Big city life offers big benefits like access to the best entertainment and shopping, plus walkable streets and public transit. While some city dwellers opt for no car at all thanks to apps like Uber and Lyft, many still need their own wheels for work or escaping the city on the weekends. With all the perks of city living also come drawbacks like traffic congestion, parking shortages, and pedestrian dangers. Some of these challenges simply come with the territory, but the right vehicle can make them much less of a headache.
Nowadays, you don't need to own a smart car or FIAT 500 to have the ideal city car. While we don't necessarily recommend a full-size pickup truck for everyday city driving, you can get a spacious sedan or SUV that will navigate city traffic and parallel park like nobody's business. For this list of city cars, we looked for vehicles that offered the following features:
- Manageable exterior size and respectable cargo space: For easy maneuvering in traffic and fitting into parking garages while remaining practical
- Available Active Safety technology: To make sure you can see pedestrians, cyclists and other hazards on the road and stay out of harm's way
- Available Parking Assist technology: So you can squeeze into that tiny parallel parking spot with some help from gizmos
1. Volkswagen Golf
The Volkswagen Golf is a compact hatchback that will be right at home in an urban setting. It is loaded with downtown-ready safety features including optional blind-spot monitor, forward collision warning, front automated emergency braking, front parking sensors, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic monitor and rear parking sensors. For extra protection in the event of pedestrians darting into traffic, VW offers an optional pedestrian monitoring system.
VW also has parking safety covered. Their Park Pilot and Park Assist features are both available for the Golf. The Park Pilot has visual and audio alerts to inform the driver when they are in too close proximity to another object while the Park Assist actually puts the vehicle in control to steer when parallel parking.
Starting MSRP: $20,910
2. Ford Escape
The Ford Escape may seem like a surprising choice for a city vehicle, but its safety tech and Active Parking Assist system allow you to safely drive and park on busy city streets without sacrificing passenger or cargo space. The Escape offers the Ford Safe and Smart Package which includes the Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert plus lane keeping and forward collision warning.
For parking peace of mind, the Escape can include the Active Park Assist which scans for a parallel parking spot that is large enough and helps steer you into the open spot. No more wondering "will I fit there?" again. When a car parks too close behind you, the Park-Out feature helps you shimmy out of the tight spot. If you need to back into a spot in a parking garage, the Reverse Perpendicular Parking feature makes sure you don't clip any pillars in the process.
An added bonus for Ford Escape owners is an innovative app called
Starting MSRP: $24,105
3. Chevy Malibu
This midsize sedan is designed to be agile enough to pass a bus or cyclist on a busy road but also spacious and luxurious on the inside to make sitting in city traffic bearable. The higher trim levels include safety features that will make your daily commute less of a stressor. These include Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
Going with the Premium trim for the Malibu gives you access to Chevy's Driver Confidence Package II. Its features include Front Automatic Braking, Electronic Park Brake. and Semi-Automatic Park Assist which locates a large enough parking space and steers the vehicle while it gives the driver commands for braking and acceleration.
Starting MSRP: $21,680
4. BMW X1
(image: BMW Group)
The BMW X1 is perfect for the movers and shakers that are owning city life. It looks great on the road, is fun to drive and offers plentiful cargo space. In terms of safety, its Driving Assistant package gives you all the essential tech for the unforeseen dangers lurking on city roads. These include Speed Limit Info and Lane Departure Warning, Approach Control Warning and Person Warning with Auto Braking.
You won't want to risk playing bumper cars as you parallel park in the X1 so BMW offers a parking assistant as part of its ConnectedDrive Driver Assistance system. When you drive below 35 mph, the system will scan for parallel spots that are large enough to fit the car, when the spot is found, the driver will turn on the indicator and the vehicle will steer itself into the spot while the driver controls acceleration and braking.
Starting MSRP: $33,900
5. Toyota Prius
The Toyota Prius isn't going to be the right car for everyone, but if you're looking to reduce your trips to the gas station where you're forced to pay city prices for fuel, the Prius can be a lifesaver. Not only is it great for fuel efficiency and compact enough for tight parking spots, it also comes with great safety and parking options. Toyota's Safety Sense Package for the Prius includes Pre-collision with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, and Automatic High Beams.
For parking assistance, the Prius has an available Intelligent Clearance Sonar which scans for stationary objects and alerts you if you're about to hit something while automatically applying the brakes. The Intelligent Parking Assist will control the steering as you parallel park.
Starting MSRP: $23,475
6. MINI Cooper Countryman
(image: BMW Group/MINI Cooper)
It can be difficult to stand out in a city with millions of other people but the MINI Countryman will help you do just that. It's as unique of a crossover as they come, and it offers a compact exterior with more room in the cabin than you'd expect from a MINI Cooper. It is also the largest model the brand sells. For the eco-minded city dweller, there's a plug-in hybrid option which raises the price of the vehicle but can save serious fuel money down the road.
The MINI Countryman comes standard with a backup camera and rear parking sensors. Optional safety features include Forward Collision Warning and Front Automated Braking. Active Park Assist and Front Parking Sensors are optional additions to make parking woes a thing of the past.
Starting MSRP: $26,900
7. Jeep Compass
Although the Jeep brand is mostly known for its off-road prowess, the Jeep Compass is a compact SUV that fits in the city just as well as it does in the mountains. In addition to being a safe vehicle, it will help you trade in the concrete jungle for some unbeaten paths every now and then.
Safety features available on the Compass include a Blind Spot Monitoring System so you can spot that overly-aggressive driver trying to cut you off, Lane Keep Assist and a triple threat of parking assist options.
The Parkview Rear back up camera shows you gridlines and a center line for your vehicle when in reverse to help you safely back into a spot. The ParkSense Rear Park Assist System detects obstacles behind the vehicle and guides you into the spot without risking any dents or dings. Finally, there's Rear Cross Path Detection which helps you leave a parking spot safely by alerting you if there's another vehicle or object in your path.
Starting MSRP: $21,585