Cheapest expensive looking cars

Fancy a car that looks and feels upmarket but costs far less than you'd think? Here are the most affordable premium machines

Chris Rosamond
Jan 30, 2021

Everyone likes to get the most bang for their buck, and when you’re splashing significant sums on your next motor then it’s imperative to do your research and choose wisely.

Of course, different people value different qualities in their cars, too, and while some seek out sporty handling characteristics or a family-focused load lugger, others may place fuel economy, fashion or cruising comfort at the top of their list.

Whatever features you particularly favour, we reckon most people also share the hope that their car will look the part. ‘You are what you drive’, as somebody once said, and while some people would never sink to such shallow generalisations, others take this well-worn saying to heart.

That’s all well and good if money is no object, as you can search for the expensive high-end car that best suits your needs and buy it there and then. But what if you’re particularly conscious of the impression you want to leave but are strapped for cash - the motoring equivalent of having champagne tastes with a beer budget?

Well that’s where we come in, with our very own selection of cars that look and feel far more expensive than they actually are. So whether you want to impress the neighbours, or simply indulge yourself with a level of feel-good factor that would ordinarily be beyond your reach, take a look at our list of some of the cheapest expensive looking cars around.

Don’t forget it’s not all about the asking price either. If you don't have tens of thousands in cash lying around, there's the option of PCP finance - which is the most popular way of paying for a new car and is becoming increasingly popular with used cars.

With PCP, monthly payments are more affordable than with a traditional car loan or Hire Purchase deal on the same car, as they effectively only cover the amount of value the car is expected to lose over the length of the contract. Just remember that at the end of a PCP contract you don't own the car unless you make the large optional final payment - if it's important to you to own the car.

Cheap expensive looking cars

1. Audi A1

Used deals from £9,000
Monthly finance from £191*

When it comes to superminis, for many years the Audi A1 has been the upmarket small car choice amongst the ranks of Ford Fiestas, Vauxhall Corsas and VW Polos, which are cheaper and sell in higher numbers, but don't offer the same feel-good factor in the cabin.

A new A1 model arrived in 2019, and while it’s even more grand and grown-up than the previous version, aping the style of bigger Audi models, it is also still quite pricey and so the previous-generation model that was discontinued in 2018 gets you more car for your money.

In fact, if you’re looking for an upmarket feel on a budget, the new model’s arrival is good news, as it has resulted in falling prices for the older version. But the older A1 launched in 2010 remains a distinctive option that retains its premium feel and will still feel to many like a more impressive option than a newer, more mainstream rival.


2. Mercedes A-Class

Used deals from £12,590
Monthly finance from £224*

The junior Mercedes - the A-Class hatchback - has rightfully claimed a place at the head of the upmarket small car table, thanks to its classy styling, impressive in-car technology and its distinctive cabin, which helps it to stand out from cheaper hatchbacks, like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.

The newest version arrived in 2018 and does a great job of maintaining the model’s classy image with a slick media system and sophisticated voice controls, but being relatively new prices are still a little high, so the previous generation A-Class offers much better value for money.

Launched in 2013 the A-Class in question still looks sharp inside and out and it sold well, so there are plenty of used models to choose from. When new it was leagues ahead of most rivals in terms of its sophisticated technology and design, and that advantage stays with it in the used car market where it now looks like a truly appealing option as an upmarket car on a budget.


3. Infiniti Q30

Used deals from £10,980
Monthly finance from £207*

A left-field choice this one, but if you want a plush machine that looks and feels expensive but costs little, the Q30 is a savvy option since it's not an obvious choice for used car buyers, meaning that second-hand values are low and it offers great value.

Say hello to the Infiniti Q30 - a car from Nissan’s luxury brand designed to take on upmarket rivals like the Mercedes A-Class and BMW 1 Series and Audi A3. The Infiniti brand is huge elsewhere in the world, but never managed to get noticed in the UK where German names including Audi, BMW and Volkswagen stand out. As a result, Nissan pulled the plug on the Infiniti brand in the UK in early 2020.

The Q30 has plenty of premium feel though, especially at the prices being asked for used examples. Its slightly higher than average ride height makes it quite imposing for its size, and decent equipment levels and great build quality impress too. Meanwhile, even the most recent models are available for as little as £15,000 and you shouldn't need to worry about servicing and parts, as Nissan should continue to look after Infiniti drivers, despite the brand no longer being present in the UK.

4. Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport

Used deals from £11,999
Monthly finance from £192*

It wasn’t long ago that a large Vauxhall said that you'd arrived, with many high-achieving business people cruising around in cars from the brand. Before the obsession with upmarket German brands really took over in the UK, a Vauxhall was seen as a discerning company car choice for management execs. Sadly, for a number of years, Vauxhall standards slipped while the likes of Audi and BMW created ever more sophisticated machines.

