The best cheap new cars exceed expectations, and a tight budget doesn't mean making a sacrifice in quality, practicality or driving appeal.
Here's our guide to the top 10 cheap new cars, all of which cost less than £15,000.
Volkswagen Up 1.0 75 High Up 3dr £10,665
We named the VW Up our 2012 Car of the Year, and it remains our City Car of the Year. Although it's tiny, the Up is surprisingly practical and it's as composed on the motorway as it is nimble in the city. The interior is as classy as you'd expect a VW's to be, and its smooth three-cylinder petrol engine gives an average of 60.1mpg.
Ford Fiesta 1.0T Ecoboost 100 Zetec 5dr £14,245
We've always loved the way the Ford Fiesta drives - it's so refined and so much fun that it feels like a more expensive car. The latest version is available with a turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine that makes it better still, and gives low running costs thanks to CO2 emissions of 99g/km and a claimed average of 65.7mpg. The list price is close to our £15,000 limit, but haggle hard and you can pay a lot less.
Hyundai i10 1.2 Classic £8345
The Hyundai i10 is a great example of what Hyundai does best - cars that are cheap to own, yet also stylish and well equipped. The i10 is due for replacement during 2013, but it remains one of our favourite city cars thanks to its low cost, generous kit and smooth, economical 1.2-litre petrol engine. As with any Hyundai, there's the reassurance of a five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, too.
Dacia Sandero 0.9 TCe 90 Ambiance £7395
At £5995, the entry-level Dacia Sandero is the cheapest new car on sale in the UK. Tempting as that figure is, we'd recommend paying a bit more for the 0.9 TCe 90 Ambiance model, which is more economical, and comes with useful extra power and kit. Its £7395 price means that it's still dirt-cheap, too. Although the Sandero isn't as good to drive - or as classy inside - as some rivals, it's so cheap, and so practical, that we're prepared to overlook its faults.
Kia Ceed 1.4 1 £13,495
For the same price as some superminis, the Kia Ceed gives you all the space and sophistication of a family hatchback. The cheapest Ceed - the 1.4 1 - has a smooth petrol engine that gives strong performance and averages 47.1mpg. Inside, the Ceed is classy and roomy, and even this entry-level model comes with air-conditioning, a USB input, six airbags and stability control. Kia's seven-year warranty adds to a package that represents outstanding value.
Citroen C3 Picasso 1.4 VTi 95 VTR+ £14,300
Finding a new MPV for less than £15,000 might seem a tall order, but the Citroen C3 Picasso is just that. With lots of space and a light, airy feel, the C3 Picasso's cabin is perfectly suited to family life. Our favourite version - the 1.4 VTi 95 VTR+ - averages 44.8mpg and comes with air-con, alloy wheels, Bluetooth, and six airbags.
Skoda Rapid 1.2 TSI 86 S £13,700
Skoda's reputation for great value has been boosted by the arrival of the Rapid. No other hatchback at this price (bar the mechanically identical Seat Toledo) can offer as much cabin space for the money, and the boot is equally huge. Overall refinement could be better, but the 1.2 TSI 86 petrol engine is reasonably flexible, and the Rapid's interior is solid and user-friendly.
Dacia Duster 1.5 dCi 110 Ambiance 4x4 £13,845
Buying an SUV can be an expensive business, especially if it has four-wheel drive. Not if you go for a Dacia Duster, however. Prices for the Duster start from just £8995, whereas the cheapest Nissan Qashqai (which is a similar size) costs nearly twice as much. You'll need to spend more to get four-wheel drive and anything like decent standard kit, but the 1.5 dCi 110 Ambiance 4x4 gives you a family 4x4 for less than £14,000, and you can't argue with that.
Suzuki Swift Sport £13,749
Few cars sum up the concept of affordable fun as well as the Suzuki Swift Sport. It's not the quickest hot hatch, but it's a hoot to drive, with responsive handling and a willing engine. A comparatively low (group 19) rating means insurance costs are surprisingly sensible, and standard kit includes Bluetooth, climate control, xenon headlamps and seven airbags.
Mini 1.6 Cooper £14,900
It's a familiar sight, but the Mini remains a hugely desirable car. Choose your model carefully and it's also surprisingly cheap. The basic Mini Cooper 1.6 is our favourite – it has enough power to allow you to enjoy the Mini's brilliant handling, yet it averages over 50mpg. Adding the optional Pepper pack bumps the price above our £15,000 limit, but it adds useful extra kit. Mini's TLC mainentance pack is a worthwhile addition, too – for £249 it covers servicing costs for up to five years, or 50,000 miles. The extra expense can be offset against what you'll get back when you sell the car, because the Mini holds its value exceptionally well.
By Leo Wilkinson
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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