10 best used small cars

Small cars are the backbone of British motoring. We show you 10 of the best used small cars available now

Mar 8, 2018

It’s the age of the small car. From tiddly city cars like the VW up! and Hyundai i10 to superminis like the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa - we’ve never been more spoilt.

But it’s tough being a small car. It has to be so many things: compact but comfortable, quick but economical, well equipped but inexpensive… On that subject, a used small car has a clear advantage over its equivalent new one, precisely because it is so much cheaper.

What’s more, used cars under three years old will be covered by what remains of their three-year warranty. In some cases, that new car warranty can be as long as five (Hyundai) and seven (Kia) years, giving even more cover.

It looks like the used small car has things sewn up. Here are 10 great ones.

Volkswagen up!

Best used small car for city car value 

Representative example  VW Move up! Age 2014/34,000 miles
Prices from £4,590 Deposit £477  Monthly payments £78 per month

The up! looks cool, and feels solid and grown up, so you feel better about driving such a small car. On top of all that, it’s all the things you expect of a city car: great value, economical (around 60mpg) and practical (three or five doors, a 251-litre boot).
There’s everything from a stripped-out runabout badged Take up!, via a hip version called the Beats with a great sound system, to a more powerful mini-limo with an automatic gearbox called the High up!. There’s even an electric one, called the e-up! Basically, you’ve no excuse for not finding the up! of your dreams.

Toyota Aygo

Best used small car for attitude 

Representative example Toyota Aygo x-Play Age 2014/27,000 miles
Prices from £5,490 Deposit £567  Monthly payments £81 per month

Like the VW up! the Toyota Aygo has a good image. Although it’s a sister car to the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108, meaning that it’s built in the same factory in the Czech Republic, and shares many of their components, it looks more exciting. That’s mostly down to some lary colours such as Orange Twist and its funky ‘X’-style grille. The advertising has been a bit edgy, too. On a more serious note, it also has the halo of Toyota build quality, even though the C1 and 108 are just as reliable.
Choosing your favourite engine is simple: there’s only one – a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol which, what it lacks in power, it makes up for with its zingy, free-revving nature. Along with the car’s agile handling and quick steering, the Aygo is fun to punt around town, but less so on the open road.

Hyundai i10

Best used small car for a big warranty

Representative example Hyundai i10 1.0 SE Age 2015/56,000 miles
Prices from £5,250 Deposit £543  Monthly payments £88 per month

After the Toyota Aygo’s edgy image and styling, something more sensible is in the shape of the Hyundai i10. Not a car to grab your attention straight away, the i10 simply grows on you as you learn to appreciate its many talents. Chief among them are its spacious cabin, impressively large 252-litre boot and easy, secure driving manners.
However, what really drives home its advantage over most of the cars here is its long warranty. Buy a 2014-reg car and you’ll still have up to two years’ cover remaining, assuming all services have been carried out according to the official schedule.

Ford Ka+

Best used small car for space

Representative example Ford Ka+ Zetec  Age 2017/6000 miles
Prices from £7,795 Deposit £798 Monthly payments £122 per month

The Ka+ is a little marvel with astonishingly high comfort and refinement levels. It’s spacious, too, with easily enough room in the back for a couple of grown-ups. At 270 litres its boot is one of the biggest in the class.
There are two engines to choose from but bizarrely, the higher-powered one (it produces 84bhp compared with 70bhp) is only £300 dearer and no less economical (56.5mpg). It’s usefully quicker from 0-62mph, nippy around town and more relaxing on long drives.
The Ka+ hasn't much in the way of image so do your yourself a favour by steering clear of basic Studio trim and go with Zetec for its alloys wheels and DAB digital radio.

Fiat 500

Best used small car for image

Representative example Fiat 500 Lounge Age 2013/34,000 miles
Prices from £5,595 Deposit £578 Monthly payments £98 per month

Image is one thing the little Fiat 500 has bags of. Better still, the car maker has been careful not to date earlier versions with radical facelifts of later cars. Basically, stick a private plate on your used Fiat 500 and everyone will think you’re driving a new one.  
To some extent, its styling has trumped its practicality. Simply, it’s pretty small inside. There’s just enough space in the front for a pair of average-sized adults to get comfortable but the back’s suitable only for children.  
There’s a range of small petrol and diesel engines but our favourite is the 0.9-litre TwinAir petrol. It can do up to 74.3mpg but more important, its raspy engine note suits the 500 to a T.

