Best used small cars 2021
Our guide to the best used small cars for 2021, covering the top second hand city cars and superminis
Brits love small cars, and since most of us can't afford to buy brand-new models, it stands to reason that used small cars are the most popular of all. But which ones are the best to buy now?
When we talk about small cars, we're really focusing on two different types of car - superminis and city cars. Superminis are the larger of the two and cars such as Ford's Fiesta and Volkswagen's Polo fall into this category. City cars are smaller, lighter and often have tiny 1.0-litre engines that are focused on economy and low insurance costs. They're not as practical, but tend to be cheaper than superminis.
Yet no matter which type of small car you choose, running costs and maintenance are cheap. These cars use small, efficient engines for strong fuel economy and low insurance costs, even for young drivers. The light weight of these cars means that things like brakes and tyres last a long time, too.
Here we've picked out a selection of the best used small cars. Each one has a great balance of practicality, comfort, fun and low running costs at an affordable price, so you can be sure that every car you'll see below is well worth considering if you're after a used car...
Best used small cars to buy
1. Ford Fiesta - Best used supermini
- Our pick - 1.0 EcoBoost 125 Titanium 5dr (2018/18, 41k miles, £9,200)
It’s not by accident that the Fiesta has been among Britain’s best selling new cars for decades. Surprisingly spacious, great to drive, affordable to run and packed with standard kit, it ticks all the supermini boxes and then some. Buy a used version and you can throw a bargain price into the compact Ford’s list of strengths too.
The Fiesta has always been a small-car star, but the latest seventh-generation version that made its debut in 2016 is the best yet. As ever, it’s brilliant from behind the wheel thanks to polished driving dynamics, which blend engaging back-road agility with a supple ride and decent refinement. Hit crowded city streets, and its light controls and compact dimensions make it easy and stress-free to drive.
Inside, it’s not quite as roomy as a SEAT Ibiza, but it’s pretty close and it arguably boasts a slightly more upmarket ambience. Decent-quality materials are used throughout, the driving position is one of the best in the class, and the SYNC3 touchscreen infotainment is not only a doddle to use, it also delivers excellent connectivity.
Better still, the Ford’s popularity means there’s a huge second-hand choice, from the ST hot hatch through to the luxuriously appointed Vignale and rugged-looking Active. However, Zetec and Titanium models will provide the best value for money for most buyers, while the turbocharged 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol serves up a blend of fine economy and zippy performance. Regardless of what model you choose you can expect trouble-free running since the Fiesta is built robustly, and uses tried and tested mechanicals.
Early, high-mileage cars are available for a whisker under £5,000, but if you can stretch to £10,000 you’ll have the pick of mint, one-owner examples with just a handful of miles. Take the plunge and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most desirable and entertaining small cars on the market. Hundreds of thousands of new car buyers can’t be wrong.
BuyaCar finance options
The Fiesta is a desirable car that’s affordable on PCP finance through BuyaCar.co.uk with monthly payments of £190 after a £1,050 deposit. It means that a car like this one should cost less than £7,900 if you finance it for three years and hand it back – but as ever, you’ll be able to tune the terms of your deal to suit your situation. Meanwhile, if you want to own it at the end, the optional final payment isn’t overly steep, at £3,762.
2. Skoda Citigo - Best used city car
- Our pick - 1.0 SE 60 5dr (2014/14, 62k miles, £3,899)
Fun, frugal and surprisingly family-friendly, the Skoda Citigo has it all. It’s our reigning used city car champion, and the Czech machine wins again – arguably making even more sense as a second-hand buy than it did when new.
Don’t be fooled by its dinky dimensions, because inside there’s more than enough space for four people, while the 250-litre boot rivals models from the class above for size. Plus there’s a decent level of standard kit, with SE models and above getting all the essentials, including air-con, electric windows and Bluetooth connectivity. Go for a post-2017 facelift model and you’ll get a handy smartphone dock that allows you to access all your apps on the move, a larger screen for the audio system, plus the low-speed collision warning system that brings extra peace of mind.
Despite all this, it’s the little Skoda’s grown-up driving dynamics that really stand out, with agile handling, a composed ride, and long-distance refinement that would shame many larger cars. Under the bonnet there’s a smooth and peppy 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, with either 59bhp or 74bhp (there’s also an electric option), that will happily return 50mpg all day long and is linked to a slick five-speed manual gearbox. There is also an ASG automated manual version, but this clunky transmission isn’t great.
Better still, the Citigo is now approaching its 10th birthday, which means there are loads to choose from, with prices starting at just £2,000. On top of that, the number of examples you can find on sale with more than 100,000 miles on the clock is proof of how durable and dependable the little Skoda is. Yet with a budget of £4,000 you can bag a cared-for six-year-old SE that has covered fewer than 70,000 miles and has a full history.
If you’re after a small car bargain that’s enjoyable to drive, hassle-free to own, and costs peanuts to run, then look no further than the brilliant Citigo. Click here to see the latest Ford Fiesta prices on our sister site BuyaCar.
