Best second cars

Outgrown your first car and looking to move on to your second? Here are 10 great options whether you're after more space, power or style

James Wilson
Apr 30, 2020

Moving from your first to your second car is a major step - whether your first car saw you through your late teenage years, took you to university or simply helped you build your confidence behind the wheel. Second cars can bring an end to missing out on certain things through basic levels of equipment, underpowered engines and flimsy build quality.

Being an older and more experienced driver, insurance costs should also be much lower than when you got your first car and that means you have a much greater choice of cars - from super cheap-to-run small hatchbacks to something a little more sporty, spacious people carriers, electric cars and upmarket hatchbacks, allowing you to get a car that is more fit for purpose than what you had before.

Regardless of your motive for upgrading, there is a massive range of options out there. We don't just mean different makes and models either; nowadays you have a choice of all-electric, plug-in hybrid, self-charging hybrid and mild hybrid cars - in addition to traditional petrol and diesel models.

To help you navigate the labyrinth of options and find your best second car, we've picked out a number of options that meet a wide range of needs and desires. After thrills? No worries. Need seven-seats? Not a problem. So read on to find your next car, and click below to find out what you can afford to pay with car finance.

Best second cars

1. Mazda MX-5

Best second car for thrill-seekers

List price £23,795
Used deals from £12,498
Monthly finance from £196

Motorists with a few accident-free miles under their belt shouldn't have to worry so much about insurance, which opens the door to cars which are built with smiles per gallon in mind, rather than just miles per gallon. One of the best cars for this is Mazda’s MX-5. The first MX-5 launched around 30 years ago and the latest version is the best so far, blending the compact size and light weight of the original car with far more high-tech kit and a better insulated folding roof. Most of all, it's still a blast to drive.

The latest generation was launched in 2015 (a facelift came in 2018 which brought a new 2.0-litre petrol engine) so there are options for both new and used buyers. Of the two petrol engines on offer, one is a 1.5-litre unit that is fun to work hard, but still relatively economical, while the other is a more powerful 2.0-litre that picks up speed more easily, but doesn't quite feel as eager as the smaller engine.

MAZDA MX-5 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Peugeot 3008

Best second car for those now with kids

List price £25,865
Used deals from £11,499
Monthly finance from £194

Kids are for life, not just Christmas, which means motorists who are expecting their first child will likely need to upgrade from their first set of wheels to something that is bigger, safer and perhaps not held together by tape. Fortunately, Peugeot is on hand to supply such as car - the 3008 SUV.

The 3008 is up against a wide range of competition (take the Ford Kuga, VW Tiguan and Skoda Karoq as a few examples) but it shines thanks to being well-built, offering low running costs and boasting a cabin which is different in style and ready to do battle with messy kids, with a large boot for dealing with buggies and any other kit you need to cart around with you.

New and used options are available, which can come with petrol or diesel power (with manual and automatic gearboxes on offer). A good all-rounder is the 1.2-litre petrol. It may be small, but it's surprisingly powerful and economical. Meanwhile, a plug-in hybrid version of the 3008 will arrive shortly.

PEUGEOT 3008 BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Hyundai Kona Electric

Best second car for those looking to go electric

List price £25,865
Used deals from £25,780
Monthly finance from £379

More and more UK motorists are looking for a battery-powered car and Hyundai’s Kona Electric is one of the very best electric cars on sale. Granted, it's pricey new - though it's much better value as second-hand purchase - but the Kona Electric makes sense as a second car, with its low running costs and small, easy-to-drive dimensions.

Claimed range sits at 278 miles per charge, which - even taking into account the fact that official range figures can be hard to achieve on real roads (much like official petrol/diesel economy figures - it should provide more than enough range for most drivers' needs - even if you need to go on long trips from time to time.

On top of zero tailpipe emissions, the Kona Electric promises a well-built cabin and enough space for two adults or two kids seats in the outer rear seats. As with most of the current electric car market, technology is impressive. Negatives? The waiting list for new models isn’t what you would call short and the number of second-hand options is limited for now.

HYUNDAI KONA ELECTRIC BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Ford Fiesta ST

Best second car for those after a fun fast but cheap to run car

List price £20,700
Used deals Limited stock

Granted second car buyers are typically older, wiser and better paid (or sometimes, just paid) than first car buyers, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they want sky-high running costs and a huge car. They might just be after a little more get-up-and-go when they press the accelerator and a little more fun in corners. Fortunately, 'hot hatchbacks' - speedy, exciting versions of normal hatchbacks - should cover all the bases.

The Ford Fiesta ST is one of the best hot hatchbacks - and not just in terms of current models - of all time. It blends rapid acceleration, practicality (three- and five-door models are available), low running costs and lots of standard equipment in such a way few rivals can compete with. For those who really enjoy driving, Ford offers an optional performance pack which helps the car to put as much power down onto the road as possible without wheelspin. Whichever version you go for, though, it's great value new and ever better value as a used car.

FORD FIESTA ST BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer

Best second car for those who need more seats

List price £26,355
Used deals from £11,890
Monthly finance from £183

Fortunately, those looking for maximum practicality in a second car have the car gods on their side. With the increase in popularity of SUVs (sports utility vehicles) people carrier sales have taken a hit, so both new and used models represent cracking value.

