Less than 10,000 - part 1

* The best 71 new cars revealed * From 7000 to 264,000 * Eight price brackets included...

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What Car? Staff
14 August 2009

Less than 10,000 - part 1

Fiat 500 1.2 Pop
Price 8300
Target Price 8300

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we defy anyone to look at the 500 and not smile. It's almost impossibly cute, and the fact that it's got some genuine Italian charm on top makes it even more irresistible.

The best bit is that you're buying all that for little more than 8000 (less with the scrappage allowance). You're hardly breaking the bank, but it looks a million dollars and that's a bargain in anyone's book.

You may think that a 1.2-litre engine won't be gutsy enough, but it's just right for city driving and that's where most of these cars will spend a lot of their time. Even without any eco-friendly fiddling to the engine or aerodynamics, Fiat has created a car that still averages more than 55mpg, too.

For us, Pop is the most sensible trim. It's 1400 less than the next trim, but still has electric front windows and a CD player, as well as plenty of airbags, which helped the car to a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. You may want to add air-con and alloy wheels, but they come to less than 1000.

Granted, some of the material quality gives away how cheap the car is, and a Mini will be more fun to drive. However, the 500 is also much cheaper and, crucially, no-one will look at you driving it and think you're an estate agent.

Daihatsu Sirion 1.0 S
Price 8320
Target Price 7857

If you rate success by how much car you can get for your money, you'll struggle to find a bigger bargain than the Sirion. For around 8000 or 6000 with the Government's scrappage allowance you're buying a modern supermini that has loads of space and kit for the cash.

Even though this is the cheapest model, it still has air-con, electric front windows and six airbags. To cap it all, there's even a five-year warranty.

Hyundai i20 1.2 Comfort
Price 9445
Target Price 9020

If you're one of those buyers who chooses their car with their head first and their heart second, this could be your ideal car. Match our Target Price and, for 9000, you'll be the proud owner of a car with an equipment list that could shame something twice as expensive. Without even touching the options list, you get alloy wheels, air-con, electric windows, six airbags and a huge smile.

As for peace of mind, how does this grab you? A five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, three years' breakdown cover and a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating all come as standard. The i20 is well built, too, and it will cost peanuts to run. Resale values are expected to be strong and the little engine returns more than 50mpg on average.

You don't even sacrifice driving enjoyment. With light controls and a punchy engine, the i20 couldn't be easier to drive in town. It also rides well, and can even hold its own on the open road, with stable, predictable handling.

That said, there's no avoiding the fact that some rivals are much more fun to drive. Others are more chic and rather more appealing from the behind the wheel: 'sturdy and functional' is the best we can say of the cabin's materials, but harsher critics may dismiss it as 'drab'.

Never mind, though. If you're happy to forgo a bit of style for some serious value for money, you've come to the right place.

Suzuki Alto 1.0 SZ3
Price 7745
Target Price 7745

If you're reluctant to consider a bargain Suzuki city car, then consider this: Nissan is happy to sell almost exactly the same car with a Nissan badge on it. That should set your mind at ease.

What's more, the Alto is even better value than the Nissan Pixo. For not much morethan 7500, you can buy a supermini that will just about swallow four adults, and that in SZ3 trim comes with plenty of little luxuries, such as electric front windows, a CD player and even air-conditioning.

Still not tempted by the list price? We're sure you will be by the running costs: the engine averages more than 64mpg, while the car is in the lowest group for insurance and the second-lowest for road tax.

The tight turning circle and small size are perfect for city life, although you can't deny the laws of physics: in such a small car, the boot is tiny. You need to buy the most expensive model for the folding rear seat to be split, too, instead of the standard one-piece arrangement.

Similarly, you can see where the companies have managed to save a penny or two on materials. Refinement could be better, for instance, while the cabin quality is some way short of the best for style, with exposed screw heads and lots of hard, shiny plastics. Still, given the Suzuki Alto's low price, that's all forgivable.

Nissan Micra 1.2 Visia+ 5dr
Price 9325
Target Price 8764

Beneath the Micra's love-it-or-loathe-it looks is a supermini with real substance.

It's perfect for nipping around town, with a sweet engine, light steering and superb visibility. True, it's not the most composed or the most spacious supermini, but the sliding rear bench allows you to choose between rear legroom or boot space.

You get good standard equipment, too (including air-con on this model), as well as the promise of solid build and good reliability.