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Top 10 economical used cars for less than £5000

Worried about sky-high petrol prices, and don't have a fortune to spend on a new car? These are the models that you should be considering...

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by
Oliver Young
Updated20 February 2022

Top 10 economical used cars for less than £5000

It's pretty much impossible to arrive at a petrol station, begin filling up your car and smile as you watch the bill go up and up. And why would you? Fuel is a necessary purchase, not a desirable one, so it only makes sense to try to lengthen the lifespan of your tank. 

However, this becomes a redundant effort if it means splashing a lot more cash when buying the car itself, and that's where the used market comes in. We've put together a list of our favourite, ultra-fuel-efficient petrol options that are available for less than £5000. All average more than 60mpg* and produce less than 100g/km of CO2 – the latter figure meaning free road tax for examples registered before April 2017. 

*Due to the age of the cars, all MPG figures quoted are based on the NEDC testing prevalent at the time, as opposed to the newer, more realistic WLTP testing

Strengths

  • Handsome looks
  • Cheap to buy
  • Efficient engines

Weaknesses

  • Poor reliability record
  • Finicky infotainment
  • Cramped interior

Engine 1.0 VTi
Official average 65.6mpg*
CO2 output 95g/km  

small car with the fuel economy typical of cars even smaller, the Peugeot 208 is at its most fuel efficient when paired with the entry-level engine: a 68bhp 1.0-litre unit. With the parameters we've set, it's close to being the only member of its class to qualify, meaning it's one of the most spacious cars we have to recommend. It's incredibly affordable to buy and run, although questionable reliability is worth mentioning. 

We found: 2015 Peugeot 208 1.0 VTi Puretech Active, 43,700 miles, £4500

Find a used Peugeot 208 for sale here

Strengths

  • Distinctive exterior and interior
  • Nimble in traffic
  • Affordable to buy and run

Weaknesses

  • Sloppy driving dynamics
  • Subpar practicality
  • Jittery ride
  • Reliability mixed

Engine 0.9 TwinAir 
Official average 70.6mpg*
CO2 output 95g/km  

With an iconic name and retro looks, the Fiat 500's 21st century revival has proved very successful. Another factor aiding that success is its range of economical engines, with the best of the bunch being an 85bhp 0.9-litre unit. Despite having the most power of any city car on this list, the 500 has the highest fuel economy figure, too. It would rank higher if it weren't for its age and shortage of space.

We found: 2013 Fiat 500 0.9 TwinAir S, 35,000 miles, £4995

Find a used Fiat 500 for sale here

Strengths

  • Incredibly tight turning circle
  • Plenty of kit
  • Spacious interior

Weaknesses

  • Underpowered 1.0-litre engine
  • Not entertaining to drive
  • Less practical than class leaders

Engine 1.0 SCe
Official average 67.3mpg*
CO2 output 95g/km  

While your usual city car has a front-engined, front-wheel drive layout, this generation of the Renault Twingo features the opposite. The idea is that, with its engine in the rear, this frees up space for a bigger interior without compromising crash safety. It works, too, because four adults can fit very comfortably inside what is a compact package. Does the layout negatively impact fuel economy? No: its 69bhp 1.0-litre engine holds up against rivals, and so does the 89bhp 0.9-litre unit with its average of 65.7mpg. 

We found: 2015 Renault Twingo 1.0 SCe Dynamique (s/s), 59,000 miles, £4990

Find a used Renault Twingo for sale here

Strengths

  • Decent performance
  • Real-world fuel economy
  • Infotainment

Weaknesses

  • Noisy engine
  • Jerky automatic gearbox
  • Very small boot

Engine 1.0 VTi
Official average 68.9mpg*
CO2 output 95g/km  

Built as part of a joint venture that resulted in it sharing common parts with the Citroën C1 and Toyota Aygo, the Peugeot 108 is extremely frugal with the 68bhp 1.0-litre engine under the bonnet – a unit available in all three cars, as well as the 208 previously listed. Available in three and five-door forms, the 108 ticks many boxes, including good equipment levels, nippy performance (better than that of the 1.0-litre 208 due to less weight) and the option of a fabric roof for those who worship the sun. All of this can be had for very reasonable money. 

We found: 2014 Peugeot 108 1.0 VTi Active 3dr, 37,000 miles, £4995

Find a used Peugeot for sale here

Strengths

  • Decent performance
  • Real-world fuel economy
  • Infotainment

Weaknesses

  • Noisy engine
  • Jerky automatic gearbox
  • Sloppy manual gearshift

Engine 1.0 VTi
Official average 68.9mpg*
CO2 output 95g/km  

If the 108 and C1 are so similar, why does the latter rank higher? Well, while the margin isn't substantial, the C1 earns some bonus points for generally having more examples available on the used market, as well as Citroën (as a brand) proving more dependable, as seen in our latest What Car? Reliability Survey. Its reliability rating of 95.6% significantly trumps Peugeot's less impressive 89.6%. Apart from that, both cars share the same praises. 