BuyaCar finance options
The Citigo is a cheap car to buy and it’s even more affordable when bought on hire purchase through BuyaCar.co.uk. With a deposit of £550 and monthly repayments of £150, buying Skoda’s compact city car will cost £5,950 overall if you finance it for three years, and you’ll own the car at the end of the contract, without having to dig into your pocket to make a large final payment.
See the latest Skoda Citigo prices on our sister site BuyaCar...
3. Toyota Yaris
A petrol-electric pioneer, Toyota has been offering electrified models for decades. The Yaris is the smallest hybrid the Japanese company builds. While it may not be a particularly exciting car to drive, it is smooth and easy-going, making it a perfect companion for anyone fighting their way through the urban jungle. It’ll also easily crack 60mpg and boasts impressive reliability.
See the latest Toyota Yaris prices on our sister site BuyaCar...
4. Hyundai i10
Hyundai’s second-generation i10 built on the considerable promise of the original, delivering more space, greater refinement and the sort of standard equipment you’d expect on far more expensive machines. It’s not as much fun as the Citigo, but buy a nearly new example and you’ll get the balance of the five-year warranty.
It's much more comfortable than you might expect, and quieter inside as well, so it's really good on the motorway. It's still at its best around town, as you might expect.
The 1.0-litre engine means it's cheap to run and insurance costs are low for younger drivers. The seats are comfy, it's quite fun to drive and there's enough tech to keep you happy as well.
The boot could be bigger, but all city cars tend to have small spaces behind the seats. You can fold down the rear bench if you don't have passengers, though, opening up a much roomier area.
See the latest Hyundai i10 prices on our sister site BuyaCar...
5. SEAT Ibiza
The SEAT Ibiza was a recent winner in our New Car Awards, yet now you can pick up a recent-shape car for very little money, making it our favourite used supermini at the moment.
Even basic SE models come with a colour touchscreen infotainment system with the latest phone connectivity for navigation, and the 1.0-litre petrol model boasts a broad spread of power and torque, so performance is good too; this is still the engine of choice in a brand-new Ibiza, so it makes sense to go for this car second-hand.
The big factor that elevated the Ibiza to the top of its class was the space on offer inside. It’s roomy in the rear to the point where this fifth-generation Ibiza can occasionally operate as a family car. The 355-litre boot means there’s almost as much luggage space here as you’ll find in a current-shape Vauxhall Astra.
Quality is sound, and although the cabin is a little plasticky, the materials used are hard-wearing. So even three years and 35,000 miles after it was first registered, this Ibiza should be in good condition. With mileage under the average for this age of vehicle as well, there’s plenty of life in this car.
Our road tests when the car was brand new saw the 1.0 TSI 95 engine return around 50mpg, so the Ibiza should be frugal to run. The steering is direct, and while the ride is a little firm, SE comes with a comfort-focused suspension set-up, and refinement on the move – especially on the motorway – doesn’t give away the SEAT as a small car.
See the latest SEAT Ibiza prices on our sister site BuyaCar...
6. Dacia Sandero
The Dacia Sandero was Britain's cheapest new car, and while it's not exactly the cheapest used car you can buy, it's certainly a model to consider if you are on a tight budget. The Sandero's biggest plus point is its practicality, which is excellent - it has a big boot for a small car and can easily fit four adults inside.
Stay away from Access models as they don't even include a radio (though owners may have added one, so that may be worth checking) and you'll find that the Dacia has everything you really need and nothing you don't. It has a engine, seats and a steering wheel, so you'll get where you need to go in a fairly new car that's reasonably comfortable as well.
Yes, it's bare inside, but there's a certain charm to that. Its range of petrol and diesel engines do the job - they're a little loud but bring low running costs to match the car's low list price.
See the latest Dacia Sandero prices on our sister site BuyaCar...
7. Volkswagen Up
The Volkswagen Up is almost the same as the Skoda Citigo, and you'll occasionally find models that are cheaper than an equivalent Citigo. The SEAT Mii is another car to consider as this is also the same underneath. All three have the same 1.0-litre engines and deliver low costs all round, yet are surprisingly practical, fun and comfortable.
The Volkswagen Up's classy image is a selling point here, and since it's a great all-rounder, we can recommend it to anyone. It's practical enough to do the school run if you have a small family, can keep up with traffic on motorway trips and can even provide plenty of driver enjoyment on twisty roads.
Cheap insurance means young drivers will love the Up as well. There are three- and five-door models - the five-door is much more practical but tends to cost a little more.
See the latest VW Up prices on our sister site BuyaCar...
8. Volkswagen Polo
The Volkswagen Polo is a supermini, so it's roomier than the Up and has a bigger boot. It comes with a range of engines but the best is the 1.0-litre turbocharger TSI unit, which has just under 100bhp and is fun, frugal and cheap to buy.
The Polo is comfortable, and while it's not as fun as the SEAT Ibiza or Ford Fiesta, the Polo is more grown-up around town and on the motorway. It's quiet inside and has lots of tech including smartphone connectivity.
There are lots of Polos for sale, so like the best used cars you can find one that suits you, and walk away if it's not right.
See the latest VW Polo prices on our sister site BuyaCar...
Find out more about the best used cars you can buy in each market sector with our Used Car Awards...