Good cars that offer great value for money

Finding a good car can make all the difference between safe, comfortable, reliable motoring and the stress of breakdowns, big bills and more

James Wilson
Dec 2, 2021

While super-fast sports cars are the ones that feature on bedroom wall posters, the dream vehicle for the majority of grown-up motorists is simply one that is reliable, economical, practical and well-equipped. A car that meets the simple yet crucial criteria for the least cost will prove the best value to most drivers.

While this might not seem like a tall order, the fact of the matter is the list of cars not to buy or finance is around the same length as the list of good cars to buy or finance.

Fortunately, there is a wide range of shapes and sizes to pick from when choosing a good car. There are city cars, small hatchbacks, family-sized hatchbacks, saloons, estate cars, crossovers and SUVs, etc. etc. In addition, there is the small matter of fuel type; petrol or diesel, hybrid or electric are all available. Plus, good cars can come with automatic or manual gearboxes as well as the option of four-wheel drive for extra grip on slippery surfaces. It might seem like a minefield, but fear not; we can help you to track down a good car.

To save time, effort and unnecessary expense, below are eight properly good cars that should give you years of faithful service to take the stress out of running a car. They are all easily available to source second-hand and represent some of the best value, either as a cash purchase or through PCP finance. So, whether you want a top value car that is a few years old or you have the budget for a newer one, these should be great options.

Good value used cars

1. Volkswagen Up

Good value city car

Our pick Volkswagen Up 1.0 Beats
Used deals from £8,890
Monthly finance from £0*

Ever since its launch in 2012, the Volkswagen Up has been solid proof that just because you want a smaller city car, you should not have to make any compromises when it comes to quality or refinement.

The Up boasts impressive build quality, an interior that will seat four adults in comfort for shorter trips, the option of five doors for easier access and a 251-litre boot which is not bad at all for a car of such a small size.

Following the Up’s rule that size isn’t everything, the standard 1.0-litre engine is up to city-based driving. If you are heading for the motorway then it will get you to 70mph, albeit gradually, but for regular motorway trips it may be worth stepping up to the larger Polo instead.

Base model Ups aren’t particularly well equipped, but used models in higher trims can easily be found on the used market. We particularly like the Beats edition with its 15-inch alloy wheels and upgraded interior and sound system.

If sportiness is more your thing, the Up GTI is renowned for its similarity to ‘old-school’ hot hatches such as the original Golf GTI. If you’re keen to reduce your carbon footprint or avoid emissions-based charges such as the London Ultra Low Emission Zone, then the electric e-Up could be the perfect choice.

VOLKSWAGEN UP BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Vauxhall Corsa

Good value supermini

Our pick Vauxhall Corsa SE
Used deals from £11,795
Monthly finance from £0*

The Vauxhall Corsa has seemingly always lived in the shadow of the Ford Fiesta - which has long been one of the UK's best-selling car - but recently, Vauxhall thoroughly overhauled the Corsa. By all accounts the new model is a significant improvement over the old, offering quite the combination of low running costs, practicality and a fun driving experience.

Still, all these improvements have come at a cost (quite literally) as the range-topping petrol Corsa Ultimate weighs in at over £25,000 new. That's a huge amount for a small car, but thankfully if you're open to second-hand cars you can get this good car for a great price.

Entry-level SE trim with air-conditioning, cruise control and a seven-inch touchscreen media system is one of the more appealing options in the specification lineup, and offer far better value than pricier models. When it comes to engines there are petrol, diesel and electric options - although the electric models are pricey. For most, the 1.2-litre petrol engine producing 100hp will be the best bet.

VAUXHALL CORSA BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Ford Focus

Good value family hatchback

Our pick Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost 125 Zetec
Used deals from £12,239
Monthly finance from £209*

Good is a word that seems to suit the Ford Focus down to the ground. It’s a good looker, fuel consumption is good regardless of engine, standard equipment is reasonable and it's pleasant to drive, too. Actually pleasant is an understatement, for driving enjoyment the Focus is one of the best cars of this type. Yet drive it more slowly and it will be comfy, refined and relatively quiet.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Most people think so as the Focus is one of the best-selling cars in the UK. That means that there are now plenty of used models to choose from at very good value. Perhaps helping lure people in is the excellent range of engines. At one end there are super frugal 1.5- and 2.0-litre diesels and at the other end is a very powerful 2.3-litre petrol engine.

For most, one of the turbocharged 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engines that sit somewhere in the middle of those extremes will be the best option. As for trims, there is no rotten tomato, though, entry-level Style models aren’t great but these were discontinued in late-2019. We'd aim for a Zetec model as a minimum and standard equipment should be plentiful, with kit including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard.

FORD FOCUS BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Skoda Octavia Estate

Good value estate

Our pick Skoda Octavia SE L
Used deals from £10,800
Monthly finance from £0*

The Skoda Octavia has long been a firm favourite of both taxi firms and the emergency services, so this should go quite some way towards proving just how well put together that this car is. Factor in the estate body and you will find yourself with what should be a highly versatile and reliable workhorse of a car.

