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

Words ByWhat Car? team

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Volvo V40 vs BMW 1 Series vs VW Golf vs Lexus CT

Our Verdict

The Lexus CT is a smart-looking thing and, on paper at least, it’s an attractive deal. The hybrid drivetrain means you get to avoid the worst of the diesel backlash that looks set to be a part of used car buyers’ lives for the foreseeable future. What’s more, its reliability record is the most impressive here.

The problem is, in the flesh, the CT200h is too flawed in too many ways to be able to recommend. The unforgiving ride, cramped rear quarters, and ever-intrusive noise levels all combine to make it an unpleasant car both to drive and to own. That it costs the most to buy is the final straw; it’s hard, nay impossible, to justify the extra outlay.

The Volvo V40 is a much more tantalising proposition. It, too, looks very handsome, but it's much more pleasant to drive and sit in, with that usable engine, stable handling and beautiful interior quality. What’s more, it’s the joint cheapest here to buy, and shouldn’t be too expensive to run, either.

However, the V40’s problem is that it just isn’t the polished product its other rivals here. There’s too much road and wind noise, the rear seats are claustrophobic, the ride is on the firm side, and the vague steering means you don’t get any payoff in terms of driving enjoyment or involvement. It’s safe and sensible, then, but not all that much fun.

Fun, however, is what the BMW 1 Series offers in spades. True, its steering can be a bit sharp at times, but when you’re nipping around town or pushing on along a twisty road, that makes it feel lithe and nimble. Work it hard, and that engine is potent, too, while inside the car, the entertainment system is the best here.

The question is whether the BMW worth the extra you’ll pay for it. Over the Volvo, yes. However, over the Volkswagen, the answer has to be no. The so-so interior quality, lack of engine flexibility and weirdly offset driving position don’t help, while the awkward boot and rear door openings mean it isn’t the most practical proposition. It’s a great car, but not great enough to warrant the price premium.

That leaves the Volkswagen Golf out in first place. True, this Bluemotion version isn’t as complete a package as other used Golfs. The ride is a bit jittery, and the functionality the entertainment system has to do without is annoying, too. It isn’t as much fun as the BMW, either, and has similarly long and awkward gearing.

However, the Golf’s classy interior means that it feels the most upmarket, in spite of the fact it has the most mainstream badge here. That dashboard is also the easiest to use, while the interior space, visibility and airiness it offers all mean your passengers won’t feel short-changed, as they will in the other cars. Neither will you, in fact, thanks to the Golf’s low purchase price and reasonable running costs. In short, while the Bluemotion isn’t the best all-rounder in the Golf range, it is the best all-rounder here.

Read our review of the latest Volkswagen Golf

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Also consider:

1st – Volkswagen Golf

For Secure handling; simple, classy interior; driving position; space; price

Against Firm low-speed ride; no Bluetooth; long gearing

Verdict A fine all-rounder that’ll please you whatever your wants and needs

Rated 4 out of 5

Read the full used Volkswagen Golf review

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

2nd – BMW 1 Series

For Strong engine; smooth ride; great entertainment system

Against Offset pedals; lanky gearing; a little pricey

Verdict Fast, fun and efficient – but it doesn’t come cheap

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

3rd – 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 X 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

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: Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI 105 Bluemotion

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel

List price when new Β£20,015

Price today Β£7500

Power 103bhp

Torque 184lb ft

0-60mph 10.8sec

Top speed 118mph

Fuel economy 74.3mpg (Official average)

CO2 emissions 99g/km

Specifications: BMW 116d Efficient Dynamics

Engine size 1.6-litre diesel

List price when new Β£20,885

Price today Β£9000

Power 114bhp

Torque 192lb ft

0-60mph 9.9sec

Top speed 121mph

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 Β£19,745

Price today Β£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 Β£23,786

Price today Β£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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