Best new cars for under £25,000

Hatchbacks, SUVs, convertibles, and even sports cars. These are the best new cars you can buy today for less than £25,000

James Mills
Aug 28, 2019

If you have £25,000 lined up for a new car, you can take your pick from dozens of interesting new models. This budget gives you great choice, which can prove daunting if you don't know your Qashqai from your Golf. There are high-riding SUVs to exciting sports cars, plus comfortable hatchbacks, spacious family estate cars, convertibles for sun seekers and seven-seat people carriers to choose from.

Petrol and diesel engines vie for drivers’ attention, while hybrids – be they self-charging or plug-in versions – are slowly spreading through showrooms for around this price point. At the same time, a new electric car is within reach for less than £25,000, too. Depending on your driving habits, all can be a wise choice.

To help steer you in the right direction, we've rounded up some of the best buys for your money - whether you fancy going wild with a speedy two-seater or play it safe with a comfy hatchback. If you're looking at models from before and after 2017, it's worth doing your homework, as the road tax system changed in April 2017.

Tax for some low-emission petrol and diesel models registered before then is much lower than for those registered after, while some high-emission models became cheaper to tax after that point. Read our guide to car tax rates to make sure you don't have to shell out more in tax than you need to.

Best new cars for under £25,000

1. Volkswagen Golf

Our pick Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI EVO GT DSG auto
List price £23,760

The Golf is the car by which other hatchbacks are judged. Some, like the Mercedes A-Class may have fancier tech such as slick voice controls for the media system. Some, like the Ford Focus, might be a little more fun to drive. But the fact is that the Golf is either very good or excellent in every single area, making it a great car for a huge number of drivers.

It offers plenty of space in the cabin, the quality of the interior is impressive, all the tech is intuitive and the safety systems – and associated crash safety score – are all present and correct.

Equipped with the 1.5-litre petrol engine, it’s pleasant to drive - though we rate the 2.0-litre diesel for high-mileage drivers, too - and pulls the Golf along with enthusiasm, while adding the automatic gearbox makes for a thoroughly relaxing experience.

Volkswagen Golf buying guide

2. Audi A1

Our pick Audi A1 Sportback 30 TFSI S Line
List price £23,175

The A1 is not a small car, it’s a small Audi. At least, that’s the claim from the German car maker. Pleasingly, it lives up to the hype. The A1 really is every inch a distilled version of the Audi experience associated with the company's larger models, with this recently introduced, new generation model proving a compact hatchback that’s unusually desirable.

We especially like the new look of the interior. It feels as special as an Audi costing four times as much, and packs in a similar level of tech and phone connectivity. With the ‘30’ engine - a 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol motor - you get 116hp which delivers brisk enough performance for most small families, while the S Line trim comes with sports suspension to make this a responsive small car to drive around corners.

More affordable versions are available, but we reckon this one strikes a great blend between affordability and desirability - even compared with the pricier A1 options available.

Audi A1 buying guide

3. Mercedes A-Class

Our pick Mercedes A180 Sport
List price £22,740

Do you like gadgets? Have you waited at an Apple store to be first in line for a new product? Is your home connected and operated using your smartphone? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then the likelihood is that you'll love the slick voice controls in the latest Mercedes A-Class.

The five-door hatchback is the most technologically sophisticated car in its class with the sophisticated media system correctly decoding your spoken insructions for the sat-nav time after time and tuning into radio stations at your command without you have to prod away at a touchscreen, which can prove very distracting in many cars.

If you want anything other than a small display for the media system and digital dials, you will have to pay a lot extra for them, however, so make sure you're happy with the basic system or willing to pay extra for the uprated screens before signing on the dotted line.

The interior could be more spacious by class standards, too, and the driving experience feels a bit flat and lacking in agility compared with several other hatchbacks, but with the entry-level petrol engine and Sport trim, this is a nice package for those who love their gadgets and gizmos.

Mercedes A-Class buying guide

4. Skoda Karoq

Our pick Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI 150 SE L
List price £25,660

The Skoda Kodiaq is a great large SUV with the option of seven seats, but surprisingly the more compact Karoq is every bit as good, despite its lower pricing and smaller interior. It's a far more rounded car than Nissan’s hugely popular Qashqai, too.

If your budget is strictly £25,000, then plump for the tried and tested 2.0-litre, 150hp diesel engine in SE trim, which is more than capable of hauling a family round, whatever the driving conditions.

However, if you can stretch beyond this a little – or search for a used model, where you can take your pick from dozens of affordable high-spec Karoqs – then consider the SE L version with the 1.5-litre, 150hp petrol engine, which is a little more pleasant in use than the diesel, and add the smooth shifting automatic gearbox.