Newer Vauxhalls are back up to scratch, though, with several of the larger models offering a real feel-good factor. The Insignia Grand Sport is one example. While mainstream large family cars are increasingly being replaced with high-riding SUVs, the Insignia is a stylish, affordable, comfortable and well-equipped hatchback that offers a much better value alternative.

The Vauxhall brand may not register highly on the brand perceptions scale as producing posh cars, but if you focus on the reality of the Insignia's handsome design, good driving characteristics, impressive specification and genuine comfort, the Insignia is surely a car that feels much more expensive than it actually is. If you want your car to look and feel good, regardless of the badge on the bonnet, this is a smart choice.

Better still, BuyaCar can put you behind the wheel of a virtually new and decidedly swanky Insignia Grand Sport 1.5T SRi VX-Line for less than £18,000. A two-year old Insignia could be yours for a little over £10,000. Bargain.


5. Suzuki Vitara

Used deals from £10,000
Monthly finance from £187*

If you want to join the fashionable SUV set, then there are plenty of choices here on BuyaCar. One that stands out for value, while offering plenty of feel-good factor is the Suzuki Vitara. Yes, the Suzuki brand isn't upmarket and the handsome looks aren't as wacky as models such as the Nissan Juke, but the fact it's less attention-grabbing means that you can get a great Vitara for the money compared with many rivals.

That’s great news for used buyers, because the Vitara is actually a highly competent and likeable machine that makes a great choice as practical family transport while also delivering that all-important SUV style. It may be affordable, but it still looks attractive on the outside and feels like it should cost far more than it does when you're in the cabin.

You’ll need close to £22,000 to drive a brand new one out of a showroom, but here on BuyaCar you can get a virtually new pre-registered Vitara for many thousands less, while 2020 models with a few thousand miles on the clock start at less than £17,000.


6. Jaguar XJ

Used deals from £26,995
Monthly finance from £442*

The Jaguar XJ is a seriously desirable large car for bargain hunters after luxury and refinement. Despite being around 10 years old when production ended in 2019, it was - and is - still one of the most comfortable and enjoyable luxury limos around.

Sadly, the lure of big and luxurious SUV rivals sounded the death-knell for Jaguar’s big saloon, although an electric-only replacement will be launched soon. In the meantime, if luxury to you means a comfy cabin and big engine wrapped in a sleek body, the XJ offers amazing value right here and now on BuyaCar.

Slip into the leathery cocoon that is the XJ's cabin and you’ll be immediately rewarded with a club-class VIP feel, and Jaguar’s sporty heritage means this big car provides a driving experience that’s surprisingly athletic and agile in spite of its supple and soft suspension.

Perhaps the most attractive feature is the price, and you can get into a three-year old XJ for a little more than £23,000. That will get you into a punchy 3.0-litre diesel version with average mileage - a car which would have cost over £70,000 when new.


7. Maserati Ghibli

Used deals from £27,948
Monthly finance from £405*

To many people the very idea of driving an exotically-badged Maserati would mean swallowing a brave pill, but the reality of owning the BMW 5 Series-rivalling Ghibli doesn’t appear to be as scary as many might fear. A scout around owners’ forums reveals that reliability is holding up pretty well, and as long as you’re not expecting to use an expensive main dealer for servicing a used example, running costs shouldn’t be too outrageous either.

So if you want your next car to look and feel expensive but cost barely more than less exciting options, the Ghibli could be a good choice. There aren’t too many about, but you could get behind the wheel of a Ghibli with a smooth and strong diesel engine for not much more than £20,000 for a four-year old with average mileage for its years.

For that, you’ll get a seriously glamorous machine with loads of badge appeal, and the admiration and respect of all your friends when you casually lob your car keys onto the bar. Do you dare to venture where others fear to tread?

8. Audi A8

Used deals from £22,500
Monthly finance from £411*

The big Audi flagship has been admired for years, but with prices for new models starting at well over £70,000 and upwards, it’s hardly affordable for most drivers.

It’s a popular choice for companies who need to chauffeur their top execs around though, and likewise for luxury taxi companies running ‘VIP’ services, so there are quite a few around. That means that just because it's out of reach brand new, that needn't be the case if you're looking for a nearly new or used model.

In true Audi style, although the model has been significantly updated over the years, the newer versions tend to look much like their predecessors. As a result, you can pick up an early 2014 A8 here on BuyaCar from less than £17,000, which amounts to serious value for money.

If you want to drive a newer one, then around £30,000 could secure a 2018 car. Bargain hunters will most likely be looking at the 3.0-litre diesel models, which offer surprisingly good fuel economy, but that same £30,000 could also put you in the driving seat of a 2014 high-performance S8 for serious street cred. The new cost for the latest version today? A cool £100,000.


*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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