10 best used small cars

Small cars can be mighty. These are the ten best used small cars available now, starting from under £5,000

BuyaCar team
Dec 12, 2019

The best small cars are small in size only. In virtually every other aspect, these cars punch above their weight, whether it's in terms of practicality, speed or comfort. 

Yet, thanks to their size, they can also offer something that no other car can. Driving a small car takes the stress away from city driving - squeezing in and out of tight side streets is much easier when your car is not much more than 1.5-metres wide. That also makes them much easier to park, which can only be a good thing.

It's their versatility that makes small cars so popular among the masses. Even those of us who rarely venture into busy town centres can see the appeal. Unless you have a family of more than four people, there's plenty of space for everyone and boot space isn't disastrous either in most cases.

The popularity of small cars mean that there are plenty to choose from. Tiny city cars, such as the Volkswagen Up are ideal for one or two passengers, and can even squeeze in four when needed; larger models, such as the Skoda Fabia and Honda Jazz, have enough practicality to cope with the strains of family motoring.

Some of the cars on this list cost from around £5,000 - or under £100 per month, and it's even possible to spend under £10,000 and have a reasonable amount of manufacturer's warranty remaining. You don't have to miss out on creature comforts either, as most small cars come with niceties like alloy wheels and air-conditioning, and some come with relatively new safety technology like autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning.

Best used small cars

1. Mini Hatchback

Best used small car for character

Our pick Mini Cooper 3dr
Used Mini Hatchback deals from £7,250
Monthly finance from £115

With BuyaCar finance deals starting from less than £150 per month, the Mini Hatchback is looking like a real bargain. One of the most characterful, fun and well-built small cars on the market, the Mini pushes the idea of a 'small car' to the limits, but it does so to offer more space and better practicality as a result. The petrol-powered Cooper is the pick of the range, with zippy acceleration and decent fuel economy but all of the range feels energetic, with nimble steering providing a sporty feel.

That said, this does make it less comfortable over bumps than a Skoda Fabia or Ford Fiesta.

Every car has a retro-feel interior with a circular surround in the middle of the dashboard and toggle switches. Cars fitted with the Chili Pack cost from £8,598 or £127 per month. These include extras such as steering wheel controls, sport seats, driving modes, climate control and LED headlights.

Mini Hatchback buyers' guide

2. Skoda Fabia

Best used small car for comfort

Our pick Skoda Fabia SE 1.2 TSI 90
Used Skoda Fabia deals from £4,999
Monthly finance from £101

The Skoda Fabia offers so much practicality that you could use it as your only family car. The 330 litres of boot space is more than most other small cars, including the Ford Fiesta and there's the option of an estate car for more boot space. Inside, there's enough seat space in the back for adults who shouldn't feel cramped, but tall ones will struggle to stretch their legs.

It's efficient, with the 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine returning more than 45mpg in real-world driving, and comfortable, thanks to soft suspension that soaks up bumps and potholes. SE models are a good option, thanks to standard air conditioning, alloy wheels and 6-speaker surround sound system, with prices for 2014 SE cars starting at just £5,400. Even nearly-new Fabias cost from under £8,000.

Skoda updated the Fabia last year, but due to the subtlety of the changes, most motorists will struggle to tell the difference when looking at the two models.

Skoda Fabia buyers' guide

3. Ford Fiesta

Best used small car for dependability

Our pick Ford Fiesta Zetec 1.0 EcoBoost
Used Ford Fiesta deals from £4,416
Monthly finance from £90

This version of the Ford Fiesta ticks most of the boxes a driver could possibly want. It is reliable, practical, good value, fun to drive (especially with one of Ford’s zippy EcoBoost engines fitted) and holds onto its value relatively well. All of these help explain why it is and has been for some time, the best selling car in the UK.

The only major letdown is inside, where rear space is cramped by the standards of modern small cars, and the button-strewn dashboard lacks the latest technology. It doesn't have a touchscreen, so there's no easy control of phone apps using software like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

However, it remains an excellent all-round. And the huge numbers that are on the road means that there's a large amount of choice for used buyers at low prices.

Ford Fiesta buyers' guide

4. VW Polo

Best used small car for build quality

Our Pick VW Polo SE 1.2 TSI
Used VW Polo deals from £5,465
Monthly finance from £110

Volkswagen's Polo is well built, roomy and 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 90hp petrol will do just fine. Avoid basic S spec and go for mid-range SE with its alloy wheels, air-conditioning, and digital radio with colour touchscreen.

VW Polo buyers' guide

5. Renault Zoe

Best used small car for electric motoring

Our pick Renault Zoe Dynamique Nav
Used Renault Zoe deals from £7,980
Monthly finance from £142

If you travel under 60 miles a day and have space at home to charge a car, then an electric car such as the Renault Zoe could be an ideal solution, bringing quiet and surprisingly nippy motoring, along with the knowledge that you're doing your bit to tackle air pollution.

