Best used small cars (and the ones to avoid)

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

Best used small cars (and the ones to avoid)

Best used small cars

Size isn’t everything. In fact, sometimes the best things in life come in small packages, and today’s used car market boasts a huge choice of great second-hand small cars that prove the point.

Whether you’re looking for something that’s eminently practical, something that's fun, funky and fashionable, something that's fantastically cheap to run or simply something that combines a little of all these traits into one superb all-rounder, there’s a used small car for you.

The question is, which one to choose? Well, to help you decide, we’ve pulled together our 10 favourites. Read on to find out a little more about each one in turn.

Best used small cars

Honda Jazz

10. Honda Jazz

While its mini-MPV-esque looks and quite firm ride might put a few people off, the Honda Jazz is nevertheless a great option for buyers shopping with their head over their heart. After all, its practicality and its reliability are legendary. This particular version is very well made, as well.

Best used small cars

Honda Jazz

Its clever rear seats, which flip up cinema-style to allow tall loads to be carried, mean it’s one of the most versatile small cars around. It’s also spacious and has a superb reputation for reliability. What’s more, light steering makes it a doddle to drive in town.

We found: 2014 1.4 i-VTEC ES Plus, 23,000 miles, £8500

Read the used Honda Jazz review

Find a used Honda Jazz in the PistonHeads Classifieds


Best used small cars

Nissan Note

9. Nissan Note

If you’re after plenty of space in a small package, the Nissan Note should be your first port of call. It's so large inside , it actually straddles the ground between a small car and a small MPV, in much the same way the Honda Jazz does.

Best used small cars

Nissan Note

Its tall, narrow shape may be boxy, but it does mean there’s a huge amount of room for both front and rear passengers; there’s a huge boot, too, and the sliding rear seats on more expensive versions gives you the option of even more boot space. The Note is also reliable, easy to drive and cheap to run, although it isn’t quite as quiet as some other small cars on the move.

We found: 2014 1.2 Acenta Premium, 14,000 miles, £7790

Read the full Nissan Note review

Find a used Nissan Note in the PistonHeads Classifieds


Best used small cars

Hyundai i20

8. Hyundai i20

The Hyundai i20 isn’t the most exciting small car in the world to drive, and its rather plasticky interior is a let-down, even if it is solidly built and feels reasonably robust. From new, you also had the reassurance of a five-year warranty, so there may still be some of it left when you buy your used example.

Best used small cars

Hyundai i20

However, it's a comfortable, well equipped and quiet car on the move, which makes it relaxing to drive, and with all used i20s you get the benefit of the remainder of a five-year manufacturer warranty from the date the car was first registered.

We found: 2014 1.2 Active, 25,000 miles, £5391

Read the used Hyundai i20 review

Find a used Hyundai i20 in the PistonHeads Classifieds

Best used small cars

Vauxhall Corsa

7. Vauxhall Corsa

We make no secret of our appreciation of the Vauxhall Corsa – it was our Car of the Year in 2007 – although up against more modern rivals, it does now feel a little dated. It's still quite good fun to drive, though, by virtue of some lively engines and its neat size.

Best used small cars

Vauxhall Corsa

That said, you can’t fault the value it offers; a Corsa is one of the cheapest small cars going, and its traditional plus points of a smart interior, plenty of space and decent ride and handling still hold true today, making it quite a bargain.

We found: 2014 1.2 Exclusiv, 29,000 miles, £4991

Read the used Vauxhall Corsa review

Find a used Vauxhall Corsa in the PistonHeads Classifieds


Best used small cars

Audi A1

6. Audi A1

Cramped rear seats mean the Audi A1 isn’t one to choose if practicality is key. However, it’s the smartest, most upmarket-feeling small cars there is, and it’s great to drive, too, with sharp handling and a punchy engine range. It has all the Audi qualities present in its larger cars, while being dinky enough to make it easy to use in town.

Best used small cars

Audi A1

If you can get away with a little less space in the rear, it’s immensely rewarding in other areas. Mind you, you’ll pay for the privilege - the A1 is a very pricey option in this market.

