For years and years and years, buying a small car meant buying a budget car. If you wanted something flash and fancy, you had to go big.

Nowadays, not so much.

Luxury car manufacturers are falling over each other trying to enter the small car market. Audi has their A1, Mercedes has their A-Class, BMW has their 1 Series and so on.

There's also movement at the lower end of the market where normal marquees are trying to jazz up their core cars and pitch them to a more affluent audience. (Ford, I'm looking at you.)

In this blog, I've rounded up my six favourite luxury small cars that you can lease through LeaseFetcher. So have a read and let me know what you think in the comments!

Way back in 1997, the first Mercedes-Benz A-Class rolled off the assembly line. It looked, in a word, awful. It was like you’d taken a proper Mercedes and had driven it into a wall. Everything looked squished and awkward and nothing like a Mercedes should.

Despite its woeful looks, they shifted 1.1 million first-generation A-Class cars between 1997 and 2004. It wasn’t a runaway success but, I guess, it was a pretty impressive campaign for Mercedes' first punt in the hatchback market.

When Mercedes announced they were going to update the A-Class in 2004, there was a real buzz in the industry. Would they ditch the hideous styling and turn the A-Class into a proper pint-sized Merc?

Nope.

They took a picture of a Ford Galaxy, traced the outline and slapped a Mercedes badge on the front. It just just uuurgh.

After so much disappointment, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about the 2012 relaunch.

But then I saw it.

The third generation A-Class is exactly what it should have been way back in 1997.

It’s hatchback but it’s a hatchback designed and built by Mercedes. It’s got the right grille, the right lines and the right feel. It looks like it belongs in a Mercedes showroom!

Usually our short reviews tell you about the car but I seem to have used most of this one for backstory. So let me quickly recap what’s good about the new A-Class.

Styling? Great. Engines? Brilliant. Driving experience? Engineered to perfection. Seriously, what more could you want?

52 viewed this car A Class Hatchback (2015)

Mercedes-Benz A Class Hatchback (2015)

4 derivatives available

  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 1.5 - 2.1
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 89 - 162g/km

From £180.87 Per Month

Initial Rental: £1,627.83 inc VAT

Ignoring the pint-sized all-electric BMW i3, the BMW 1 Series is the smallest Beemer on the market.

From the outside, the it ticks all the boxes. It’s a great looking small car that copies the mean aesthetic on most other Beemers.

And while older 1 Series models caught a bit of flack for a lacklustre cabin, the newer iterations have improved quite a bit. The design is slick and the wheel, gearstick, handbrake and dials all feel really weighty and premium to use.

Some drivers have complained about some cheap-looking plastics on the dash but there wasn’t really anything that jumped out at me personally.

There’s a bunch of petrol engines on offer with turbos kicking in after the 1.5-litre petrol unit. Every petrol option is lively and even the entry-level BMW 118i will blast from 0-62mph in under nine seconds. That's damn impressive for an entry-level hatch!

On the diesel side of things, you’ve got four options and they are all super solid units that manage a punchy drive with decent fuel efficiency.

Where the 1 Series pulls away from the pack, however, is when you’re sat behind the wheel threading the car through twisty turns. It’s just more fun than other cars on the list, which is partly due to its rear-wheel drive setup and partly due to the outstanding work of BMW's engineers.

So if you’re looking for a small car that’ll put a smile on your face while you whiz round twisty B roads, this is your car!

271 viewed this car 1 Series Hatchback (2015) View Gallery
7.4

BMW 1 Series Hatchback (2015)

70 derivatives available

  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 1.5 - 3.0
  • Fuel: D, P
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 89 - 198g/km

From £208.79 Per Month

Initial Rental: £1,879.11 inc VAT

Volvo is a weird company. Under Ford’s leadership, it got itself stuck in a downward spiral and all but disappeared from the public consciousness for most of the noughties.

But since it was sold to Geely in 2009, Volvo has rediscovered its mojo and has brought out some outstanding motors in the last few years.

The Volvo V40 is one of those outstanding motors.

From the outside, it's a great looking car. It’s got the same sort of feel as the wedge-shaped Ford Fiesta but everything is a bit more intricate, especially on the front.

Since Volvo began work on the V40 back in the Ford-ownership days, the V40 shares much of its platform with the Ford Focus. (If you’re a dullard like me, that’s the Global C Ford Focus platform.)

And that Focus DNA gives it a lively feel on the road. Its steering is tight and accurate and the ride is firm and precise. Toss the V40 into corners and it’ll put a smile on your face just like the Focus does!

Under the bonnet, you’ve got a decent choice of engines with three diesels (120bhp D2, 150bhp D3 and 190bhp D4) and three petrols (122bhp T2, 152bhp T3 and 245bhp T5). Every engine — bar the T5 — is available with either an automatic or manual gearbox.

Even when you put the V40 up against the fanciest of the bunch — Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class and BMW 1 Series — it more than holds its own.

All in all, the V a great car and deserves your consideration if you’re looking for a luxury small car that doesn't break the bank.

302 viewed this car V40 Hatchback View Gallery
7.4

Volvo V40 Hatchback

80 derivatives available

  • Doors: 5
  • Engine: 0.0 - 2.5
  • Fuel: D, P
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 88 - 194g/km

From £143.98 Per Month

Initial Rental: £1,295.82 inc VAT

As the smallest model in the German giant’s lineup, the Audi A1 is a pint-sized distillation of everything great about marquee.

On the outside, it oozes German sophistication with a big grille, sharp lines and angry headlights.

