Used test: BMW 1 Series vs Lexus CT200h vs Volkswagen Golf vs Volvo V40

Fancy a used car that’s practical enough to fulfil family duties, yet smart enough to feel special on the school run? These four should fit the bill...

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What Car? team
26 Nov 2016 07:00 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 00:03

Our Verdict

With all of the furore surrounding diesels at the moment, the Lexus CT200h might be a tempting choice. After all, with its petrol hybrid engine it’s the least likely to incur the wrath of any future diesel charges; what’s more, you get what look to be the cheapest running costs and near-faultless reliability thrown into the bargain. What’s not to like?

Well, quite a lot, actually. Given the harshness of its petrol engine, the uncontrolled ride and handling, the poor boot space, the finicky dashboard and the fact it’s considerably more expensive than any other car here, it’s hard to recommend the Lexus. If you really want to do without diesel, a petrol version of any of the other cars here would probably be a better bet.

The Volvo must come third. It’s easy to love it for its handsome looks, both inside and out, not to mention the quality feel of its interior and its smooth, flexible engine. It’s looking like decent value now, too, given what it offers.

However, it isn’t quite cheap enough, given that there are quite a few flaws to live with. The ride isn’t as settled as it should be, the steering feels vague and the rear seats are cramped; its reliability score is nothing to write home about, either, and servicing costs are pretty high.

By contrast, the Volkswagen Golf’s are far more reasonable – but that’s not all it has going for it. In the Golf, you get one of the finest interiors of any used car around; and while this Bluemotion version isn’t quite as well sorted as other Golfs, it still handles tidily. It’s spacious and airy inside, too, so you and your passengers won’t feel cramped, and let’s not forget it’s the cheapest car here to buy.

It isn’t perfect, though. A firm ride and the extra hassle caused by that long gearing keep it from being the relaxing experience to drive that it should be, and the fact that the Golf has the worst reliability score here must keep it from the top spot.

The BMW 1 Series is, of course, more expensive than the Golf (and, of course, the Volvo) – but we reckon it’s worth the extra cost it’ll set you back. Granted, the offset pedals are an issue, as does the fact you really have to thrash its engine to get it going.

However, there are small foibles. The 116d manages to be both better to drive and more comfortable than the Golf, while also offering better reliability, better real-world fuel economy and just as much space and practicality. With all that in mind, it takes our top spot here.

Read our review of the latest BMW 1 Series

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1st – BMW 1 Series

Used test: BMW 1 Series vs Lexus CT200h vs Volkswagen Golf vs Volvo V40

For Strong engines; smooth ride; great to drive; good reliability

Against Overly sharp steering; offset pedals; lanky gearing

Verdict Does an exemplary job of marrying family duties and low running costs with a premium feel

Rated 4 out of 5

Read the full used BMW 1 Series review

Find a used BMW 1 Series for sale in the What Car? Classifieds


2nd – Volkswagen Golf

Used test: BMW 1 Series vs Lexus CT200h vs Volkswagen Golf vs Volvo V40

For Secure handling; excellent dashboard; airy interior

Against Firm low-speed ride; gawky gearing

Verdict A fantastic all-rounder that offers so much for the price

Rated 4 out of 5

Read the full used Volkswagen Golf review

Find a used Volkswagen Golf for sale in the What Car? Classifieds


3rd – Volvo V40

Used test: BMW 1 Series vs Lexus CT200h vs Volkswagen Golf vs Volvo V40

For Quality interior; smooth, flexible engine; low price

Against Road noise; vague steering; cramped rear

Verdict Great in some respects, but below par in others

Rated 3 out of 5

Read the full used Volvo V40 review

Find a used Volvo V40 for sale in the What Car? Classifieds


4th – Lexus CT

Used test: BMW 1 Series vs Lexus CT200h vs Volkswagen Golf vs Volvo V40

For Good real-world fuel economy; reliability

Against Awful ride and refinement; pokey boot; expensive

Verdict Dynamically flawed in many ways, and extremely expensive, too

Rated 2 out of 5

Read the full used Lexus CT review

Find a used Lexus CT for sale in the What Car? Classifieds


Specifications: BMW 116d Efficient Dynamics

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel

List price when new £20,885

Price today £9000

Power 114bhp

Torque 192lb ft

0-60mph 9.9sec

Top speed 121mph

Fuel economy 74.3mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 99g/km


Specifications: Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI 105 Bluemotion

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel

List price when new £20,015

Price today £7500

Power 103bhp

Torque 184lb ft

0-60mph 10.8sec

Top speed 118mph

Fuel economy 74.3mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 99g/km


Specifications: Volvo V40 1.6D D2 ES

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel

List price when new £19,745

Price today £7500

Power 113bhp

Torque 199lb ft

0-60mph 11.8sec

Top speed 119mph

Fuel economy 78.5mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 94g/km


Specifications: Lexus CT200h SE-I

Engine size 1.8-litre hybrid

List price when new £23,786

Price today £10,500

Power 134bhp

Torque 105lb ft

0-60mph 12.1sec

Top speed 110mph

Fuel economy 68.9mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 94g/km

Price today is based on a 2012 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

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