Best new cars for under £15,000

The best new cars for under £15,000 all have one thing in common - they're great value for money

James Mills
Sep 11, 2019

To most of us, £15,000 seems like an awful lot of money. But the average cost of a new car sold in the UK is actually considerably more - partly thanks to the rapid increase in the uptake of car finance, especially PCP finance, which allows you to get a new car for a far lower monthly payment than a traditional car loan.

British drivers typically pay £22,000 to buy a factory-fresh car. So narrowing down the choice when your budget is £15,000 takes dedicated detective work to make sure you're getting the most car for your money. Fear not, however. We've rounded up the most appealing options available for less than £15,000.

Within this price range, there is a reasonable variety of car types available. Small hatchbacks, or superminis, are in abundance. But motorists who need something still more practical, such as a sport utility vehicle (SUV) or estate car, will be pleased to learn there are some good models available, too.

Other factors to bear in mind before signing on the dotted line are the fuel economy of the models you're looking at and making sure insurance is affordable. And finally, you can put your mind at rest by checking the safety of different models, using the resource at Euro NCAP. Meanwhile, if you're after the most car for your money, check out the best value used cars available for less than £15,000.

Best new cars for under £15,000

1. Volkswagen Polo

Our pick Volkswagen Polo 1.0 SE
List price £15,595

Widely considered the yardstick by which other small cars are measured, the latest Polo has a mature, big-car feel and has actually grown physically to free up more space for family or friends.

In SE trim, with the 1.0-litre, 75hp engine, the Polo is close to £15,000. If you can stretch to the more expensive 1.0-litre TSI engine - or consider getting a nearly-new model to get one on budget - you'll find that the more powerful and flexible 95hp engine is the better bet.

We like the way the Polo feels stable on the road, with low levels of noise, a smooth ride and safe handling. A Ford Fiesta is more fun, but the Polo is the car you’d probably want to take on a longer journey. It also has enough interior space for four tall adults, and the 351-litre boot is on the large side for this size of car.

Volkswagen Polo buyers' guide

2. Ford Fiesta

Our pick Ford Fiesta 1.1 85hp Trend 3dr
List price £15,995

If you didn’t know, the Ford Fiesta has long been Britain’s best-selling car. Drive one and you’ll appreciate why. It’s an accomplished all-rounder, with the space, comfort, equipment and safety features that most drivers with around £15,000 to spend want to tick off their list.

Those who want to stick close to that budget can pick a three-door model with the 1.1-litre petrol engine and the most basic Trend trim level. However, if it were our money, we’d be aiming for the 1.0T EcoBoost engine, which is a real gem, offering excellent performance and economy, as well as the popular Titanium trim level, which comes with more equipment.

Consider a second-hand model and you can choose from plenty of low-mileage 2019 Fiestas with the desirable turbocharged petrol engine and well-equipped Titanium specification.

Ford Fiesta buyers' guide

3. Citroen C3 Aircross

Our pick Citroen C3 Aircross 1.2 PureTech 110 Feel
List price £17,390

The car that the C3 Aircross replaced, the C3 Picasso, had all the allure of a pair of wet, pongy running shoes. It was practical but dreary. Whereas the C3 Aircross brings personality, clever engineering and a general can-do attitude to anyone wanting a compact and affordable SUV.

It can be customised all manner of ways, making it fun to spec according to taste. And inside, there are generous levels of space and luggage room. Citroen also throws in a generous level of equipment. Plus, if you want to, you can order Grip Control, which makes it surprising capable on rough or slippery surfaces.

The entry-level PureTech 82 petrol, in ‘Touch’ trim sneaks in at under £15,000, but we’d hunt out a nearly-new turbocharged 1.2 PureTech 110 model in Feel trim, which comes with more goodies. Even 2019 models with less than 2,000 miles on the clock could be yours for around £12,000, giving you plenty of choice.

Citroen C3 Aircross buyers' guide

4. Dacia Duster

Our pick Dacia Duster SCe 115 Comfort
List price £15,395

If you want to spend as little money as possible on a new SUV for the family, Dacia sells a version of the Duster for just £10,995, which, on the face of it, appears to be remarkably good value for money. But is it?

It does without things such as sat-nav, air-conditioning and electric windows. Meanwhile, Comfort trim still comes - comfortably - within the £15,000 budget and includes plenty of extra features including luxuries like a reversing camera. In fact, for £15,700, you can have a diesel engine and four-wheel drive, which transforms the Duster into one of the toughest budget 4x4s off the beaten track.

Dacia Duster buyers' guide

5. Mini One

Our pick Mini One Classic 3dr
List price £16,190

If you don’t need a practical car, then why not go ahead and spoil yourself with something that’s cool, feels special to sit in, and will have you grinning all the way down the road like the Cheshire Cat that’s got the keys to the creamery?

