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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BMW 1 Series rear

What will they cost?

Price-wise, the Volkswagen Golf and Volvo V40 look broadly similar at the five-year-old mark. The BMW 1 Series is pricier than both, but even it isn’t as expensive to buy as the Lexus CT. The reason for that is because it’s retained its value so well, probably because it’s relatively rare.

That means it will continue to depreciate slowly in percentage terms, but because the other cars are so much cheaper to start with, in cash terms they probably actually won’t lose you any more over the same period – and they might, in fact, end up costing you slightly less.

Government fuel consumption figures suggest the Lexus CT will also be the thirstiest of the four cars here, but in our experience of real-world driving in all four of these cars, the CT200h does at least come the closest to emulating its official figures. The Volvo is the most efficient on paper, but it and the BMW have to tie for second place in terms of their real-world fuel economy, while the Volkswagen is likely to be thirstiest in the real world.

That said, all of these cars are pretty efficient, and none is going to eat you out of house and home in terms of fuel costs. And the news as regards tax is even better – all of these cars fall below the 99g/km threshold, meaning all will cost you precisely zilch in vehicle excise duty.

The Lexus is also the cheapest car here to service, but keep in mind that it only qualifies for Lexus’s Essentials scheme, designed for over cars, when it hits five years old – most other manufacturers’s servicing schemes for older cars start at three years of age. The Volkswagen is the next cheapest, while the BMW and the Volvo are roughly on a par in terms of service costs.

The reason for the later start for Lexus’s servicing scheme, of course, is that its cars come with a longer warranty. That means if you buy a Lexus that’s less than five years old and that's been serviced to manufacturer specification, it’ll still have a portion of its manufacturer’s warranty left, where no rival of the same age will.

As a result, the Lexus has the best reputation for reliability of the four cars here, followed by the Volkswagen. The Volvo comes next, while BMW languishes near the bottom of many a reliability survey, which means the 1 Series is the least likely to be reliable.

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