Best cars for daily driving

A car well suited to the daily grind needn't be hard to find or expensive. Here are some of the best options - whatever your priorities

James Wilson
Nov 4, 2021

When searching for a car that will take on the daily grind, each person’s needs will differ and this is where things can get tricky. While many cars excel at one particular thing - such as performance, comfort or efficiency - it’s a lot tougher to truly meet the ‘good all-rounder’ requirements of many motorists and be great at lots of different things.

The main issue is that where a car will excel at one thing, this will have a detrimental effect on something else - for example, great performance will likely come at the cost of poorer fuel economy. If you're after a super-practical seven-seater. Well, chances are it won't be very satisfying to drive and will use lots of fuel, as it's likely to be big and heavy.

The good news is that while cars that excel in multiple areas are somewhat rare, they can still be found. In fact, there are different cars that will meet the needs of all manner of daily drivers. From those who have just passed their driving test and need something affordable and easy to drive, right through to seasoned motorists who are looking for something exciting to drive with a powerful engine under the bonnet. There are options for those looking to transport a family or chalk up hundreds of motorway miles in utter comfort, too.

Every car on this list had to offer a promising blend of some of the most important things motorists value - such as practicality, economy and performance - so you can remain comfy and content all year round and in pretty much all conditions.

While the cars below vary in price, all are available from less than £10,000 up to around £30,000 second-hand on BuyaCar. That equates to roughly £150 to £400 per month on PCP finance. So read on to find out more about the best cars for daily driving. And check out our guide to PCP finance for more info on how to get the lowest monthly payments with the option to buy the car at the end of the contract.

Best cars for daily driving

1. Volkswagen Up

Best daily driver for those who have recently passed their test

Our pick Volkswagen Up Beats 3dr
Used deals from £5,300
Monthly finance from £152*

In theory, finding a city car that is practical, cheap to run, well-equipped, affordable, fun to drive sounds rather difficult - how could one inexpensive car offer so much? The truth is that it isn’t hard to find at all, as the Volkswagen Up is readily available and offers all that above and more - all for a low price.

As a city car, the Up is small and well suited to nipping through town, while consuming little fuel and less at home at bombing along country roads at speed and whizzing up and down the motorway. That said, the best city cars - including the Up - are surprisingly capable at both. It may be small, but the Up is perfectly comfortable on the motorway.

Earlier entry-level models aren’t blessed with the latest and greatest in-car technology, but moving up a step on the trim ladder to SE spec brings electric front windows, air-conditioning and remote central locking. Don't think you have to sacrifice style if you want something that looks a bit special, either.

For those wanting something sporty, there is the Up GTi. 115bhp and a 0-62mph time of 8.8 seconds may not sound like much, but in a car as small and lightweight as the Up GTi, it actually makes for some serious fun. A vast majority of Ups use a petrol engine and a manual gearbox (excluding all-electric e-Up models, which are automatic only) - this gearbox is slick and easy to use and the petrol engines very economical. You also have the choice between a three- or five-door version.

VOLKSWAGEN UP BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Seat Ibiza

Best daily driver for those who want a stylish small car

Our pick Seat Ibiza SE
Used deals from £10,239
Monthly finance from £0*

Seat and Volkswagen are part of the same company so there is quite a lot of shared engineering between their respective models. Take the Volkswagen Polo and the more affordable Seat Ibiza; underneath are many of the same mechanical components - including engines, gearboxes and in-car tech.

Happily though, while the VW can be criticised for being a bit uninspiring to drive and look at, Seat fettled with enough parts to make sure its little hatchback was more exciting in both departments. It really looks sharp for a car of this size and price. 

All versions come with five doors and a 355-litre boot - that's 43 litres more than the Ford Fiesta - making the Ibiza surprisingly practical. Equipment levels are great regardless of trim, with even entry-level SE versions getting a touchscreen media system, alloy wheels and smartphone connectivity as standard.

There are both diesel and petrol models available second-hand, although diesel engines are no longer available to order new as most small car drivers choose petrol power. Similarly, there are manual and automatic gearboxes to choose from, with both being good options. The automatic gearbox options are particularly slick for a small car.

SEAT IBIZA BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Mazda 3

Best daily driver for those who want a stylish, upmarket hatchback

Our pick Mazda 3 SE-L
Used deals from £9,790
Monthly finance from £243*

The previous-generation Mazda 3 was good to drive but dull to look at. The latest model is even better to drive and one of the most striking family-sized hatchbacks on sale. Plus, Mazda has developed a cutting-edge type of petrol engine which is claimed to offer much improved fuel economy.

In case that wasn’t enough, the interior is surprisingly high-quality in feel and equipment levels are impressive too. Mazda might not have a reputation for creating the glitziest cars, but the 3 really does feel like an upmarket machine and is more than luxurious enough to take on models such as the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series.

Mazda has kept things simple rather than offering an array of trim levels and options. Instead, there is a modest range of specifications which all come as standard with adaptive cruise control, automatic LED headlights, an 8.8-inch media display (which is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible) and 16-inch alloy wheels fitted as standard.

You can also choose between manual and automatic gearboxes and there is even a four-wheel-drive version - although this is more aimed at providing greater all-weather performance and giving you greater grip in slippery conditions than enabling you to go off-road.

MAZDA 3 BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Kia Stinger

Best daily driver for high-mileage company car drivers

Our pick Kia Stinger 2.2 CRDi GT-Line
Used deals from £23,650
Monthly finance from £0*

Many motorists have heard of the BMW 4 Series or Audi A5, but considerably fewer people have heard of (or even seen) a Kia Stinger. That doesn't make it any less worthy of consideration, though. Kia launched the Stinger as a refined and comfortable upmarket executive car that intended to show the world that the brand was entering an all-new, high-quality era.

