a small car can be, the iQ comes with an impressive number of airbags - nine to be precise - including a rear windscreen airbag, which helps protect passengers in the event of a rear-end shunt from another vehicle.

3. Smart ForTwo

Our pick Smart EQ ForTwo 17kWh Pulse Premium
Used deals from £7,200
Monthly finance from £183*

What many people simply know as ‘the Smart car’ is officially called the ‘Smart ForTwo’. It gets its name from the fact that it is designed for just two people. It is slightly smaller than the iQ above but is a very similar type of car. The Smart ForTwo comes with a tight turning circle and it has lightweight controls. There are some big differences, though, such as the Smart being available with a frugal petrol engine and as a fully electric car.

Battery-powered models have quite a short range of up to 81 miles from a full charge, so are best suited to drivers who rarely drive outside of towns or cities. This is no hardship, as electric cars like the Smart ForTwo are very well suited to stop/start journeys because they come with automatic gearboxes and regenerative braking helps top up the battery in stop/start traffic.

There are other small electric cars that have more than 200 miles of range from a full charge - such as the Renault Zoe - but these are typically larger, have wider turning circles and are normally more expensive.

SMART FORTWO BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Mazda MX-5

Our pick Mazda MX-5 1.5 Sport Nav
Used deals from £12,987
Monthly finance from £200*

As the sporty Mazda MX-5 proves, cars with tight turning circles can be fast, fun and rather desirable. The reason the MX-5 has such a tight turning circle is two-fold. Number one, it is actually quite a small car, although there is ample space for two, numerous cubby holes and the boot is big enough for a weekend’s worth of luggage.

The second reason for the tight turning circle is that the Mazda is rear-wheel-drive. As the front wheels aren't connected to the engine, it's possible for them to turn more sharply, reducing the turning circle. The MX-5 is one of the best cars to drive on a twisty 60mph road, as it is great at zipping around corners and the exhaust has a nice sporty rasp to it. What’s more, Mazda has a good track record for building reliable cars, so you need not worry that the MX-5 is going to fall apart at a moment's notice.

MAZDA MX-5 BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Honda e

Our pick Honda e Advance
Used deals from £27,500
Monthly finance from £481*

In the world of electric cars, the Honda e sits as a rather funky option for anyone in need of a small car, not least for its retro but modern styling. Aside from looks, the Honda comes with neat features like door handles that pop out of the bodywork, large driver and media screens spanning the dashboard and stylish wooden trim. None of these are particularly revolutionary but they aren’t very common on a car this size.

Then again, the Honda e is quite expensive to buy new when compared to similar petrol cars, like the Mini Hatchback. Second-hand models are less expensive, but they are still on the pricey side. Honda has packed the e with lots of technology and useful features - there is even a regular household socket and HDMI port, so you could connect a games console and use the media display to play videogames.

READ MORE ABOUT THE HONDA E

6. Fiat 500 Electric

Our pick Fiat 500 Electric Icon
Used deals Limited stock

If you are on the hunt for a small, stylish, fully electric car that has enough range to tackle longer out-of-town trips, then the latest version of the Fiat 500 definitely needs to be on your shortlist. With an official range of up to 199 miles, the Fiat can go considerably further than one of its biggest rivals, the electric Mini (with a claimed range of 143 miles) but not as far as others, such as the Renault Zoe (which can travel up to 238 miles per charge).

Official range figures for electric cars are best viewed as best case scenarios, as there are a huge number of factors that impact how many miles a driver can actually achieve. In colder weather, for example, the range will be significantly reduced, as the batteries aren't able to run as efficiently as normal, but in lots of stop/start traffic it can be possible to exceed the office range.

The electric Fiat 500 comes with a chic cabin that has the option of some great technology, including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Higher spec models come with a 10.3-inch touchscreen media system, which is one of the best systems available in a car of this size.

FIAT 500 ELECTRIC BUYERS' GUIDE

7. BMW i3

Our pick BMW i3 120Ah
Used deals from £16,490
Monthly finance from £317*

The i3 is a small but striking and upmarket electric car and thanks to the very narrow wheels fitted - to boost how far it can travel on a charge - it offers a very tight turning circle.  Handily, the i3 was launched way back in 2013, so there are a number of affordable older models available which can be scooped up for a fraction of the cost of a newer i3. Despite having been around for much longer than other cars on this list, the BMW still looks very modern, with its high-tech yet retro interior ageing particularly well.

It pays to do some research when getting an i3, though, as there have been a number of upgrades over the years. The most important are the changes to the battery. We’d suggest looking for a model with a ‘94Ah’ battery pack or, if your budget stretches, a ‘120Ah’ model.

These numbers correspond to the size of the battery and the bigger the better when it comes to range per charge. With the largest battery pack the i3 is claimed to be able to cover up to 193 miles on a full charge, but there is also the i3 REx, which has a small petrol generator onboard that can be used to boost range, kicking in to keep the electric motor running if the batteries run out of charge.

BMW I3 BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Volkswagen Touareg

Volkswagen Touareg front three quarters view

Our pick Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI R-Line Tech
Used deals from £29,765
Monthly finance from £450*

Compared to the rest of the cars on this lis,t the VW Touareg has a large turning circle, but relative to most similarly sizable cars, the VW has a particularly compact turning circle. This is because the large VW is offered with rear-wheel steering - sometimes referred to as four-wheel steering. Not to be confused with four-wheel drive, this system means that the rear wheels of a car can turn to help with manoeuvrability.

The wheels don’t turn nearly as much as the front ones but even a small amount can drastically cut down the car's turning circle. Rear-wheel steering can also make a car more stable at high speeds, for example when changing lanes on the motorway. What else does the Touareg have to offer? Quite a lot, really. The cabin is high quality, there is plenty of space up front and in the back and the suspension absorbs bumps in the road very well, so long journeys should be comfortable affairs.

VOLKSWAGEN TOUAREG BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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