Sharing a lot of underpinnings with the Volkswagen Golf, the choice of engines is pretty straightforward, with many bringing low running costs. Even the smallest 1.0-litre petrol engine will accelerate from 0-62mph in 10 seconds while returning well over 45mpg. The most fuel-efficient choice is the 1.6-litre TDI diesel, which will achieve over 55mpg with ease.

All trims are reasonably equipped with air-conditioning, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, digital radio and alloy wheels. Opt for our chosen SE L and you can add parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights, sat-nav, a wi-fi hotspot and a system to help prevent head-on collisions

SKODA OCTAVIA ESTATE BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Renault Captur

Good value crossover

Our pick Renault Captur Play
Used deals from £10,495
Monthly finance from £0*

Renault is on something of a roll as of late - the Megane, Clio and Captur are all great improvements on the models they replaced. Focusing on the Captur, though, Renault has ensured comfort, build quality and standard equipment were all rather good from the very start.

Granted, some may argue that the Captur is a little uninspiring in the looks department, but it makes up for this with plenty of beauty on the inside. Plus there are a few bright colour schemes available to help add some visual pizzazz.

For those after low-emission motoring, there is a plug-in hybrid Captur, which is a great option if you cover many short trips and are happy to charge the car regularly to make the most of the limited electric range, and so start to offset the premium over standard petrol models. More affordable petrol and diesel models are in ready supply but regardless of fuel type, all Capturs are two-wheel drive, so don't expect to go off-road in this high-riding car.

Depending on the engine, there are also manual and automatic gearboxes to pick from. As for trims, the range is dead easy to follow, especially considering entry-level Play specification packs an awful lot of standard equipment. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, LED headlights and automatic folding door mirrors are a few examples and make this version a good choice for many drivers.

RENAULT CAPTUR BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Mazda MX-5

Good value sports car 

Our pick Mazda MX-5 2.0 Sport Nav
Used deals from £13,000
Monthly finance from £0*

Combine the pure fun of a British sports car with Japanese build quality and you get the Mazda MX-5. It’s a simple yet extremely effective formula as the MX-5 redefined the affordable sports car when it originally launched in 1989. Today it remains one of the most affordable ways to have a lot of fun behind the wheel, especially when you consider the sheer amount of used bargains available.

Sharp styling, light in weight, rear-wheel-drive, a low-down driving position and a convertible roof all contribute to the pure driving pleasure that comes with an MX-5. Make no mistake, with just two seats and a 130-litre boot, this is not a practical car, but that’s not the point here. That said, fuel economy of over 40mpg from both the 1.5- and 2.0-litre engines and a surprisingly comfortable suspension do mean that you could use the MX-5 for longer journeys if you wanted to.

MAZDA MX-5 BUYERS' GUIDE

7. BMW 330e

Good value hybrid

Our pick BMW 330e M Sport
Used deals from £15,800
Monthly finance from £567*

The 330e is the hybrid version of BMW’s renowned 3 Series. With both a saloon and estate available, the 330e is a solid choice if you’re after a premium German motorway cruiser while looking to cut your emissions and fuel costs.

Later models use a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor, and offer a near-40-mile electric-only driving range - perfect for inner-city driving and traffic jams. This hybrid element is particularly beneficial to business drivers, too, as it means lower Benefit-in-Kind tax rates.

Every 330e is well equipped but opting for the M Sport adds in some sporty extras such as an M Sport bodykit and steering wheel, along with a larger infotainment system screen.

BMW 330E BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Renault Zoe

Good value electric car

Our pick Renault Zoe Play
Used deals from £8,000
Monthly finance from £346*

More and more electric cars are becoming available second-hand and one of the most convincing options is the Renault Zoe. With newer models claiming an official range of 245 miles per charge, the majority of motorists need not worry about running out of charge.

Still, with the Zoe's rapid charging capabilities meaning that around 75 miles of range can be added in around 25 minutes, a low battery shouldn't prevent you from continuing your journey. Be aware, though; rapid charging is normally only possible from powerful commercial charging stations - domestic chargers will be much slower, so expect to require most of the night to completely recharge the car at home rather than being able to add hundreds of miles of range in an hour. If this is all new to you, we have guides to charging an electric car, the different connectors and charging speeds.

Renault’s electric hatchback is relaxing to drive with no gears to worry about - as is the case with all electric cars - is relatively spacious and is even well equipped in entry-level Play form; a 10-inch digital dashboard, a seven-inch media system (which is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible), cruise control and air-conditioning are all standard. There are two power outputs to choose from with the current version of the Zoe - a 135hp model badged as ‘R135’ and a 110hp model badged as ‘R110’. Both versions are good options.

MORE DETAILS ON THE NEW RENAULT ZOE

*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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