We found: 2015 Citroën C1 1.0 VTi Flair 3dr, 56,000 miles, £5000

Find a used Citroën C1 for sale here

Strengths

  • Cheap to run
  • Good build quality
  • Some great interior trims

Weaknesses

  • Cramped in the back
  • Small boot
  • Refinement is disappointing

Engine 1.0 VVT-i
Official average 68.9mpg*
CO2 output 95g/km  

The Aygo ranks higher still, with Toyota's reliability rating of 97% being the main factor in that. It's also the most distinctively styled out of the city car trio, helping it to stand out from the crowd. Plenty of trims are available – seven, to be exact – and used examples are common, meaning there's plenty of choice. One decision you don't have to make is what engine to get, however. There's only one available within budget, and it's the fuel-sipping 68bhp 1.0-litre. 

We found: 2014 Toyota Aygo 1.0 VTi X-Play 3dr, 53,000 miles, £4990

Find a used Toyota Aygo for sale here

Strengths

  • Reliable engines
  • Plenty to choose from
  • Long warranty

Weaknesses

  • Bumpy ride
  • Not much fun to drive
  • Small boot

Engine 1.0 
Official average 67.3mpg*
CO2 output 99g/km

For a more practical city car, when compared to our previous three, consider the excellent Kia Picanto. It, too, is available in three-door and five-door forms, although it has a roomier interior and bigger boot. Its 68bhp 1.0-litre engine – not to be confused with the unit in the C1, 108, 208 and Aygo – provides decent performance and great economy, making it fantastic in town. Confidence-inspiring reliability acts as the cherry on top of this well-rounded package. 

We found: 2014 Kia Picanto 1.0 VR7 3dr, 34,914 miles, £4995

Find a used Kia Picanto for sale here

Our pick: 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium 5dr

0-62mph: 10.8 sec
MPG/range: 51.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 125g/km
Seats: 5
Insurance group: 13E

Strengths

  • Great fun to drive
  • Composed and stable ride
  • Loads to choose from

Weaknesses

  • Rear seats lack leg room
  • Boot could be bigger
  • Plasticky interior

Engine 1.0 Ecoboost
Official average 65.7mpg*
CO2 output 99g/km

In 2009, we named the Ford Fiesta our What Car? Car of the Year, and in 2013 it only got better. It received a facelift, along with a new engine in the 1.0-litre Ecoboost unit. This three-cylinder turbo is available in three states of tune: 99bhp, 123bhp and 138bhp. As an engine ahead of its time, it gave the Fiesta a blend of performance and economy that would exceed expectations, and they still impress to this day. It's the best-handling car in its class and exceptional value for money. The only reason this five-star car is beaten by four-star ones is because our budget only buys you an older, higher-mileage example. 

We found: 2013 Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost Zetec (s/s) 5dr, 69,678 miles, £4999

Find a used Ford Fiesta for sale here

Strengths

  • Cheap to run
  • Spacious by class standards
  • Reliability record

Weaknesses

  • Cheap-feeling interior
  • Limited infotainment options

Engine 1.0
Official average 65.7mpg*
CO2 output 99g/km

Speaking of exceptional value, the Suzuki Celerio is a real bargain to buy and run, yet can still hold its head high in the face of competition. Its 68bhp 1.0-litre engine provides around the same grunt and fuel efficiency as we've seen from other cars on this list, and the Celerio is reasonably polished to drive as well. Practicality is another strong suit for this five-door-only city car, because its interior is surprisingly spacious and so is its boot. Insurance and servicing costs will be low, plus Suzuki has a really good reputation for reliability. 

We found: 2015 Suzuki Celerio 1.0 SZ3, 50,000 miles, £4999

Find a used Suzuki Celerio for sale here

Strengths

  • Great to drive
  • Smooth ride
  • Cheaper than a Volkswagen Up

Weaknesses

  • Only four seats
  • Clumsy automatic gearbox
  • Volkswagen Up holds its value better

Engine 1.0 MPI GreenTech
Official average 68.9mpg*
CO2 output 96g/km

Despite its advancing years, the Skoda Citigo still feels as fresh as ever. It's refined and comfortable to drive, its interior is practical and solidly built, plus it's safe, having earned five stars during Euro NCAP crash testing. As an added bonus, two engines are available within our parameters, the most economical of which – a 59bhp 1.0-litre – is referenced above. The other is a 74bhp 1.0-litre that can average 67.3mpg and emit 98g/km of CO2; these extremely minor trade-offs are worth the extra poke. Either way, it's our used go-to for affordable, economical petrol cars. The only reason its mechanical siblings, the Volkswagen Up and Seat Mii, don't also feature on this list is due to their scarcity within our parameters.  

We found: 2012 Skoda Citigo 1.0 MPI GreenTech SE, 32,900 miles, £4250

Find a used Skoda Citigo for sale here

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