The South Korean carmaker succeeded in that ambition, especially so with models fitted with the 2.2-litre diesel engine, which are punchy yet reasonably economical. There's even a high-performance V6-engined petrol version if you want a speedy car that’s a little bit left-field. Regardless of the engine, all models get an automatic gearbox and send power to the rear wheels, which makes a sportier feel.

Standard equipment is a strong point, with heated front and rear seats, wireless phone charging (for compatible smartphones) and an eight-inch touchscreen media system all included across the range. The biggest Achilles heel for the Stinger is its fuel economy, which lags behind its biggest rivals.

Still, for those that get their fuel paid for by their employers, the Kia Stinger will be a comfortable, relatively fast and enjoyable car to drive, with lower prices than rival models. Plus all Kias come with a seven-year/100,000-mile warranty from the factory - meaning plenty of used examples will still be covered.

KIA STINGER BUYERS' GUIDE

5. BMW M140i

Best daily driver for those after a rapid, exciting-to-drive hatchback

Our pick BMW M140i
Used deals from £19,750
Monthly finance from £0*

What is the problem with a lot of performance cars? They come with super-stiff suspension which makes driving on anything other than perfectly smooth tarmac a pain (literally). Their styling can be very in-your-face, and they can be loud and obnoxious when driving fast. They also typically burn through lots of fuel, making them expensive to run.

The BMW M140i, though, is a different kettle of fish. Yes, it is ludicrously fast but it is also understated. It sounds dramatic but not excessively loud, and should you find yourself able to cruise to work, town or even the other end of the country in comfort. It's even impressively economical if you take it easy.

Find one with an automatic gearbox and even driving down to the Alps should be stress-free. Build quality is good and you get plenty of standard equipment, too, including Bluetooth, parking sensors and climate control. Plus, of course, you have a large 3.0-litre petrol engine producing a hefty 340hp - that's a lot for a car of this size.

BMW 1 SERIES BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Ford Focus

Best daily driver for those after an affordable family hatchback

Our pick Ford Focus 1.5 EcoBlue
Used deals from £12,239
Monthly finance from £244*

The Ford Focus is one of the best medium hatchbacks - and one of the most affordable as a used purchase. The latest model, which was launched in 2018, is the best yet as it brought up-to-date onboard technology plus good build quality and a strong level of standard equipment.

There is also the fact Ford’s engineers have done a stellar job in ensuring the Focus is great fun to drive for a sensible family car. For those wanting to keep costs down, entry-level Zetec models are the way to go. The more basic Style trim was originally the lowest specification but, as of late-2019, it has been withdrawn from sale.

Standard equipment on Zetec versions includes an eight-inch touchscreen media system, which is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible, cruise control, automatic lights and a heated front windscreen - the latter worth its weight in gold come winter months, as you don't have to bother chiselling ice off the windscreen with frozen hands. Instead, it will defrost itself in a minute or two.

As for engines, high-mileage drivers will want to aim for a 1.5-litre EcoBlue diesel - as these provide the best fuel economy, meaning less to spend at the petrol station - while those who mostly travel about town will want to find a 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine. The manual six-speed gearbox (which is standard) is the pick of the range.

FORD FOCUS BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Peugeot 3008

Best daily driver for those looking for SUV style

Our pick Peugeot 3008 Allure
Used deals from £13,950
Monthly finance from £240*

Should you want a spacious, efficient and relatively refined small SUV, it is hard not to recommend the Peugeot 3008. It offers bold styling inside and out, though you'll want to make sure that the somewhat unusual format of the interior works for you.

The 3008's cabin features driver’s dials that you look at from above a small steering wheel (rather than looking at them through a larger wheel, as with most other cars) and there are minimal physical buttons in the cabin - a central touchscreen is the focal point for controls. This can be distracting on the move, so it's worth thinking about how important it is for you to have physical controls that you can use without taking your eyes off the road.

Practicality is one of the 3008’s strong suits, with plenty of space for five (there is no seven-seat option - for this, you will need the larger Peugeot 5008) and a large 591-litre boot. For reference, a Ford Focus has 375 litres of cargo space in the back, so if you need lots of luggage space but don't need lots of seats, the 3008 is a good option.

As for engine and gearbox choice, the 1.2-litre PureTech 130 petrol engine with a manual gearbox is a brilliant option despite its small size for a car this large. Even the relatively low-level Active trim has most of the equipment you could need. That said, the higher specification Allure is a desirable choice with added standard equipment including tech such as sat-nav.

PEUGEOT 3008 BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Skoda Kodiaq

Best daily driver for those who need seven-seats

Our pick Skoda Kodiaq 2.0 TDI
Used deals Limited stock

The Skoda Kodiaq is one of the best large family cars available. It is well-built, practical and, perhaps surprisingly, quite good to drive, too. The catch? There isn’t one, provided you choose one of the more efficient engines. Entry-level SE models are a touch basic but are still a great option when you're on a tight budget.

SE Drive versions come with a 9.2-inch touchscreen media system, 19-inch alloy wheels, sat-nav, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard, so are well worth the extra expense if you can afford them.

There are a good number of engines and gearboxes to choose from with the Kodiaq. One of the best options is the 2.0-litre diesel engine with 150hp. It's not quick, but has more than enough muscle to get the large Kodiaq up to speed without much effort. It's also reasonably economical.

Skoda offers four-wheel-drive models, too. Be aware that as a general rule with all cars, having four-wheel drive increases the cost and makes the car heavier, meaning you'll have to pay more to fuel it than an equivalent two-wheel-drive model, so be sure to factor that in. The Kodiaq is also available with Skoda’s slick 'DSG' automatic gearboxes - these are well worth considering if you'd like an automatic car.

SKODA KODIAQ BUYERS' GUIDE

*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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