The family hatchback is the stalwart of Britain’s roads. While, in recent years, SUVs and MPVs have encroached on their territory, the majority of British families are still transported in hatchbacks like the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra.
If you’ve got £5000 to spend on a used one, though, it isn’t easy to work out which is the best family hatchback for you. Not because there aren’t many available; in fact, for completely the opposite reason. There are so many different options to choose from, it’s a wonder anyone knows where to start.
To give you a helping hand, we’ve scoured the classifieds and separated the wheat from the chaff to find the best cheap family cars out there.
Best used family cars for less than £5000
10. Mazda 3
The Mazda 3 suffers from a firm ride and slightly claustrophobic back seats, but it is one of the most enjoyable family cars out there to drive. The body doesn’t lean over in corners and it grips very well indeed, which makes it rewarding on a twisty road. A good-sized boot, a fairly economical range of engines and a solid reputation for reliability only add to its appeal. Avoid the 1.6-litre diesel, which has a higher-than-usual incidence of injector issues.
We found: 2009 1.6 TS, 22,000 miles, £4727
9. Audi A3
The previous Audi A3 isn’t quite such a class act as the latest model – it’s rather dull to drive, has a slightly fussy interior and costs quite a bit as a used purchase. If you want a practical hatchback with a premium badge, it does still hit the spot, though. The smooth, fast 2.0-litre turbo petrol is a Golf GTI in a more subtle suit, but diesels are the most popular, and of those the 1.9-litre is the most dependable, especially at this price. Most models use the earlier six-speed DSG auto gearbox which is less prone to problems than later seven-speed versions.
We found: 2005 1.9 TDI SE, 66,000 miles, full service history, recent cambelt, £4,450
8. BMW 1 Series
It isn’t the most spacious family car around, with tight rear seats and small apertures through which to clamber into them, as well as a small boot. However, if your children are small enough and you value driving excitement, the BMW 1 Series is worth a look. Both diesel and petrol models are powerful enough while also being impressively efficient; there’s a smart interior, too. In fact, the only thing that really spoils the party is the firm ride. Timing chain failures can cause expensive breakdowns on diesel models, so check for any rattles.
We found: 2007 116i SE, 63,000 miles, £4688
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