The simplest cars

A modern, high-tech car needn't be difficult to use. It’s time to go back to basics, as we pick our favourite simple cars

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
Nov 25, 2021

Modern cars seem to be getting increasingly complex year after year. Safety regulations, emissions standards and our desire for the latest technology mean that simple cars might seem like a thing of the past. But is that really the case?

At BuyaCar, we understand that not everybody wants a car that requires a night in with the owner’s manual to understand how to operate the radio. Air-conditioning is one thing, but do you really need cooled, massaging seats and a heated steering wheel? Will umpteen driving modes really make a difference on the school run?

We’ve selected eight cars that are like the ‘short back and sides’ of the automotive world. The meat and two veg. The 99 without a Flake. The ‘things were much simpler in my day’ cars that focus on providing fuss-free and no-frills motoring. And with no unnecessary gadgets, these cars offer great value, too.

Don’t worry, we’re not going to send you back to the dark ages of driving. The cars we’ve selected are safe, reliable and green enough to stay off the radar of climate change activists. And for something bang up to date, your new car can be delivered right to your door with a 14-day money-back guarantee with BuyaCar. What could be simpler? Go on, stick a Flake in your ice cream.

The simplest cars

1. Vauxhall Viva

Used deals from £6,195
Monthly finance from £0*

We promised to not take you back to the dark ages, but the Vauxhall Viva is a name that transports us back to the 1960s. In fact, your parents may have spent their courting years in a 1960s Vauxhall Viva. Courting because things were much simpler in your parents’ day.

The modern Vauxhall Viva is a different kettle of fish, but the fundamentals remain. It’s as simple as modern cars get, especially if you opt for the basic SE trim. There’s a frugal 1.0-litre petrol engine under the bonnet, an AM/FM stereo radio with Bluetooth for connecting your phone and a standard air-conditioning system with a four-speed fan.

You also get a City mode, which lightens the steering for easier parking. In the back, the windows are of the ‘keep-fit’ variety. That’s to say you have to manually wind them up or down. If all this sounds too simple, SL specification adds electronic climate control, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, 15-inch alloy wheels, dark-tinted rear windows and two-tone grey trim.


2. Suzuki Celerio

Used deals from £6,792
Monthly finance from £0*

In a battle for simple supremacy, the fight between the Vauxhall Viva and the Suzuki Celerio is like a tussle between magnolia and brilliant white paint. Whatever happens, simplicity will reign supreme.

The Celerio is one of the cheapest cars on the BuyaCar website and you’re unlikely to find anything newer for the same price - its simplicity means you get a very new car for your money. In common with the Viva, there’s only one engine available: a 1.0-litre petrol which offers very high fuel economy and low running costs.

It’s well-equipped, with even the entry-level SZ3 model coming with 14-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a digital radio and a CD player. You’ll also find that it’s incredibly easy to pair your smartphone using the Celerio’s Bluetooth system. We’d like to say that the Celerio is as simple as celery, but we doubt you’d forgive us.


3. Hyundai ix20

Used deals Limited stock

There’s something delightfully unpretentious about the Hyundai ix20. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a practical, reliable, economical and easy-to-drive high-riding hatchback. In fact, it’s more than a hatchback, because there are hints of people carrier in the way it has been designed. A supersize hatchback, then?

All versions come with an easy-to-use air-conditioning system which uses a rotary dial to control the temperature, and six large buttons to control the flow of air. SE Nav and Premium Nav models feature a touchscreen sat-nav system, but we rather like the simplicity of the radio/CD player on the SE trim. The combination of large buttons and a pair of dials is simplicity itself.

The boot is massive, offering more luggage capacity than the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. Meanwhile, folding the rear seats turns the ix20 into a mini estate car. You can even recline and slide the rear seats.

4. Skoda Rapid Spaceback

Used deals from £7,495
Monthly finance from £0*

The Skoda Rapid Spaceback sounds awfully exciting, doesn’t it? Like some kind of supersized earth-saving spaceship. In reality, it’s not quite as flash as that, but then you came here looking for simple cars and the Rapid Spaceback does simplicity very well.