Skoda Karoq buying guide

5. Mazda MX-5

 Our pick Mazda MX-5 184PS Sport Nav+
List price £24,225

The Mazda MX-5 is not only one of the most exciting sports cars at any price to drive fast, it's also immensely satisfying to simply cruise around town in. For less than £25,000, you could own a car that’s more rewarding on any stretch of public road than a Ferrari or Porsche where you're constantly reigning yourself back worrying about speed limits and could be banned for speeding on most roads even in second gear.

Not only that, the MX-5 is one of the most well conceived convertibles. The fabric roof can be unlatched and folded back quicker than you can put on a pair of sunglasses. And with the roof down, this petite sports car lets you listen to the birdsong while your toes and backside are toasted by a great heater and heated seats.

A new mor powerful engine,with 184hp has given the MX-5 a little more muscle than before. But to be honest, those who wanted to save the money would not be disappointed by the 132hp version; no matter what the power, this car’s a joy to drive.

Mazda MX-5 buying guide

6. Nissan Qashqai

Our pick Nissan Qashqai DIG-T 160 N-Connecta
List price £24,595

The Nissan Qashqai is by no means the best car in its class. If we were writing its school report, we’d say it could try harder in all subjects. But look at the sales figures and you'll see it's hugely popular. If you want to join the crowd, you can get a well-equipped petrol model with a punchy engine for less than £25,000.

Our pick of the range would be the 1.3-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder unit, which returns up to 40mpg and is smoother and quieter than the diesel options. Underneath, the suspension provides a smooth ride, and in the car noise levels are low and there’s a good amount of passenger space. The biggest gripe, especially for busy families with shopping, pushchairs and bikes to lug around, is the car’s small boot.

Nissan Qashqai buying guide

7. Seat Arona

Our pick Seat Arona 1.0 TSI 115 SE Technology DSG auto
List price £19,470

The Arona might be the smallest SUV in Seat’s car range but you won’t feel shortchanged by it. This compact crossover does a good job of eking out as much space from the cabin as possible, so that a young family can feel comfortable rather than cramped.

Our pick of the range would be the petrol-powered 1.0 TSI engine, in 115hp form. Pair this with the Volkswagen Group’s dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and you’ll have a relaxing drive whatever the conditions.

Perhaps the greatest surprise is that Seat’s engineers have done such a good job of making this SUV feel responsive to drive. It’s composed in all situations and comfortable, and the car is stable around corners. Throw into the mix good fuel economy – up to 48mpg – and this is a sound, small SUV.

Seat Arona buying guide

8. Renault Zoe

Our pick Renault Zoe R110 Z.E. 40 S Edition
List price £19,270 (plus battery hire)

Many drivers are under the impression that electric cars are expensive to buy. But Renault’s clever little Zoe shows that’s not the case. It’s available from just over £18,000, after the government’s plug-in car grant – although that requires that drivers rent the battery from Renault. (You can buy it outright from more than £25,000.)

The latest battery in the Zoe delivers good performance in all senses. It’s brisk on the road, capable of travelling for up to 180 miles on a single battery charge, and if plugged into a wallbox at home or work the battery goes from empty to full in around five hours.

The car seats four in comfort and the boot’s a fair size, but the fit and finish is a little more basic than a comparably priced Ford Fiesta or VW Polo. But then again, they can’t dramatically reduce your driving costs – or emissions - as this can. Nor can they offer the instant response to the accelerator that the Zoe's electric motor can.

Renault Zoe buying guide

9. Hyundai i30 N

Our pick Hyundai i30 N
List price £25,995

The i30N might just fall on the wrong side of £25,000 but with a bit of searching you should be able to bring this acclaimed hot hatch – and its thrilling driving experience – within budget. Consider a nearly-new 2019 version of the more powerful and more desirable N Performance version and you should have plenty of choice, however.

More powerful and a shade quicker than a VW Golf GTI, yet substantially cheaper, the i30 N is for drivers who care more about how a car makes them feel than what it makes the neighbours think.

It can accelerate from a standstill to 62mph in 6.4 seconds, the finely tuned suspension matches its speed with good control and the brakes are more than up to the job of keeping everything in check. In short, if you want a great value hot hatch that will make you want to get out and drive just for the sake of it, the i30 N is the one to have for £25,000.

Hyundai i30 buying guide

10. Mini Convertible

Our pick Mini Cooper Convertible Sport
List price £22,680

You could blow more than the budget and go for the slightly bonkers Mini John Cooper Works Convertible, but why bother when the humble and hugely popular Cooper is arguably the best model in the range and costs less than £23,000?

The 1.5-litre turbocharged, three-cylinder engine is a gem, packed with energy and sounding great on the move – even more so when the roof is lowered. That happens at the touch of a button, as the fabric roof is powered, and the insulation is impressive for such an affordable convertible, meaning it feels quiet and comfortable at main road speeds.

With four seats and a boot that’s only a little larger than a window box, this isn’t the most practical of cars. But if you want a breath of fresh air in more ways than one, it’s well worth a test drive.

Mini Convertible buying guide

          

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