The car includes air-conditioning, cruise control and sat-nav across the range, as well as a useful 338 litres of cargo space. Most used Zoes can travel around 90 miles in real-world conditions before needing to be recharged, but Z.E.40 cars, which arrived in 2017, can manage more like 150 miles.

Just don't expect your savings account to swell with fuel savings. Most used Zoes don't include batteries in the price, so you'll need to lease them. Prices start at £49 per month and vary depending on your annual mileage. Only Zoe models that are badged "i" have the batteries included in the price.

Renault Zoe buyers' guide

6. Honda Jazz

Best used small car for space

Our pick Honda Civic SE 1.3
Used Honda Jazz deals from £5,990
Monthly finance from £120

With a 354-litre capacity, the Honda Jazz's boot is almost as big as you'll find in a Vauxhall Astra. The car will accommodate five adults without causing them any discomfort and the rear seat cushions can be flipped up when unoccupied, to create more space in the footwells. No small car comes close to matching the Honda Jazz for space and practicality, which is reason alone to buy one.

The current model went on sale in 2015. It's quiet and smooth compared with an average small car, but doesn't feel particularly nippy thanks to its modest engine and tendency to lean in fast corners. Bluetooth, digital radio, air-conditioning and cruise control are standard across the range. Mid-range SE cars gain alloy wheels, a seven-inch dashboard touchscreen and parking sensors.

Honda Jazz buyers' guide

7. Audi A1

Best used small car for prestige

Our pick Audi A1 Sport 1.4 TFSI 125PS
Used Audi A1 deals from £7,500
Monthly finance from £125

Audi's A1 is a miniaturised version of the company's larger cars. That's what it looks like outside, and the theme continues from behind the steering wheels, where you'll find the same kind of buttons, clean design and dashboard screen - controlled by a rotary dial - that are fitted to bigger Audis.

This makes the car feel more upmarket than most rivals (apart from the Mini) and helps to disguise the car's age: it lacks features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and its pop-up display doesn't have the same resolution or slick graphics as the most up-to-date models. An all-new A1 has been released, featuring more up to date technologies and more efficient engines. These new models are slowly dragging down the prices of used models.

Audi A1 buyers' guide

8. Seat Ibiza

Best used small car for sportiness

Our pick Seat Ibiza Connect 1.2 TSI 90
Used Seat Ibiza deals from £4,990
Monthly finance from £101

Despite first going on sale more than a decade ago, the previous-generation Seat Ibiza still looks contemporary today. The design doesn't look that different to the current Ibiza, which went on sale in 2017, and Connect models built after 2015 even had the option of the latest Apple CarPlay and Android Auto software, for simple control of phone apps on the screen or with voice commands.

The Ibiza is engineered to feel sporty and agile, which does make it fun to drive, particularly when combined with the 1.4-litre petrol engine. It does mean that the car is less settled over bumps, where it's not as smooth as most alternatives on this page.

Seat Ibiza buyers' guide

9. Fiat 500

Best used small car for retro chic

Our pick Fiat 500 Lounge 0.9 TwinAir
Used Fiat 500 deals from £4,250
Monthly finance from £86

Image is one thing the little Fiat 500 has bags of. Better still, an update in late 2015 made only subtle changes to the familiar design, so you can put a private number plate on a used Fiat 500 and almost everyone will think you’re driving a new one.

To some extent, its styling has trumped its practicality. So 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. You may find one or two diesel models among used cars but virtually all Fiat 500s come with petrol engines: a 1.2-litre motor that has reasonable performance and fuel economy in town, but does require patience to accelerate to high speeds; and a more lively 0.9-litre engine badged TwinAir. Fuel economy in the real world is not brilliant (expect between 40 and 45mpg) but its raspy engine note suits the characterful nature of the 500.

Fiat 500 buyers' guide

10. Volkswagen Up

Best used small car for city car value

Our pick VW Move Up
Used VW Up deals from £4,000
Monthly finance from £81

The Volkswagen Up sneaks onto this list despite its diminutive size. The mechanical bits have been squeezed under its bonnet to leave an interior that will carry four adults, albeit in a style that's not dissimilar to a long haul economy class flight.

 value, fuel economy (60mpg) and compact dimensions for easy parking mean that you might consider it instead of some of the longer and more spacious cars in this list.

The range starts with a stripped-out runabout badged the Take Up, with a hip Beats version (sporting a great sound system) parked in the middle, and a well specced High Up finishing off the range. There’s even an electric one, called the e-Up, so you’ve no excuse for not finding the Up of your dreams.

VW Up buyers' guide


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