Ford Fiesta

Best used small car for dependability

Representative example Ford Fiesta Zetec 1.0 EcoBoost Age 2013/40,000 miles
Prices from £6,450 Deposit £663 Monthly payments £112 per month

Unless we’re talking about the Fiesta ST, the best little hot hatch you can buy, then it’s fair to say the Fiesta doesn't have the most exciting image. Instead, it’s like legal tender – dependable, familiar and safe. It all sounds a little virtuous except that the Mk6 facelifted version that ran from 2012 to earlier this year when the new Fiesta was launched, was also great to drive, good looking thanks to its Aston Martin-like grille and available with a few standout engines, not least the 1.0-litre turbo petrols called EcoBoost. Our favourite, the EcoBoost 125PS can do over 60mpg but is really nippy, too.
Voice-activated technology and city brake assist are standard while Zetec trim, our favourite, brings alloy wheels and air conditioning. Rear cabin space is not the greatest but in all other respects the Fiesta is a brilliant all-rounder.

VW Polo

Best used small car for build quality

Representative example VW Polo 1.2 TSI  Age 2014/41,000 miles
Prices from £8,100 Deposit £828 Monthly payments £134 per month

The Polo is the up!’s more mature, older brother. It’s not as cool but it is just as well built, while being roomier and more comfortable. Like the Fiesta, it’s a safe purchase – one you can make with your eyes closed. Which is not to say it’s boring. After all, there’s nothing boring about high levels of refinement, supple suspension, logically arranged controls, tough interior trim and room for four adults. They all just mean everyone arrives at their destination relaxed and feeling fresh.
There is a wide a range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from. If you’re a high-mileage driver (over 12,000 miles a year) or travel long distances from time to time, check out the 1.4 TDI Bluemotion, which can do over 80mpg. However, for most people travelling just two-up around their local area, the 1.2 TSI 89bhp petrol will do just fine. Avoid basic S spec and go with mid-range SE with its alloy wheels, air-con, and digital radio with colour touchscreen.

Vauxhall Corsa

Best used small car for all-round ability

Representative example Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 SXI  Age 2013/40,000 miles
Prices from £4,790 Deposit £497 Monthly payments £85 per month

It’s hardly what you’d call an exciting car but the Corsa is, like the Ford Fiesta, at least trusted, familiar, well balanced and readily available. It lacks the Ford’s handling flair but in all other respects it’s an uncomplicated, roomy and tough little car that is also exceptionally good value for money.
There are no duff engines but you won't go wrong with the 85bhp 1.2 petrol. It just scrapes past 50mpg and is a modest performer. The Corsa is roomier in the back than the old-model Fiesta and its boot is an acceptable 280 litres, or the same as a VW Polo’s. Basically, it ticks all the boxes without really shining in any, apart from the one marked ‘value’.

Suzuki Swift

Best used small car for interior space 

Representative example Suzuki Swift SZ4 Nav Age 2014/38,000 miles
Prices from £6,161 Deposit £634 Monthly payments £109 per month

Swift by name, Swift by nature – at least the 1.6 Sport version. But less powerful Swifts deserve a look, too. The Swift is a slightly ungainly looking thing – tall with deep sides where more modern small cars are lower and more compact. But all that steel clothes a genuinely roomy interior with as much headroom as St Paul’s Cathedral.
Refreshingly, in this age of comfy cars, the Swift is tuned for driving fun. The ride is a little firm but the trade-off is surprisingly good body control in corners, which you need given the car’s sharp steering and willing 1.2-litre petrol engine.
Equipment levels are good but it’s worth holding out for the runout SZ-L Nav special edition (there’s an all-new Swift on sale now). It’s astonishingly well equipped and great value for money.

Renault Clio

Best used small car for style 

Representative example Renault Clio Dynamique Nav Age 2013/60,000 miles
Prices from £6,000 Deposit £618 Monthly payments £105 per month

Renaults are verging on sexy these days, and none more so than the Clio. It’s a five-door only; not that you’d know it because the rear door handles are cleverly hidden from view. All but the most basic version have a tablet-size touchscreen on the dashboard that does the work of traditional buttons. It’s all very stylish.
The trouble is, underneath it all, the Clio sits on quite an old platform, so cabin space isn't the greatest while underway, the car doesn't feel as composed as more sophisticated rivals such as the VW Polo. It makes up for it with all that style but also a good level of standard equipment. Even basic Expression has air-con. However, move up to our preferred trim, Dynamique Nav, and not only do you get a sat-nav, air-con and alloy wheels, but you get lots more stylish details such as body coloured door handles and bumpers, chrome strips and a piano-black fascia (which shows finger marks).
If you’ve an eye on economy and you do less than 12,000 miles a year, the 0.9-litre turbo petrol is the one to choose.

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