Cheapest Japanese cars

Like the idea of a Japanese car so you can benefit from strong reliability and affordable prices? Check out the cheapest Japanese cars here

Sam Naylor
Aug 31, 2021

Japanese cars are popular all around the world - partly because they are known for being reliable - and there are plenty to choose from in the UK. However, not everyone has the funds to stretch to a brand new or even a nearly new model, so here we’ve rounded up some of the cheapest recent Japanese cars you can buy.

Cars from Japanese brands aren’t just models made in Japan, although many of them are. Japanese companies Nissan and Honda even built many of their popular models in the UK at their plants in Sunderland and Swindon, although the Honda plant has now closed.

The reasons many drivers love Japanese cars aren’t hard to find. The most obvious and relevant one is that they have a reputation for being really reliable. The manufacturing processes and designs of Japanese cars mean that they tend to be very well made and rarely break down.

This isn't universally true, but the reputation is there, and we’d certainly agree that you can use it as a rule of thumb - a Japanese car is likely to be more reliable than a similar car from a Western manufacturer.

Japanese cars also tend to focus on things like practicality and usability in their design rather than glitzy details that look impressive but could be hard to live with. This means they’re often overlooked by drivers wanting a flashy new car, though more pragmatic drivers after a used car can benefit.

Japanese cars also tend to be good to drive, as the well-designed mechanical parts usually contribute towards cars that are enjoyable to use and feel very robust. Yet it’s very possible to find plenty of cheap Japanese cars still.

In this list we’ve not stuck to the very cheapest models, because that would result in a list of very small cars - since small cars are cheaper when new. Instead, we’ve looked at some key types of car and found the cheapest models available in each of those. If you're not on such a tight budget, you can check out the very best Japanese cars here.

Cheap Japanese cars

1. Suzuki Celerio

Cheapest Japanese car overall

Used deals from £4,495
Monthly finance from £89*

The Suzuki Celerio is the cheapest Japanese car available on BuyaCar, so if you’re looking to spend as little as possible then it’s one to consider. The Celerio’s new price was so low that it’s actually not lost that much value, it’s just that it started out so cheap in the first place.

The Celerio is a great car if you don’t mind missing out on the creature comforts you find in most cars these days - the interior is very basic, with cheap-looking materials, cloth seats, very little equipment and not much storage space.

However, it’s a practical little car and there’s a good amount of space for passengers, plus it’s super cheap to run and surprisingly fun to drive. It’s a bit noisy and not very fast, but it’s great for young drivers and is nice and easy to park thanks to the good visibility and light controls.

SUZUKI CELERIO BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Toyota IQ

Cheapest Japanese city car

Used deals Limited stock

The Toyota IQ isn’t just the cheapest Japanese city car, it’s also one of the best. It’s a fantastic small car with an upmarket interior, clever interior design to maximise the amount of space and lots of equipment.

It’s a bargain at the moment, so if you don’t need space for a whole family then it’s a perfect choice - especially for commuting. It’s good to drive, comfortable and very easy to park, and although the boot is small, the cabin is big for such a small car. There are four seats inside, unlike in its main rival, the Smart ForTwo, even though the rear seats are pretty tight.

The 1.0-litre engine in the IQ makes it really cheap to run and performance is fine, and there’s also a more powerful 1.3-litre engine that’s a bit better for long trips. Both engines are good choices and should be reliable.

3. Nissan Note

Cheapest Japanese MPV

Used deals from £5,980
Monthly finance from £133*

The Nissan Note is another example of clever engineering in the Japanese car industry - it’s a tiny MPV that’s the size of a small hatchback but has lots of space inside and it’s really easy to drive and park. This means it’s great for families who live in towns and cities.

It has a big 411-litre boot as well as lots of room for passengers, which is really impressive for such a small car - though as the rear seat slides, you can't have maximum boot space and passenger room at the same time. It should also be cheap to run because the small petrol engine is really economical and should be pretty reliable as well.

The Note also came with plenty of safety equipment for the money, which brings peace of mind for families. There are some drawbacks with the Note, though - it’s a bit noisy inside, the cabin looks and feels low-quality, it’s not fun to drive nor is it as comfortable as it ought to be. If you can look past those, however, it’s a practical and affordable choice.

