Sensibly priced cars

With spiralling inflation and very expensive fuel, picking a sensibly priced car could be a wiser move than ever. Here are our favourites

James Wilson
Apr 13, 2022

Sensibly priced cars are, dare we say it, sensible. They are a safe pair of hands to put your motoring needs into, delivering in key areas such as reliability, practicality and value. For cash buyers, picking a car that holds onto its value well means they will get more money back when they come to sell and for those looking to finance a car through PCP finance, slow depreciation should mean lower monthly payments.

Sensible cars are incredibly popular. Rational buys such as the Volkswagen Golf, Kia Sportage and Ford Fiesta are consistently amongst the best-selling models in the UK. Cars like these can appeal to everyone from salespeople to stay-at-home parents thanks to their ability to complete journey after journey with little to no drama. After all, who wants to commute constantly worried about breaking down or to go and pick up the kids from football practice and not have a large enough boot for muddy kit?

What with such high demand for sensible cars, there are plenty of second-hand options, each vying to catch the attention of potential drivers. Some models shine thanks to being exceptionally cheap, while others offer something few alternatives come close to - such as being both sensible and a bit sporty. On BuyaCar there are a huge choice of sensible cars, with eight of the very best shortlisted below.

Of the cars highlighted below, there are some similarities across all of them. The first is that they are all rational choices. The second is that all models have to offer strong value, giving you plenty of car for your money. The third and final commonality is that they should all be easy cars to live with.

Sensibly priced cars

1. Hyundai i10

Best sensibly priced car for low running costs

Our pick Hyundai i10 1.0 SE Connect
Used deals Limited stock

The Hyundai i10 is sometimes considered a left-field choice compared to small cars like the Volkswagen Up, Peugeot 108 and Fiat 500. Really, there is no reason for it to be, as the current and previous generations of i10 have been very well rounded cars. Deciding between the two will likely come down to two factors; whether your budget stretches to a newer model and whether paying more for the latest styling and equipment is worth it for you.

All Hyundai models come with an unlimited mileage, five-year warranty - which is great for peace of mind motoring. Additionally, as the i10 isn’t offered with any fancy hybrid systems or electric models, maintenance should be relatively straightforward so you won’t need to take it to a specialist for servicing and repairs. If you are looking to keep insurance premiums in check, we’d suggest mid-range SE Connect trim on post-2020 models and SE spec on pre-2020 models.


2. Ford Focus

Best sensibly priced car for everyday driving

Our pick Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost 125 Titanium
Used deals from £14,799
Monthly finance from £244*

If you are in the market for a jack of all trades, then the Ford Focus should be on your shortlist. On the practicality front, the boot offers a decent 375-litre capacity with the rear seats in place, which is very nearly the same size as the boot in the Volkswagen Golf, though you can expect to get a higher specification Focus for your budget.

Meanwhile, the cabin is spacious enough for four six-foot people to travel in comfort, while the fifth seat is fine for smaller people. A cramped middle seat is a fairly common issue in this type of car, although if you can find a car with a flat rear floor (such as the Citroen Berlingo), this can help improve things as this gives the middle passenger more foot space.

Out on the open road, the Focus continues to deliver. It manages to be fun yet comfortable enough that driving on back roads or motorways is no hardship. There are plenty of engines to choose from but thanks to its peppy performance and relatively strong fuel economy, the 125hp 1.0-litre 'EcoBoost' petrol engine will be the one to have for most drivers.

If minimising fuel bills is a priority then there is a mild hybrid version of the 125hp engine, too, which uses electronics to give the engine a helping hand some of the time, helping reduce how much fuel is used.


3. Nissan Note

Best sensibly priced car for a practical cabin in a small car

Our pick Nissan Note 1.2 DiG-S Tekna 5dr Auto
Used deals from £6,295
Monthly finance from £0*

If you wanted a one-word summary of the Nissan Note, it would be ‘sensible’. The main reason for this is its interior which is bursting with useful features and is large for this size of car. One of the best is the rear seats. Not only can these be slid forwards or backwards to alter the ratio of rear passenger space to boot space, but they can also be folded almost completely flat with the boot floor. The latter is particularly handy should you need to transport large, heavy items.

There is plenty of space in the front and rear for the driver and passengers, although things do get cosy in the back for taller people if the rear seats are slid as far forward as possible. Production of the Note ended in 2017 (Nissan actually built the Note in the UK) and there are plenty of great value second-hand models to choose from.

That said, there isn’t a huge choice of engines, with all of the petrol and diesel options focusing more on efficiency than performance - though this in itself is just another sensible feature. Great for keeping trips to fuel stations to a minimum, too.


4. Dacia Duster

Best sensibly priced car for rock-bottom prices

Our pick Dacia Duster 1.0 TCe 100 Comfort
Used deals from £13,788
Monthly finance from £236*

If choosing a midsize SUV was done on value for money alone, most people would drive a Dacia Duster. To paint a picture, the interior is functional rather than fashionable and the driving experience is about getting the job done rather than making things fun.

