Best Used Cars and SUVs for City Driving

Consumer Reports can help you find an affordable, reliable vehicle

chicago iStock-871461452

If you're a city dweller, owning a car can be a pain. But if your dreams about escaping to the country on weekends and grocery shopping in the suburbs outweigh the trouble, you’ll want a vehicle that meets your specific needs.

These days, your options might be limited. A global shortage of microchips has kept automakers from building enough new cars to meet demand. As a result, there aren't many new cars on dealer lots, and prices have skyrocketed.

Even in normal times, buying a used car is a smart choice—especially in the city. Insuring a car that’s parked in the city can be pricey, so you may want to consider a vehicle that’s a few years old to save money. Plus, an older car might already have a few minor scratches, so you won’t feel as bad when someone inevitably dings your bumper while parallel parking.

Here’s what Consumer Reports looked for to narrow down our list of the best used cars for people who live in a city:

• A tight turning radius. The lower the number, the better for tight turns. We only chose cars that could do a U-turn within 38 feet.
The right size. Small enough to park but big enough to carry your stuff and your passengers. Our picks range between 176 and 180 inches in length.
Good city gas mileage. You'll probably get stuck in traffic, so we ruled out vehicles with bad fuel economy for city driving.
A decent ride. Using our own test data, we focused on cars that could absorb potholes on city streets and smooth out rough highway pavement.
At least average reliability. You don’t want to end up with someone else’s headache. So we only chose cars with at least average overall reliability for its model year.


Still, sticking with our list of used cars is only the first step. If you’re shopping for a car that’s 5 years old, you should take a few more considerations into account:

• It probably won’t have automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection. This technology uses sensors to automatically apply brakes and can prevent low-speed collisions with pedestrians or other vehicles. Although the technology is common now, it was much more rare in 2015, and usually only available on expensive trims.
• It may not have a backup camera. Backup cameras are now standard on all cars, but they used to be optional on lower-cost trims. They help with parallel parking, especially on vehicles with designs that hinder rearward visibility, so check the specific car you’re buying.
• The original manufacturer’s warranty may have expired. A certified pre-owned vehicle from a dealership may have additional warranty coverage, but beware of what it does and doesn’t cover. And you’ll want to read our warnings about extended warranties before you pay extra for one. No matter what, you can trust CR’s exclusive reliability ratings to help you choose a vehicle that probably won’t need expensive repairs in the first place. Learn more about how CR measures reliability.
• A year can make a big difference. A lot of top-rated compact cars got major updates between the 2015 and 2016 model years that improved handling, reduced noise, and added safety features. We’ll tell you what to look out for.
• The infotainment system might not have the latest features. Most will play music over Bluetooth, but only a handful of cars from this era can get dealer upgrades that add Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
• Some cars fit kids better than others. Make sure to read a car's full CR road-test results to find out how many child car seats can fit and how easy it is to install them.

A few of these models include our new Green Choice designation, which highlights the vehicles with the cleanest emissions. You can read more about Green Choice here.

If you’re a Consumer Reports member, the list below is available to you. CR members can also have full access to the results of our Annual Auto Surveys; first-drive reviews of the newest cars, SUVs, and trucks; and our full road tests and exclusive ratings for each vehicle we buy.

If you're not a CR member, click below to join and see the full list of the best used cars for people who live in a city. As a CR member, you also get access to our exclusive ratings and reviews for every product that we buy and test, including cars, grills, mobile phones, and flat-screen TVs.

Become a member to read the full article and get access to digital ratings.

We investigate, research, and test so you can choose with confidence.