Inside, you might expect the A1 to lag behind its competition — after all, it was launched way back in 2010 — but it doesn’t. The design is premium, the tech is bang up-to-date, the materials are all satisfyingly luxury and the build quality is up there with nuclear reactors and space satellites.

On the road, Audi's opted to keep the A1 tight, taught and firm.

It'll stay perfectly flat through the tightest of corners, which gives it a super sporty feel. Unfortunately, the firm ride does compromise the comfort and if the roads get rough or bumpy, you’ll know all about it.

If you like that sort of highly-tuned, highly-strung ride, the A1 is perfect. If, however, you’d prefer something a little gentler and more relaxing, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.

Engine choice is limited with one 1.6-litre TDi diesel and a handful of petrol engines on offer. The lack of choice isn’t necessarily a bad thing though as there aren’t any duds in the lightweight lineup.

For style-conscious drivers, the Audi A1 is a fantastic option that looks sensational and drives like a (sporty) dream.

76 viewed this car A1 Hatchback

Audi A1 Hatchback

0 derivatives available

  • Doors: 3
  • Engine: 1.0 - 2.0
  • Fuel: D, P
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: 97 - 166g/km

From £185.66 Per Month

Initial Rental: £1,113.96 inc VAT

It’s no secret that we love the Ford Fiesta. It’s fun and efficient and fun and practical and fun and great-looking and fun and affordable. Oh, did I mention that it’s fun?

Now, Ford has a number of trims for the Fiesta, ranging from the basic Zetec to the fancy Titanium X. However, even at the highest trim the Fiesta isn't what you’d call luxury. And that’s where the Ford Fiesta Vignale comes in.

Vignale is Ford’s luxury badge and it’s only currently available on the Mondeo, S-Max, Kuga and now the Fiesta.

The idea with the Vignale badge is to keep what makes the underlying car special but up the fashionability and desirability. It’s still a Ford but it’s a Ford that can trade punches with Audis and Beemers.

Looking at the Fiesta Vignale, not a lot has changed. Ford’s engineers have retained much of the Fiesta design with a reserved scattering of chrome highlights around the headlights and windows. The biggest change is probably the iconic Fiesta grille, which they have replaced with a sensationally swish satin-effect metal mesh.

While it will stand out if parked next to a normal Fiesta, the Fiesta Vignale version fares less well when you compare it genuinely premium cars like the Audi, Mercedes, Beemer and even the Volvo.

Internally, it's a better story. A chunky Bang and Olufsen speaker system gives the car an excellent soundtrack and the eight-inch infotainment panel is everything you could want. The design, dominated by dark leathers and soft-touch plastics, feels premium and everything moves with a satisfying weighty clunk.

There’s a decent number of engines on offer, ranging from the pokey 70bhp 1.1-litre petrol all the way up to the 140bhp 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol. There’s also a couple diesels in there too.

From what we’ve heard, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost is the best of the bunch. Cruise at motorway speeds at a touch under 2,500rpm or dart through traffic with the extra uumph of the turbo.

Even with all the extra Vignale kit loaded onto the chassis, including a chunky panoramic sunroof, you’ll manage upwards of 50mpg if you’re commuting and between 40 and 50 mpg if you’re on twisty B roads.

All in all, the Fiesta is an admirable effort from Ford to bring the wonderful Fiesta to a new market. Unfortunately, unless your a die hard Ford fan, it's difficult to pick it over, say, the BMW 1 Series or even the Volkswagen Golf.

(Note: we didn't have any pictures of the Fiesta Vignale so you'll have to make do with a normal Fiesta. Next time we're out testing a Ford, we'll try and get a proper picture!)

47 viewed this car Fiesta Vignale Hatchback View Gallery
7.3

Ford Fiesta Vignale Hatchback

8 derivatives available

  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 1.0 - 1.5
  • Fuel: P, D
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: A, M
  • CO2: 107 - 127g/km

From £197.83 Per Month

Initial Rental: £1,186.98 inc VAT

Go find a dictionary and look up ‘hot hatch’ right now. Is there a picture next to definition? Is it the Volkswagen Golf? Probably not because most dictionaries don’t have pictures but if they did it totally would be!

But the Golf R isn’t just any old Golf.

Oh, no.

The Golf R is Volkswagen’s new, better, faster, cooler hot hatch version of the Golf.

Thankfully, they resisted the urge to do the stereotypical hot hatch thing and whack on a ridiculous aero kit on the back and an exhaust the size of the Channel Tunnel underneath.

Instead, they’ve stayed pretty true to the original design and have carefully tweaked a couple of key areas.

Don’t let the discrete styling fool you though, the Golf R is a beast of a car.

With a 295 bhp 2.0-litre TSi petrol under the bonnet, it's an absolute hoot to drive. Blast from 0-60 mph in under five seconds and on to an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.

Toss in some tight steering, grippy all-wheel-drive and a firm ride and you’ve got yourself an unbelievable hot hatch that can handle itself on the straights and the corners.

If you’re looking for an understated pocket rocket that can hold its own in town, on the track and round B roads, you’ve found it.

(And, yes, we know that the card isn't for a Golf R but we don't have one yet. So deal with it.)

221 viewed this car Golf Hatchback View Gallery
7.7

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback

65 derivatives available

  • Doors: 3 - 5
  • Engine: 0.0 - 2.8
  • Fuel: D, P, X, E
  • Body: Hatchback
  • Drive: M, A
  • CO2: None

From £168.24 Per Month

Initial Rental: £1,514.16 inc VAT