The best used small cars you can buy

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

Small cars are the jack of all trades.

Small cars compilation image

They can be a hoot to drive, they can be b– ideal for congested city streets – and they can be reliable, good-value transport serving as a second family car.

Deciding which one is best can be daunting due to the diversity of what’s available today. You could go for an evergreen such as the Ford Fiesta or splash out on something more fashionable such as the Audi A1 or Mini.

Rest assured, there’s something for everyone and our list aims to reflect this. Take a look at our top 10 to see what takes your fancy.

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10: Audi A1

Audi A1

The Audi A1 has proven very popular thanks to its ability to pack the build quality and upmarket feel of Audi’s more expensive models into a smaller package.

It isn’t quite as spacious as some rivals, but the payoff is a smart interior and the same strong range of engines as the Volkswagen Polo.

10: Audi A1 - interior

Audi A1 - interior

The downside, of course, is that it’s expensive to buy, although with the recent launch of the second-generation car you might find some cheaper cars on the forecourts.

We found: 2016 1.2 TDI Sport 5dr, 31,500 miles, £9995

9: Vauxhall Corsa

Vauxhall Corsa

You can’t have a top ten list of small cars without mentioning the Vauxhall Corsa; rarely out of the bestsellers list, there are examples of them everywhere.

It doesn’t seem to matter that there are many rivals that beat it in key areas; the Corsa’s appeal is that it manages to provide a practical, well-built car at an affordable price.

9: Vauxhall Corsa - interior

Vauxhall Corsa - interior

Indeed, for this budget, you’ll be able to find numerous nearly new Corsas with plenty of kit, which makes it a tempting proposition. There's a new one out soon so look out for nearly new bargains too.

We found: 2018 1.4T 100 SRI 5dr, 9000 miles, £9995

8: Honda Jazz

Honda Jazz

Maximising useful interior space was Honda’s aim with the Jazz, and it succeeded. Boot space is on a par with hatchbacks from the class above and, what’s more, the rear seats can fold completely flat, which is rare in a small car.

8: Honda Jazz - interior

Honda Jazz - interior

In addition, the base of the rear bench can also fold up against the seatback to allow tall or wide items to be loaded widthways. If you need a small car that is also practical, the Jazz is hard to beat.

We found: 2018 1.3 SE, 14,000 miles, £9995

7: Renault Clio

Renault Clio

The Renault Clio has been a popular choice for all of those seeking a good-looking, refined and grown-up small car.

Picking Dynamique Nav means you get sat-nav, automatic lights and wipers, a 7.0in infotainment touchscreen and keyless entry.

7: Renault Clio - interior

Renault Clio - interior

The 1.5 dCi 90 offers the best fuel economy but, unless you’re planning to do lots of motorway miles, you’ll probably be better off with the 0.9 TCE petrol.

We found: 2018 Renault Clio 0.9 TCe Dynamique Nav 5dr, 16,870 miles, £8000

6: Hyundai i20

Hyundai i20

Handsome looks, generous standard equipment levels and plenty of interior space mean there’s a lot to like about the i20.

The ride is a little unsettled around town and it doesn’t handle quite as well as the best on offer.

6: Hyundai i20 - interior

Hyundai i20 - interior

However, Hyundai performs strongly in reliability surveys, and this is backed up to some degree by the five-year warranty, which should make ownership relatively stress-free.

We found: 2017 Hyundai i20 1.0 GT Turbo Edition 5dr, 13,009 miles, £8491

5: Mini Hatchback

Mini Hatchback

Small cars don’t come much more desirable than the Mini. It handles well, comes with a large range of engines and has a funky, high-quality interior. And with so many different paint colours, you’ll rarely find two Minis that are the same.

5: Mini Hatchback - interior

Mini Hatchback - interior

True, you lose out on boot space and the rear seats are pretty cramped, but if practicality isn’t so much of an issue, there’s no doubt the Mini is a car that appeals to the heart.

We found: 2017 Mini Hatch 1.5 Cooper 5dr, 17,533 miles, £9990

4: Volkswagen Polo

Volkswagen Polo

The Volkswagen Polo costs more to buy than many of its rivals, which is why it finishes in position number four, but you do feel as though you are getting more.

Avoid the low-power petrol cars and you’ll have a small car that allows you to tackle long-distance drives in comfort, thanks to low levels of wind noise, a supple ride and a nicely finished interior that mimics the larger Golf.

4: Volkswagen Polo - interior

Volkswagen Polo - interior

The small turbocharged petrol engines are the best picks as they tend to be smoother and quieter than the diesels.

We found: 2017 Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI Match Edition 5dr, 9356 miles, £9995

3: Seat Ibiza

Seat Ibiza

Previous generations of the Seat Ibiza were good and popular cars, but they never competed right at the top of the small car class. All this changed when Seat launched this fifth generation car in 2017.

3: Seat Ibiza - interior

Seat Ibiza - interior

The attractive body is distinctively styled and there's more interior room. It rides and handles well and it's comfortable and practical. Find our favourite 1.0-litre version in well-equipped SE Tech trim and for this price it looks like a bit of a bargain.

We found: 2018 Seat Ibiza 1.0 TSI SE, 8309 miles, £9795

2: Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta

The Fiesta is a bestseller for good reason. Ford knows how to do small cars well and the attractive Fiesta was another feather in its cap, with class-leading ride and handling qualities, plus a vast amount of engine choices to suit enthusiasts and misers in equal measure.

2: Ford Fiesta - interior

Ford Fiesta - interior

Its infotainment system isn't quite on a par with the best in the class, but the rest of the package is so good that it’s hardly a deal-breaker.

We found: 2018 1.0 EcoBoost ST Line 5dr, 14,000 miles, £9995

1: Skoda Fabia

Skoda Fabia

If you ignore some of the cheaper-feeling interior plastics and concentrate on what the Skoda Fabia really is – a less expensive Volkswagen Polo – then you can understand why we made the Fabia our Car of the Year in 2015.

1: Skoda Fabia - interior

Skoda Fabia - interior

If you stick with SE specification cars, you get an impressive level of equipment for a very attractive price. What’s more, the Fabia has lots of interior space for a car of its size and a comfortable ride, which makes it an excellent choice.

We found: 2018 1.0 TSI SE, 6675 miles, £9690

So, what about the small used cars you should avoid?

Nissan Micra

Nissan Micra

Plenty about this generation of Nissan Micra felt half-hearted, meaning it failed even to come close to matching the best in class in many areas.

Nissan Micra - interior

Nissan Micra - interior

However, the latest model, launched in 2017, will soon fall in to our top 10 cars for £10,000, and is a much better bet.

Mitsubishi Mirage

Mitsubishi Mirage

The Mirage is cheap and nasty inside, woefully lethargic to drive and not even all that cheap to buy.

Mitsubishi Mirage - interior

Mitsubishi Mirage - interior

It’s very hard to justify choosing the Mirage over… well, anything.