The equipment that comes as standard on each trim level ranges from the essentials to ever so slightly more than you could need. This is reflected in the trim names - Essential, Comfort and Prestige. If you are thinking that the Duster sounds like a no-nonsense kind of car, that is exactly how Dacia markets it.

When looking for the most economically sensible Duster to buy or finance, a two-wheel-drive ‘Essential’ model is the best option. The added equipment available on mid-range Comfort trim (such as rear electric windows, alloy wheels and rear parking sensors) does make spending a little extra seem incredibly worth it.

There are four-wheel-drive Dusters, which still represent great value if you'd value having extra grip for dealing with tricky terrain. If you don’t plan on going off-road, we’d recommend sticking with a two-wheel-drive Duster, as these come with better fuel economy and are simpler with fewer systems to maintain.


5. Vauxhall Grandland X

Best sensibly priced car for families

Vauxhall Grandland X

Our pick Vauxhall Grandland X 1.2 SE
Used deals from £12,690
Monthly finance from £238*

The first thing to know about the Grandland X is that it was updated in 2021, bringing in revised styling and also dropping the ‘X’ from its name - becoming simply the ‘Grandland’. While the updates undoubtedly made the Vauxhall look more modern, the overall proposition of a practical, midsize SUV remains the same. So, for a particularly sensible price tag, we'd go for one of the pre-update Grandland X models.

Vauxhall claims the boot is able to accommodate 514 litres of luggage, meaning it is usefully larger than those in cars like the Ford Focus above. In actual fact, the boot is pretty average for cars of this type - if maximum boot space is a must, the Peugeot 3008 is a good option to consider - though strong value means that the Grandland X is still a sensible choice. All Grandland models are five-seaters but no one will feel short-changed when it comes to head and legroom.

As for engines, there isn’t a great deal of choice. This is no hardship as the engines available are great - in particular the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol which is both powerful enough and relatively frugal for this type of car. Those doing lots of motorway miles may want to consider a diesel, but for the most part a petrol will be the best option.


6. Citroen C3 Aircross

Best sensibly priced car for comfort

Our pick Citroen C3 Aircross 1.2 PureTech 110 Feel
Used deals from £10,050
Monthly finance from £197*

If you like your sensible cars served with a side of funky, the Citroen C3 Aircross could be the vehicle for you. Thanks to Citroen offering a good range of personalisation options, such as different interior trims, body colours and the option of a contrasting roof, it can feel like no two C3 Aircross models are the same visually. Underneath all of these exteriors, though, is the same rather versatile cabin.

When it comes to engines, the Citroen uses either a 1.2-litre petrol or a 1.5-litre diesel and we’d recommend the former to most drivers. Although there is no option of four-wheel-drive, Citroen does offer something called ‘Grip Control’. This is some clever software designed to make sure drivers stay in control of their cars when travelling on sand, snow or regular tarmac.

Tech like Grip Control is ideal for those who expect to occasionally venture down a farm track or onto a grassy field, although we’d suggest going for something with four-wheel-drive and off-road-oriented tyres if you expect to be doing anything more hardcore.


7. Volkswagen Scirocco

Best sensibly priced car for sporty looks

Our pick Volkswagen Scirocco 2.0 TDI BlueMotion Tech R-Line
Used deals Limited stock

Here we have the Volkswagen Scirocco, a car which sits in the middle ground between practical and relatively affordable cars like the Volkswagen Golf and much less practical but much more fun sports cars like the Audi TT. Of the Sciroccos available, the most sensible are the frugal diesel models. These come with something called ‘BlueMotion Technology’ (often shortened to ‘BMT’), which is basically Volkswagen-speak for some small tweaks to the engines to help boost fuel economy.

There are petrol models, too, which are arguably better suited to those who enjoy driving, as they are smoother and more refined. Of the trims available, R-Line is the best option for those wanting a sensible but sporty car. On the practicality front, all Sciroccos have seats for four - including the driver. The rear seats are large enough for adults, which is a real selling point for a car of this type, as you can barely fit two chicken nuggets in the back of rivals such as the Audi TT.


8. Mercedes S-Class

Best sensibly priced car for luxury

Our pick Mercedes S350d AMG Line
Used deals Limited stock

How can a large and luxurious Mercedes saloon be a sensibly priced car? Simple, relatively speaking it can be fantastic value when second-hand. For the best savings, you will want to shop for previous-generation models which were made between 2014 and 2020. Like many luxurious cars, the S-Class is extremely expensive when new but quickly loses value as it gets older. This means that used models can quickly become very sensibly priced, compared with brand new alternatives.

The reason second-hand models are especially sensible is 'depreciation' - how quickly a car loses its original value. While ordinary cars like the Ford Fiesta or Vauxhall Astra might lose a couple of thousand pounds over their first three to five years on the road, the Mercedes S-Class loses tens of thousands of pounds over the same period.

Just remember that a used car with a high initial price will have similarly high running costs compared to cars such as the Volkswagen Golf - mostly because the S-Class is much bigger and more complex. Still, there are plenty of used car warranty providers which can add an extra layer of protection and peace of mind to a used S-Class if that's what you're after.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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