Personal Shopper: best small automatic car for £15,000

Want a new car but don't know where to start? Just send us your criteria and we'll give our new and used car choices, and tell you how much we can save you...

Volkswagen Polo

Buying used

  • Our recommended choice: 2019 Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI auto
  • Price: £14,300
  • Mileage: 5050

"There are no weaknesses in the Polo's armour." That's what we said of the Volkswagen Polo when it was announced as our Small Car of the Year at the 2019 What Car? Awards, and the great news is that you can have a nearly new Polo and still have plenty of change from your £15,000 budget.

We found a plethora of low-mileage examples in our preferred SE trim, which comes with a set of smart-looking alloy wheels, air conditioning, rear electric windows and an upgraded infotainment system with all the latest Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring capabilities. The turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol is punchy yet efficient, while the seven-speed automatic gearbox is swift in operation. Passengers will also appreciate the Polo's roomy interior and smooth ride, plus there's a very accommodating boot that shames those of some bigger family cars.

  • Also consider: 2018 Mini 3dr 1.5 Cooper auto
  • Price: £14,500
  • Mileage: 2332
Mini hatchback front

Cute looks and a strong image mark the Mini hatch apart from duller small car rivals. Few feel quite so premium, because the interior is awash with dense, high-quality plastics and plenty of retro touches, such as the row of toggle switches and lashings of chrome trim. The infotainment system is one of the easiest to use, too, because it's based upon BMW's iDrive, with a rotary controller.

You'll have fun behind the wheel, too, because the Mini is relatively sporty despite having grown in size, and the turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine is a peach, pulling hard throughout the rev range. It isn't all that expensive to run, either, with good fuel economy and reasonable servicing costs.

  • Also consider: 2018 Audi A1 1.4 TFSI Sport auto
  • Price: £14,999
  • Mileage: 16,500
Used Audi A1 2010-present

The Volkswagen Polo may be a very smart small car, but the Audi A1 is even classier. Even though this generation of the A1 came out in 2010, the interior still feels pretty contemporary. It won't be as spacious inside as the latest Polo and the boot is small, but if you're not using it as your sole car, you should be fine.

The A1 will provide you with a sportier drive, too, because it has firmer suspension to limit body roll, but it's not so unforgiving as to be uncomfortable. And the A1 feels far more composed than most small cars at motorway speeds – great news if you have to visit friends or family who live far away.

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