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Used test: Ford Focus vs Toyota Corolla vs Volkswagen Golf verdict

These family hatchbacks all make tempting used buys, but should you choose the sharp-handling Ford, the high-tech Toyota or the the classy Volkswagen?...

Volkswagen Golf driving

Our Verdict

You might be asking yourself, how can the least frugal contender make for the best used car purchase? Well, that might be so, but it has a significant saving advantage over the more frugal Corolla, which you'll need to cover well over 100,000 miles in before it pays you back in saved fuel costs over its higher initial purchase price. But ignoring the cost for a second, this test also proves something else: that the Golf remains a very compelling all-rounder.

Similarly, the Corolla is one of the best hybrids yet – not just an efficient mode of transport but a very good car in general. Unfortunately, in the family car stakes, it’s well beaten on rear seat space and infotainment.

The Focus comes last because it has the cheapest feeling interior and rides the least comfortably. But it’s still a fine choice if you want great handling and need acres of rear leg room for lanky teens. Plus, its diesel engine will save you on fuel if you do a lot of motorway miles.

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1st – Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen Golf studio

For Supple ride; best infotainment; willing engine
Against Smallest boot; least safety kit; worst average fuel economy
Verdict Not the cheapest to fuel, but a great all-rounder that's extremely good value for money

What Car? rating four stars out of five

Read our used Volkswagen Golf review >>

Find a used Volkswagen Golf for sale >>

2nd – Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla studio

For Most efficient; comfortable ride at high speeds; Toyota’s excellent reliability record; good safety kit
Against Slowest; rev-happy CVT gearbox; tightest rear space; poor infotainment
Verdict The most ecologically sound and reliable car here, but is costly to buy

What Car? rating four stars out of five

Read our full used Toyota Corolla review >>

Find a used Toyota Corolla for sale >>

3rd – Ford Focus

Ford Focus studio

For Sharpest handling; strong engine; quietest cruiser; best driving position
Against Firmest ride; least kit; low-rent interior
Verdict The best car to drive here, but isn't our favourite Focus

What Car? rating four stars out of five

Read our full used Ford Focus review >>

Find a used Ford Focus for sale >>

Specification: Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI 115 Match 5dr

Engine size 1.0-litre petrol
List price when new £34,790
Price today £15,800*
Power 113bhp @ 5000-5500rpm
Torque 148lb ft @ 2000-3500rpm
0-60mph 9.8sec
Top speed 123mph
Fuel economy 49.9mpg (Official WLTP combined)
CO2 emissions 109g/km

Specification: Toyota Corolla 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid Icon Tech

Engine size 1.8-litre petrol/hybrid
List price when new £24,800
Price today £18,757*
Power 120bhp (combined)
Torque 105lb ft @ 3600rpm (engine only)
0-60mph 11.2sec
Top speed 112mph
Fuel economy 63.2mpg (Official WLTP combined)
CO2 emissions 76g/km

Specification: Ford Focus 1.5 Ecoblue 120 ST-Line

Engine size 1.5-litre diesel
List price when new £22,850
Price today £15,550*
Power 118bhp @ 3600rpm
Torque 221lb ft @ 1750-2250rpm
0-60mph 9.4sec
Top speed 122mph
Fuel economy 61.4mpg (Official WLTP combined)
CO2 emissions 93g/km

*Prices today are based on a 2019 model with average mileage and full service history according to the What Car? Valuation service, correct at time of writing