The Mini ticks all those boxes and more. However, there’s a snag. It costs over £16,000 in One Classic, three-door guise. But we reckon that a quick look at nearly-new models with less than 1,000 miles could even bring the more desirable Mini Cooper 3dr down to around £15,000.

It’s worth persevering. The Mini doesn’t just look cool, it feels a cut above other cars when you sit in it. The sporty driving position, wide windscreen, upright dashboard and excellent-quality fittings all help it feel different. The 1.5-litre engine is perky, the handling is a joy and the car generally feels satisfying to drive.

Mini Hatchback buyers' guide

6. Fiat 500C

Our pick Fiat 500C 1.2 Pop
List price £15,535

It might be getting on but someone has been doing a pretty good job of applying anti-wrinkle cream because the 500C convertible is still one of the most charming little cars on the road – and with its roof open on a sunny day, it will make your Instagram feed the envy of friends and family.

To keep within budget, drivers will need to pick the entry-level 1.2-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, which isn’t exactly ripped with muscle. If you fancy more punch, a look at nearly-new models should bring the peppy 0.9-litre TwinAir version well within reach. But you probably won’t care, because the 500C is fun on so many other levels.

Unfortunately, the boot and the tiny opening you'll need to negotiate to load luggage is less than ideal. If you need to get more than the odd shopping bag in the boot, it's worth thinking about whether it's big enough for you. If not, you can always go for the standard Fiat 500 with its conventional hatchback.

Fiat 500 buyers' guide

7. Kia Rio

Our pick Kia Rio 2 1.4
List price £15,000

Gone are the days when buying a Kia might have saved some money but also meant sacrificing a good deal of style and quality. The latest Rio is a supermini that’s more than capable of standing its ground against cars like the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, and the seven-year warranty is a big selling point too.

One area where there has been a noticeable improvement is the look and feel of the Rio. The five-door hatchback body is more eye-catching than in the past, and the interior has a more upmarket feel than Kias of years gone by. It also delivers a generous level of interior space, with better accommodation than, say, a Fiesta.

With the mid-range ‘2’ trim level and a willing 1.4-litre petrol engine all within the £15,000 price range, the Rio makes a strong case for itself as a sensible buy.

Kia Rio buyers' guide

8. Hyundai i20

Our pick Hyundai i20 1.0T GDi SE
List price £14,680

If it’s a sensible £15,000 new car you’re after, look no further than the Hyundai i20. The Korean hatchback does without the cheeky personality of a Mini, and can’t match a Ford Fiesta for driving pleasure. But it counters with plenty of space for a young family, a good level of standard equipment and the latest safety features. And perhaps the most sensible bit of all is the five-year warranty.

As for the version, we’d recommend the 1.0-litre, turbocharged petrol engine, with a manual gearbox and SE trim level. The latter provides a comprehensive level of equipment for this type and price of car. And at the time of writing, incentives in place from Hyundai mean it dips below £15,000.

Hyundai i20 buyers' guide

9. Skoda Rapid Spaceback

Our pick Skoda Rapid Spaceback 1.0 TSI 95hp SE Technology
List price £15,865

The Rapid name is a blast from Skoda’s past but the latest version feels every inch a modern product that’s the result of some canny thinking. This car has recently been phased out, however, so you'll have to hunt down a car that's in stock or choose a nearly-new model.

Skoda reasoned that it could build a car about the size of a Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus that’s priced more in line with a Polo or Fiesta. It’s an approach that’s served the Czech car maker well before, and it continues to do so here. The Rapid Spaceback is a compact estate car, with a 415-litre boot and a generous amount of space inside.

Okay, we’ll admit that the quality of the interior fixtures and fittings isn’t exactly top notch, but look beyond that and there’s a practical car that drives well, with a smooth ride, quiet and efficient petrol engine and safe, steady handling.

Skoda Rapid buyers' guide

10. Smart ForTwo

Our pick Smart Fotwo Prime 71hp coupe
List price £12,110

Not everyone needs a car with more than two seats but unless you want a sports car, the choice is pretty much limited to the Smart Fortwo. Happily, it is quite an endearing thing, as much at home as an only car for those who just want a modest runaround as it is as a second or third car that can be pressed into action when the family needs to be in two places at once.

Older generation cars were colourful but crude in places, whereas this one feels better engineered, both to sit in and drive. It can turn on a sixpence and is a doddle to park, while the high seating position gives drivers the same commanding view and reassuring feel that’s made SUVs so popular.

Needless to say, it’s not terribly spacious. Also, it’s not terribly fast. Oh, and while we’re at it, it’s not terribly refined, either. But it is quirky, different fun - and most importantly, very affordable.

Smart ForTwo buyers' guide

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