One of the best seven-seaters on the market is Citroen’s Grand C4 SpaceTourer. This French fancy majors in practical touches - such as sliding middle seats and a substantial 793 litres of luggage space with the third row of seats folded into the boot floor, dropping to 165 litres with them in place. Petrol and diesel engines are available with manual and automatic gearboxes.

Thanks to the fact the Grand C4 SpaceTourer and older Grand C4 Picasso (which is basically identical apart from a few badges) have been on sale for a number of years, the second-hand market is a great source of bargains if you're after the maximum number of seats for the minimum monthly payment.

CITROEN GRAND C4 SPACETOURER BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Mercedes A-Class

Best second car for those after great voice controls

List price £23,710
Used deals from £14,962
Monthly finance from £210

Mercedes went to town with its latest A-Class, at least when it comes to technology. Opt for a model with the so-called 'MBUX' information and media system and you will be greeted by two 10-inch screens located on the dash, plus impressive voice controls, which make it easy to set the sat-nav, change music settings and several other commands - all without taking your hands off the wheel. Elsewhere there is a raft of other tech on offer, such as heated front seats and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

Mercedes offers the A-Class with petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid power, so there should be something for everyone. As the latest A-Class launched in 2018 the used market is filling up nicely aside from plug-in models, as deliveries for these only began in early 2020. If these are too pricey for you, however, the previous-generation model looks pretty similar and could still fit the bill - all with far lower cash prices and monthly payments.

MERCEDES A-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

7. BMW 3 Series

Best second car for those who cover a high mileage

List price £32,565
Used deals from £20,098
Monthly finance from £300

The BMW 3 Series drives well, offers plenty of kit and has an upmarket interior that more than matches up to the badge on the bonnet. Unusually for a car of this size, the 3 Series is equally adept at blasting down a twisty B Road as clocking up mile after mile on the motorway.

The latest generation 3 Series was launched in 2019 (meaning you'll have to wait a while for more used models to filter through) and reaffirmed the 3 Series as the car to beat.

BMW improved refinement, comfort, technology and also evolved the exterior design subtly. Like the Mercedes A-Class above, there are petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid variants on offer, so it's worth working out how many miles you plan to cover each year to see if it's worth paying a little more for a diesel or plug-in version to get much better fuel economy.

BMW 3 SERIES BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Toyota Corolla

Best second car for those who want a hybrid that doesn't need plugging in

List price £24,140
Used deals from £15,987
Monthly finance from £228

The Corolla used to be bland and forgettable, but the latest model - which replaces the similarly bland old Auris - features styling that has evolved from something that a frumpy middle-aged thimble collector would like to something a sophisticated younger driver might want to be seen in.

At the same time build quality is up, the ride is comfortable - yet the roadholding precise - and the self-charging hybrid system is one of the best available. On the subject of hybrids, Toyota initially offered buyers a petrol-only model but that has since been dropped. So if you want a newer Corolla, it must a hybrid, with two different versions available - one catering for those who want the greatest fuel economy and the other drivers after stronger performance.

While the petrol version can be bought as a used or nearly-new car with a manual gearbox, all hybrid models are automatic - which is common for petrol-electric models. If you are a little unsure as to what a self-charging hybrid is and whether it's the right type of car for you, then find out more about hybrid cars here.

TOYOTA COROLLA BUYERS' GUIDE

9. Ford Focus

Best second car for those who want a great all-rounder

List price £20,645
Used deals from £13,000
Monthly finance from £177

Ford’s Fiesta is the best selling car in the UK, but its larger stablemate, the Focus, is not actually that far behind. Why? Well, it manages to do pretty much everything anyone could want from a car surprisingly well. It looks good, it drives well, offers reasonable running costs and is relatively affordable and practical. All of this makes it a great option if you want a strong value medium hatchback that offers plenty of space for passengers and luggage, but still offers agile handling around corners.

There is no plug-in hybrid Focus yet but there is a range of petrol and diesels - including a high-performance Focus ST model which can go from 0 to 62mph in 5.7 seconds. Moving back to the more practical variants, even though the latest Focus hasn’t been on sale that long there is a wealth of second-hand versions on sale. This means irrespective of whether you are looking for a petrol, a diesel, a hatchback, an estate, a manual or an auto, a great deal shouldn’t be too hard to find.

FORD FOCUS BUYERS' GUIDE

10. Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Best second car for those who want a plug-in hybrid

List price £29,950
Used deals from £11,490
Monthly finance from £144

Should you be lucky enough to have a place to park and charge a car at home, a plug-in hybrid can be a great option; you can top the car up overnight for typically up to around 30 miles of electric range around town, with the backup of a petrol or diesel engine for when you need to cover a longer journey. Furthermore, the Hyundai Ioniq PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) comes with an official range of 39 miles, which should be enough for many motorists' daily commutes.

Pairing with the high-voltage electronics is a 1.6-litre petrol engine and an automatic gearbox. Thanks to great levels of refinement and good build quality, the Ioniq PHEV really is a relaxing place to be. Plus, there are dollops of driver assistance tech, such as adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist which help make long journeys more relaxing.

One thing to note is that Hyundai recently updated the Ioniq range with revised styling so while there are a number of vehicles available on the used market, those after the latest styling will need to buy new. Alternatively, if you want the best value option, look out for one of the older versions.

HYUNDAI IONIQ PHEV BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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