The Spaceback is based on the standard version of the Skoda Rapid, which is a car most famous for being not in the slightest bit famous. Instead it's a supremely sensible hatchback. Surprisingly, you actually get a smaller boot in the Rapid Spaceback than the standard Rapid, but it offers more boot flexibility, and greater legroom for rear seat passengers.

It’s all so simple. The air-conditioning controls are logical and easy-to-use on the move. The touchscreen media system is flanked by large and prominent buttons. There are also two clear dials in front of the driver. No fancy digital displays or other such nonsense. It’s a wonder Skoda didn’t call it the Simpleback.

5. Dacia Sandero

Used deals from £6,250
Monthly finance from £0*

What level of simplicity are you after? How far are you prepared to go in your quest to find the most simple car? The Dacia Sandero Access should provide the ultimate test. In its most basic form - so basic in fact, that it is the UK's cheapest new car - the Dacia Sandero is about as well-equipped as an empty box. It’s like ordering a sliced white bread sandwich without any filling. Not even margarine.

Let’s look at some of the things you don’t get. A radio, air-conditioning, a boot light, height adjustment for the steering wheel and driver’s seat, rear headrests, remote central locking and body-coloured bumpers.

In many ways, this is part of the Sandero’s charm. There are no distractions, fewer things to go wrong, and because it has such a low price new, it's incredibly affordable used. So whether you pay with cash or finance, this has to be one of the very cheapest ways to get into a relatively new car.


6. Vauxhall Grandland X

Vauxhall Grandland X

Used deals from £11,990
Monthly finance from £231*

If the Sandero wears its value card on its sleeve, the appeal of the Vauxhall Grandland X requires a little more digging. It shares much in common with the Peugeot 3008, which happens to be one of the best family SUVs you can get.

But while the 3008 wows you with its bold styling and fancy interior, the Grandland X is a more sombre affair. This is great news if you’re after something straightforward, because the dashboard is logically laid out, with clear and simple instruments. Far more conventional than the confusing setup in the 3008.

It’s a straightforward car to drive, with the raised driving position providing a good view of the road ahead. Although there are a number of engines to choose from, we’ll keep it simple for you: the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol is great for town driving, while the more economical 1.5-litre turbodiesel is ideal for those who do many longer trips.


7. Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Hyundai Ioniq Electric front three quarters view

Used deals Limited stock

You’d be forgiven for thinking that running an electric car is the opposite of simple. Taking the car out of the equation, you have to consider how and where to charge it, whether or not you have enough electric range to reach your destination, and even how to drive it.

Don’t worry, though, because driving an electric vehicle is arguably more simple than a conventional car. There’s less to go wrong, fewer parts to service and maintain, a single gear for moving forwards, and a literal plug-in-and-play approach to driving. All you need now is the right electric car.

The Hyundai Ioniq Electric should appeal, if only for its utterly conventional dashboard. The 38.3kWh battery delivers up to 193 miles of electric range, so you needn’t worry about running out of juice, while the five-year warranty should provide years of reassurance - even if you go for a three-year old model - while you get your feet under the electric car table.


8. Seat Mii Electric

Used deals Limited stock

For an even simpler electric car experience, the Seat Mii Electric is worth a look. Used examples are starting to appear on the BuyaCar website, with prices that pitch it against the Ford Fiesta. As with other electric cars, there's only one forward gear, so there's no clutch to worry about and so the tiny Mii is extremely simple to drive.

If it looks familiar, it’s because it’s almost identical to the conventional Seat Mii city car, with some bespoke badges and a charge port in place of a petrol filler cap being the only tell-tale signs that you’re driving an electric car.

Fully charged, the Seat Mii Electric will provide up to 160 miles of electric range, which is probably enough for most city dwellers. And even if you do occasionally cover longer trips, it's worth asking yourself how ofter you really need to travel more than 150 miles in one go. You also get a decent level of standard specification, including heated seats, air-conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and smartphone integration.


*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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