Best Japanese used cars 2019

Reliable, great value high-tech: the best Japanese used cars are some of the most desirable on the market

James Wilson
Mar 13, 2019

Japanese used cars are some of the most popular on UK roads and for good reason. They are reliable, practical and, in many cases, still have several years of manufacturer warranty to run.

It doesn’t end there either. You want a car which can show a clean pair of Getas to other road users? No problem, Japan has produced some of the finest performance cars in history - the Toyota 2000GT even appeared in the Bond film, You Only Live Twice. Luxury you say? Again, no problem. Lexus and Infiniti (for now) make vehicles specifically for those who like a car to err on the side of opulence.

Most recently though, Japanese brands (including Nissan, Toyota and Mitsubishi) have taken the lead in the race to electrification, with hybrid cars that combine a battery and conventional engine, as well as full electric models, such as the Nissan Leaf.

As a nation famed for its love of gadgets, it's no surprise that many Japanese cars come with great levels of equipment, with high-end sound systems, touchscreens that integrate smoothly with your phone and assistance systems, such as adaptive cruise control that can accelerate and brake the car automatically to maintain a safe distance from vehicles in front.

From the affordable Suzuki Swift, to the luxurious and tall Lexus RX sport utility vehicle (SUV), there is a Beast from the East for us all.

Best Japanese used cars

1. Lexus RX

Best Japanese used car for reliability and warranty

Our pick Lexus RX 450h Luxury
Latest Lexus RX deals from £19,500
Finance from £357 per month

If there's a car customer satisfaction survey to be published, then the chances are that Lexus will dominate the top ten. Buyers really rate the brand's quality and reliability, and it's often the RX that gets the best score of all Lexus models. If that's not enough reassurance, every Lexus includes a four-year warranty as standard, although this is limited to the first 50,000 miles.

The RX sits at the top of the Lexus SUV range and is available with 7 seats in the RX L should you need them. The latest model in particular, which went on sale in 2015, comes with plenty of gadgets comfortable ride and hybrid / petrol power for improved fuel economy - particularly on shorter and slower journeys. It makes a compelling purchase for family motorists and company car users alike. It's not cheap to buy, but the hybrid system helps to deliver real-world fuel economy of around 40mpg, which isn't bad for a big petrol-powered SUV.
Lexus RX buying guide


2. Suzuki Swift

Best Japanese used car for those on a shoestring budget

Our pick Suzuki Swift SZ-T
Latest Suzuki Swift deals from £4,790
Finance from £97 per month

The Suzuki Swift goes about being a small a little differently from rivals such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. It may not feel as upmarket as others in the sector, but that’s because it isn’t trying to be.

Instead, the Swift is pitched at those looking for a characterful car that's excellent value for money. Prices when new are around £3,000 less than the Fiesta and those savings are passed onto the used car market as well. Even opting for an entry-level SZ3 model doesn’t mean you will be driving round as a spartan Martin. Bluetooth, air conditioning and fuel economy of up to 55mpg are on offer.
Suzuki Swift buying guide


3. Nissan Micra

Best Japanese used car for low running costs

Our pick Nissan Micra Acenta
Latest Nissan Micra deals from £4,700
Finance from £91 per month

Previous generation Nissan Micras were reserved for those on their way to an over 60s pilates class, but the latest generation (launched in 2017) is positively desirable. It comes with healthy amounts of equipment including the option of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can access phone apps on the touchscreen; an interior of decent quality; and a reasonably comfortable and composed driving experience.

Micras in Tekna guise sit at the top of the range and can be a little pricey, with Acenta models offering a better balance of cost and standard equipment. Models from 2017 are now dipping below the £9,000 barrier, but if you want a nearly new model with hardly any miles, you will need to pay almost list price.
Nissan Micra buying guide


4. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Best Japanese used car for economy

Our pick Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Juro
Latest Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV deals from £12,750
Finance from £202 per month

Last year, the Mitsubishi PHEV was the best-selling plug-in hybrid car in Britain, thanks to its extremely low carbon dioxide emissions that help to reduce the cost of company car tax. It was updated in 2015 and again 2018, the latter resulting in an Outlander PHEV with better performance and electric range than ever. The car's battery packed needs to be plugged in for a full charge. Once complete, it can drive on electric power alone, for between 20 to 25 miles.

