What Car? Personal Shopper: small and sporty car for £20,000

Want a new car but don't know where to start? Just send us your criteria and we'll give our new and used car choices, and tell you how much we can save you...

Fiat 500X vs Citroen C4 Cactus vs Kia Soul vs Skoda Yeti

Buying used

  • Our recommended choice: 2018 Mini 5dr 1.5 Cooper 
  • Price: £17,725
  • Mileage: 2999
Mini Hatch front cornering

If you want a car that combines decent performance with reasonable running costs and retro styling, your natural choice should be the Mini hatchback.

We've gone for the five-door model, because it makes getting in easier for rear passengers and it's slightly longer than the three-door. We've also picked the three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine, because its 134bhp output means it can complete the 0-60mph dash in just 8.3sec and provide 50mpg or more at a cruise. 

Inside, you'll find plenty of high-quality soft-touch plastics and lots of Mini motifs dotted around, such as the chromed toggle switch and the infotainment screen in a circular housing that harks back to the central speedometer of the original 1959 Mini.

We found a six-month-old example at a Mini dealership with only 2999 miles on the clock for just £17,725. It has the optional Navigation Plus Pack, which gets you an upgraded infotainment system with a larger screen. Look out for the Comfort Pack, too, because that adds rear parking sensors, climate control, heated front seats, an armrest and a height-adjustable boot floor.

Read our full used Mini hatchback review

  • Also consider: 2018 Volkswagen Beetle 1.4 TSI Design
  • Price: £17,790
  • Mileage: 25
Used Volkswagen Beetle 2012-2018

Volkswagen recently ended production of the Beetle, but you can still find examples with only delivery mileage, such as this 2018 1.4 TSI Design we found for just £17,790. Underneath its unconventionally curvy bodywork are the underpinnings from the previous-generation Golf, so you can expect safe handling. The engine is a real gem, too, providing more than enough performance while still managing some very respectable economy figures. The Beetle isn't as practical as the Mini, but it's fine for shopping trips and the odd romantic weekend away. 

Read our full used Volkswagen Beetle review

  • Also consider: 2018 Fiat 500X 1.0 City Cross
  • Price: £13,000
  • Mileage: 2600
Fiat 500X front three quarters

If you're wanting a retro look similar to that of the 500, the 500X SUV could be just the ticket. Its interior will be familiar to you, but it features a more up-to-date Uconnect infotainment system that's easier to use than the one that went before. It may not have quite the size of engine you'd be expecting, but the little 1.0-litre unit packs 118bhp and is actually faster than the 1.6-litre. Expect to pay around £13,000 for a low-mileage 500X like the one we found – a considerable saving over a factory-fresh example. 

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