2013-2017 NISSAN NOTE BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Suzuki Swift

Cheapest Japanese supermini

Used deals from £5,495
Monthly finance from £122*

The Suzuki Swift is a brilliant supermini (small hatchback), so it’s great to see that it’s among the cheapest Japanese cars you can buy. It’s often overlooked because it’s not as common as the Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo but the Swift has a lot of appealing features at a bargain price.

The Swift is small and light, so it’s loved for its agile handling around corners and sense of fun when you’re behind the wheel. It’s a really good choice for those who live in rural areas with tight and twisty roads, where its small size is really handy. There's even a four-wheel-drive version for those who live in areas with more extreme weather or particularly rough roads. There are some different engine options but all are peppy petrol units that are cheap to run and nice and reliable too.

The Swift is also comfortable on bumpy roads, and while it’s not the most practical small car around, there’s enough space in the back seats for kids and the boot is an okay size. It’s not the most luxurious car inside, but it’s well-made and has a good amount of equipment.

SUZUKI SWIFT BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Honda CR-V

Cheapest Japanese SUV

Used deals from £8,499
Monthly finance from £162*

There are a few options if you want a cheap Japanese SUV but the CR-V is our pick of the bunch because it has all the right traits that most drivers will be looking for. Most importantly, it’s really practical, with a big 556-litre boot and loads of room for passengers - or dogs - in the back.

It’s well-built and good to drive as well, plus the efficient and reliable engines mean you can get a used one without having to worry. This Honda is robust and has plenty of ground clearance, so it’s fine for a bit of light off-roading, though it’s not meant for really tough terrain. It’ll be good enough for nearly all UK drivers though.

There are petrol and diesel engine options here and there are strong arguments for both - the petrol is good if you tend to drive locally, but the diesel is more economical and works best for longer trips and motorway driving.

HONDA CR-V BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Toyota Avensis Touring Sports

Cheapest Japanese estate car

Used deals Limited stock

The Toyota Avensis Touring Sports is the slightly odd name for the estate version of Toyota’s family car. It’s a huge, practical and highly sensible choice and great value second-hand. It’s reliable, easy to drive, quiet and relaxing, so it’s perfect for those who want their car to fade into the background.

The Avensis is really practical - there’s loads of legroom and headroom inside for passengers and a big 543-litre boot. It’s an estate so there’s a high roofline at the back, perfect for dogs, and lots of light in the cabin. It’s also comfortable for rear passengers as well as those up front.

The Avensis isn’t particularly exciting to drive, and the interior looks very dull, so it’s not a very exciting car. Yet for those who don’t mind that, this dependable, smooth, spacious and well-built car is a brilliant cheap Japanese car.

2015-2019 TOYOTA AVENSIS BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Mazda 6

Cheapest Japanese saloon car

Used deals from £11,000
Monthly finance from £208*

The Mazda 6 is a bargain saloon car - like some of the other cars here, it’s not just the cheapest Japanese car in its class, it’s also one of the best. For a start, it mixes comfort and handling really well - it’s great to drive on a twisty road yet it’s also a brilliant comfy motorway cruiser.

The Mazda also features a good quality interior with lots of room for passengers and a big boot, plus it has quiet engines and plenty of performance as well. It even looks sharp on the outside, and has a decent amount of equipment for the money as well.

There really are very few drawbacks with the Mazda 6. The petrol engines are the best to go for, as the 2.2-litre diesel is said to be less reliable - yet a low-mileage diesel would still be a great choice for many miles of low-cost motoring. It’s a punchy and enjoyable engine to use, too, offering lots of muscle from low engine speeds plus impressive refinement.

MAZDA 6 BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Nissan Leaf

Cheapest Japanese electric car

Used deals from £8,800
Monthly finance from £167*

There are very few cheap electric cars at the moment, but the Nissan Leaf is one of them. It also happens to be a very good electric car, if a little limited on range per charge. The early models only had a small battery so could only drive for about 70 miles on a single charge.

This means that the Leaf works best for those after a second car, or who have access to another car for longer trips. However, if you only use your car for commuting or local trips, it could also be a good choice - for many drivers 70 miles is plenty for the drive to work and it can be charged up overnight.

The Leaf is comfortable, very quiet and perfect for traffic jams, where it’s silent and smooth. The electric motor means it’s nippy at low speeds and it’s pretty practical as well, with enough space in the rear for adults and a big boot.

2010-2017 NISSAN LEAF BUYERS' GUIDE

2018-PRESENT NISSAN LEAF 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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