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Best used small cars

Small doesn’t have to mean stingy, and cheap really can be cheerful, as these fantastic used small cars prove...


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What Car? team

Small cars are the jacks of all trades. They can be a hoot to drive, they can be compact premium vehicles – ideal for congested city streets, and they can be reliable, good-value transport serving as a second family car.

Deciding which used version to buy can be daunting, though, because of the sheer diversity of what’s available today. For example, you could go for an evergreen such as the Ford Fiesta or splash out on something more fashionable such as the Audi A1 or Mini.

Rest assured, there’s something for everyone and our list aims to reflect this. Take a look at our top 10 and see what takes your fancy.

10

Audi A1

Used Audi A1 2010-present

The Audi A1 has proven popular thanks to its ability to fit the build quality and upmarket feel of Audi’s more expensive models into a smaller package. It isn’t quite as spacious as some rivals, but you'll get a smart interior and a strong range of engines. The only downside is that it’s quite expensive to buy. 

We found: 2015 Audi A1 1.0 TFSI SE 5dr, 45,000 miles, £9995

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Pros

  • Refined petrol engines
  • Agile handling
  • Superb interior quality

Cons

  • Diesel is noisy
  • Sports suspension hurts ride comfort
  • More expensive than rivals
9

Vauxhall Corsa

Vauxhall Corsa

It doesn’t seem to matter that there are many rivals that beat the Corsa in key areas; its appeal is that it manages to provide a practical, well-built car at an affordable price. Indeed, for this budget, you’ll be able to find numerous nearly new Corsas with plenty of kit, which makes it a tempting proposition. 

We found: 2019 Vauxhall Corsa 1.4T 100 SRI 5dr, 9000 miles, £9995

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Pros

  • Spacious interior
  • Comfortable low-speed ride
  • Keen pricing

Cons

  • Vague steering
  • Fiddly infotainment
  • Handling could be better
8

Honda Jazz

Used Honda Jazz 15-present

Maximising useful interior space was Honda’s aim with the Jazz, and it succeeded. Boot space is on a par with hatchbacks from the class above and its rear seats can fold completely flat. In addition, the base of the rear bench can also fold up against the seatback to allow tall or wide items to be loaded widthways. It's also top of the tree when it comes to reliability. 

We found: 2018 Honda Jazz 1.3 SE, 22,000 miles, £10,000

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Pros

  • Very spacious
  • Well equipped
  • Sturdy cabin quality

Cons

  • Harsh ride
  • Unrefined engine
  • Not much fun to drive
7

Renault Clio

Used Renault Clio Hatchback (13 - present)

The Renault Clio has been a popular choice for all of those seeking a good-looking, refined and grown-up small car. It's well equipped, too, especially in Dynamique Nav trim. The 1.5 dCi 90 offers the best fuel economy but, unless you’re planning to do lots of motorway miles, you’ll be better off with the 0.9 TCE petrol.

We found: 2019 Renault Clio 0.9 TCe Dynamique Nav 5dr, 17,000 miles, £9900

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Pros

  • Flexible engines
  • Proving reliable
  • Low CO2 emissions

Cons

  • Cheapest cars are poorly equipped
  • Notchy gearchange
  • Tight rear head room
6

Hyundai i20

Used Hyundai i20 15-present

Handsome looks, generous standard equipment levels and plenty of interior space mean there’s a lot to like about the i20. The ride is a little unsettled and it doesn’t handle as well as the best on offer, but Hyundai performs strongly in reliability surveys, and this is backed by the five-year warranty from new, which should make ownership relatively stress-free.

We found: 2018 Hyundai i20 1.0 GT Turbo Edition 5dr, 12,000 miles, £9995

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Pros

  • Spacious interior
  • Refined petrol engines
  • Well-equipped

Cons

  • Ride can be choppy
  • Uninspiring handling
5

Mini

New Mini 5dr vs Audi A1 Sportback vs Ford Fiesta

Small cars don’t come much more desirable than the Mini. It handles well, comes with a large range of engines and has a funky, high-quality interior. True, you lose out on boot space and the rear seats are cramped, but if practicality isn’t so much of an issue, there’s no doubt the Mini is a car that appeals to the heart.

We found: 2017 Mini Hatch 1.5 Cooper 5dr, 27,000 miles, £9995

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Pros

  • Fun to drive
  • Low running costs

Cons

  • Not as practical as some rivals
  • Some cheap materials inside
4

Volkswagen Polo

Used Volkswagen Polo 18-present

The Volkswagen Polo costs more to buy than many of its rivals, which is why it only finishes in fourth place, but you do feel as though you're getting more. It's comfortable, has a supple ride and a nicely finished interior that mimics the larger Golf. The small, turbocharged petrol engines are the best picks as they tend to be smoother and quieter than the diesels.

We found: 2018 Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI Match Edition 5dr, 17,000 miles, £9995

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Pros

  • Supple ride
  • Generous interior space
  • Quiet on the move

Cons

  • Seat Ibiza more fun
  • Noisy diesel engine
  • Seatbelt issue
3

Seat Ibiza

Seat Ibiza

Previous generations of the Seat Ibiza were popular, but they never competed right at the top of the small car class. All this changed when Seat launched this fifth generation car in 2017. It's distinctively styled and there's more interior room. It rides and handles well and it's comfortable and practical. Our favourite 1.0-litre version in well-equipped SE Tech trim looks like a bit of a bargain. 

We found: 2018 Seat Ibiza 1.0 TSI SE, 12,000 miles, £9995

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Pros

  • Great to drive
  • Remarkably spacious
  • Strong petrol engines

Cons

  • Interior could be classier
  • Road noise
2

Ford Fiesta

Used Ford Fiesta (17-present) long term test review

The Fiesta is a bestseller for good reason. Ford knows how to do small cars well and the attractive Fiesta has a class-leading ride and handling qualities. Its infotainment system isn't quite on a par with the best in the class, but the rest of the package is so good that it’s hardly a deal-breaker.

We found: 2018 1.0 EcoBoost ST Line 5dr, 14,000 miles, £10,000

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Pros

  • Brilliant to drive
  • Lots of safety kit
  • Punchy Ecoboost engines

Cons

  • Small boot compared with rivals
  • Not as much rear leg room as a VW Polo or Seat Ibiza
  • Some cheap interior plastics
1

Skoda Fabia

Used Skoda Fabia 15 - present

This is a great used car. If you think of it as a less expensive Volkswagen Polo you can understand why we made the Fabia our Car of the Year in 2015, and our Used Small Car of the Year in our 2020 awards. It's well equipped, has lots of interior space and a comfortable ride, which makes it an excellent choice. If you've got £10,000 burning a hole you can pick up a barely used 2019 model. 

We found: 2019 1.0 TSI SE, 11,000 miles, £9995

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Pros

  • Spacious interior
  • Good to drive
  • Standard infotainment system

Cons

  • Hard interior plastics
  • Low speed ride could be better
  • Shortage of advanced safety kit
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