All models are roomy and well-equipped and it is this, the great economy and low emissions that has helped keep sales of the Outlander going. Early 2015 models cost from £12,750 on BuyaCar, with finance from £202per month. Nearly-new models start at £32,995
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV buying guide


5. Toyota Prius

Best Japanese used car for technology lovers

Our pick Toyota Prius Active
Latest Toyota Prius deals from £14,700
Finance from £163 per month

The Toyota Prius isn’t just packed with technology on the inside. Its hybrid system under the bonnet has been tweaked and tuned for two decades to deliver excellent fuel economy, whether you;re driving in town or taking a long motorway trip.

Depending on your driving habits, there are two types of Prius. One has a bigger battery that can be plugged in for several miles of electric-only motoring. The other, standard Prius, can't be plugged in. Its battery is recharged using energy usually lost to braking, and the motors are mainly used to reduce the load on the engine during acceleration. The former is great for those who can make use of charging the batteries, as the more you run on electricity alone the better economy you will get.

The latest generation went on sale in 2014, and there are subtle styling differences between the plug-in and standard hybrid. Both models are comfortable and quiet.
Toyota Prius buying guide


6. Infiniti Q50

Best Japanese used car for mile munchers

Our pick Infiniti Q50 Premium

Nissan's luxury brand, Infiniti, hasn't really caught on in Europe and the company has decided to pull the plug and stop sales next year.

The cars aren't at all bad, though, and the lack of demand means that you should be able to pick up a high-end model for much less than an equivalent BMW or Audi.

For those doing lots of miles a diesel is still a great option and the Mercedes-sourced 2.2-litre unit is ideally suited to going up and down motorways. All models come well equipped. The only thing the Q50 has against it is the driving experience: it can feel heavy and lumbering in corners.. Venture onto a B road and you will quickly learn why the 3 Series outsells the Q50 by quite some margin.


7. Honda Civic

Best Japanese used car for ferrying families

Our pick Honda Civic SR
Latest Honda Civic deals from £5,997
Finance from £120 per month

The design of the latest Honda Civic, which went on sale in 2017, might not be for everyone, but behind those slanted headlights are the same qualities that have made the Civic a hit for four decades.

It is practical, comfy, well-equipped and reasonably good fun to drive. Second-hand prices start around £13,000, making it good value too. All cars come relatively well equipped and if you buy one, you will be buying a car that was built in Britain.
Honda Civic buying guide


8. Subaru BRZ

Best Japanese used car for driving pleasure

Our pick Subaru BRX SE Lux

The Subaru BRZ is the virtually identical, yet much less common, twin of the Toyota GT86. It is a driver-focused sports car which aims to put a smile on your face every time you let it loose on the road. They are well equipped too, with cruise control, air conditioning, sat nav and limited slip differential available. The latter helping you use the power of the engine without spinning the wheels.

Prices for used BRZs are holding pretty well, but £20,000 will be enough to get you a low mileage two-year-old model. Strong used car values aren’t likely to change either, as rivals for the BRZ are rarer than hen’s teeth.


9. Nissan Leaf

Best Japanese used car for the silent revolution

Our pick Nissan Leaf Acenta
Latest Nissan Leaf deals from £8,000
Finance from £156 per month

The Nissan Leaf is one of the most compelling candidates for everyday motorists looking to swap from a petrol to an electric car. Thoroughly overhauled in 2018, the latest generation has an official range of 168 miles on one charge (expect around 140 in real-world driving) or 239 miles for the new e+ version with a bigger battery.

You will be treated to more tech than you can shake an iPad at, particularly more expensive models which include Propilot advanced driver assistance systems. The driving experience which is comfy and relaxing – the latter taken even further with Nissan’s e-pedal feature, taking away the need to use the brake pedal in the majority of motoring situations.

For this level of EV excellence you will need around £23,000 for a current-generation car. Should that be too much, previous generation models start around the £10,000 mark, but come with less range amongst other things.
Nissan Leaf buying guide


10. Toyota RAV4

Best Japanese used car for comfort and versatility

Our pick Toyota RAV4 Icon
Latest Toyota RAV4 deals from £10,790
Finance from £200 per month

The RAV4 is one of the few SUVs that was on sale before SUVs were the car to have. A new generation will start hitting UK roads this year, but the outgoing model is still an excellent car to own.

Ideally suited to those who put comfort and versatility above all else, the RAV4 comes with a 547-litre boot and enough head and leg room for three passengers to sit comfortably in the back.

Used prices vary greatly, with lower spec, higher mileage 2014 models starting around the £12,000 mark. While higher spec, lower mileage models creep into the low £30,000s. Irrespective of the model you opt for all come well equipped, with DAB radio, air conditioning and cruise control included as standard.
Toyota RAV4 buying guide


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