We found: 2014 1.4 TFSI S line, 28,000 miles, £11,850

Read the used Audi A1 review

Find a used Audi A1 in the PistonHeads Classifieds


Best used small cars

Mini Hatchback

5. Mini hatchback

Want a small car that’s more fun and funky than the norm? Look no further – the Mini is the hatchback that’ll put a smile on your face before you’ve even got in. And once you have, it’ll continue to do so, with a stylish dashboard and sharp, direct handling that makes it a real laugh to drive.

Best used small cars

Mini Hatchback

It’s pricey, mind you, and some versions ride a bit firmly; what’s more, space in the back seats and boot comes at a premium. But if that’s less important to you than the fun you’ll be having, the Mini should be high on your list.

We found: 1.5 Cooper, 26,000 miles, £9993

Read the full Mini Hatchback review

Find a used Mini Hatchback in the PistonHeads Classifieds

Best used small cars

Renault Clio

4. Renault Clio

The Renault Clio is a great small car. It’s stylish to look at, feels very comfortable to ride along in, and it’s very efficient, with a range of usefully flexible engines and some great fuel economy figures. It's fun to drive, though, with neat handling.

Best used small cars

Renault Clio

However, space in the rear is a little tight, although there’s plenty of space elsewhere. Mind you, prices are on the high side if you want the best engine and equipment combinations.

We found: 2014 0.9 TCe Dynamique MediaNav, 25,000 miles, £6501

Read the full Renault Clio review

Find a used Renault Clio in the PistonHeads Classifieds


Best used small cars

Volkswagen Polo

3. Volkswagen Polo

Want a small car with all the class of a big one? The Volkswagen Polo fits the bill perfectly. With high-quality materials sprayed liberally around the interior, a comfortable ride that makes it feel entirely at home on the motorway, and low levels of wind, road and engine noise, the Polo feels secure and stable in any situation.

Best used small cars

Volkswagen Polo

What’s more, there’s plenty of room in the front and rear seats and the boot, making it a practical choice. Prices are higher than average, but when you consider what you get, they don’t seem unreasonable.

We found: 2014 1.2 TSI SE, 29,000 miles, £8995

Read the used Volkswagen Polo review

Find a used Volkswagen Polo in the PistonHeads Classifieds


Best used small cars

Skoda Fabia

2. Skoda Fabia

It isn't hard to see why the Skoda Fabia is one of our favourite small cars at the moment. It’s remarkably spacious, with loads of room throughout, and it’s great to drive, too. Combine this with a decent ride quality, a smashing entertainment system that’s a doddle to use, and a range of superb engines, and it all adds up to a very polished all-rounder.

Best used small cars

Skoda Fabia

The interior is a smaller version of the ones we've come to admire in the larger Octavia and Superb Skodas, with a feeling of solid robustness. True, prices are still rather high, but you do get a lot for your money.

We found: 2015 1.0 75 SE, 24,000 miles, £6490

Read the used Skoda Fabia review

Find a used Skoda Fabia in the PistonHeads Classifieds

Best used small cars

Ford Fiesta

1. Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta is our favourite used small car at the moment. Not only is it remarkably good fun to drive, but it manages to be very comfortable too – an impressive feat that so few small cars can pull off. You get a choice of great engines, too, with the 1.0-litre turbo a particular favourite.

Best used small cars

Ford Fiesta

It's decently practical, too. And while leg room in the rear is a little tight, the boot is a decent size and there’s plenty of room up front. It's a great all-rounder.

We found: 2015 1.0 Zetec, 26,000 miles, £8015

Read the used Ford Fiesta review

Find a used Ford Fiesta in the PistonHeads Classifieds


The used small cars to avoid

Chrysler Ypsilon

Chrysler Ypsilon

Yes, it’s cheap, but it’s that way for a reason. The Chrysler Ypsilon is poorly made, noisy, cramped, dull to drive and not very comfortable.


Used small cars to avoid

MG 3

MG 3

The MG 3 is quite good fun to drive, but that doesn’t make up for the comically cheap plastics, terrible quality, poor efficiency and noisy driving experience. It’s not actually that cheap, either.