Best used small cars 2024
Our guide to the best used small cars, covering the top second hand city cars and superminis
We 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 - although there are more and more small SUVs these days and used small SUVs can be a viable option as well. Superminis are the larger of the two and cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo fall into this category. City cars are smaller, lighter and often have smaller engines that are focused on economy and low insurance costs. They're not as practical and are less comfortable on longer journeys, but tend to be cheaper to buy and run than superminis.
No matter which type of small car you choose, running costs and maintenance should be cheap. Strong fuel economy sweetens the deal even further, while low insurance costs are also highly beneficial, particularly for first-time drivers. The lightweight design of these cars also 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 including our 2023 used city car and used supermini of the year. 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
These are our top pics from the current market for used small cars…
1. Ford Fiesta (Mk7) - best used supermini
Ford pulled the plug on the Fiesta in 2023, ending more than four decades of new-car sales success. However, the demise of the Blue Oval’s baby from showrooms does little to dent its appeal as a second-hand supermini star. Combining sparkling driving dynamics with family-friendly versatility and penny-pinching running costs, the Ford is a cracker.
As ever, the Fiesta remains a top choice for keen drivers, its quick steering and agile handling making it huge fun on a twisty back road. Light controls and compact dimensions also make it a confidence-inspiring choice when squeezing into a tight parking space. Factor in a cushioned ride and strong long-haul refinement, and the Ford has all the bases covered.
Pick of the engine line-up is the gutsy and efficient 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol, but there’s also a fuel-sipping 1.5-litre diesel or the fire-breathing 197bhp turbocharged unit in the fast and fun ST hot hatch. Even the entry-level 1.1-litre feels perky in 84bhp form, although the 69bhp variant struggles a little on the open road. A slick and precise manual gearbox is standard, but the smooth Powershift automatic is a top choice for those who spend a lot of time in town.
The Fiesta’s exterior looks sharp, while the interior is crammed with standard kit and features a high-quality finish. Most models also get the firm’s intuitive and feature-packed SYNC 3 infotainment system that offers all the connectivity you’ll need. And while the Ford isn’t the roomiest of superminis, it serves up more than enough space for most growing families.
However, at the heart of the Ford’s appeal is the huge choice on offer. From the back-to-basics Style through to the luxurious Vignale, rugged Active and sporty ST, there should be a Fiesta for every budget, with prices starting from below £5,000 for the Mk7.
Spend a little more and you’ll have the pick of low-mileage, well cared-for examples. Either way, few small cars will be as cost effective and satisfying to own.
2. Volkswagen up! (Mk1) - best used city car
If you want a second-hand small car that thinks big, then look no further than the Volkswagen up!. Unless you want to extend that search to its all-but identical sister cars, the Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii which are equally tempting prospects.
Grown-up driving appeal, perky performance, a surprisingly spacious interior and running costs that won’t break the family finances all come as standard with these models, while few small cars offer as much premium appeal. Better still, with prices having dipped as low as £2,000, VW’s baby is also one of the most affordable city slickers you can buy.
It’s more than a decade old now, but the pint-sized machine still looks smart and modern. And despite its dinky dimensions, it serves up plenty of cabin space, with room for four adults and a 251-litre boot that’s larger than you’ll find in many models from the class above. The entry-level Take up! is a bit basic, but seek out the Move up! or High up! versions and you’ll get big-car features such as air-con, Bluetooth connectivity and even heated seats. If your budget stretches further, then post-2016 facelift models add autonomous emergency braking and a handy cradle for your smartphone.
As you’d expect, the up! is right at home in the urban jungle, its nippy performance, compact size and light controls making it a doddle to drive. Yet it’s equally capable on the open road, where engaging driving dynamics, a composed ride and strong refinement mean it tackles motorways as effortlessly as country roads.
For those wanting an extra dollop of driver delight, there’s the 113bhp GTI, which offers pocket-rocket pace and sharper handling, although its cult appeal means prices rarely drop below £11,000. There’s also the electric e-up! that’ll cover around 100 miles on a charge, or 160 miles for post-2019 models. However, for most buyers, the standard 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol is the best bet. Available with either 59bhp or 74bhp, it’s smooth, eager and rarely delivers economy of less than 50mpg.
Like other VW models, the up! is solidly built and dependable, while it should be cheap and easy to fix on the rare occasions it does go wrong. Huge popularity when new also means there are plenty of used examples to choose from, so you can afford to be picky.
3. Hyundai i10 (Mk2)
It’s not quite as fun to drive as the up! and its sister cars, but the Mk2 Hyundai i10 matches them for comfort and refinement. It’s also roomy, reliable and well equipped. This compact car costs peanuts to run, delivers unrivalled dependability and came with a five-year warranty when new.
4. Vauxhall Corsa (Mk4)
The Mk4 Vauxhall Corsa lacks the smart style and handling panache of the Fiesta, but with prices starting at just £2,500, few small cars serve up such great value for money. It features a classy cabin, decent tech and a wide range of engines. It also costs very little to run, while the tried-and-tested mechanicals shouldn’t let you down.
5. Renault Zoe (Mk1)
The pioneering Zoe has been around for a decade, and with its cutting-edge electric drivetrain and modern looks, the radical Renault still feels ahead of its time. The more recent examples are faster, go further on a charge and have slicker infotainment, but with early Zoes now priced from around £7,000, few EVs are as affordable.
6. Renault Twingo (Mk3)
The original Twingo did things differently when it made its debut in the early nineties, and our left-field city car is no different in Mk3 form. Closely related to the Smart ForFour, the Renault features a novel rear-engined layout and a tight turning circle that rivals that of a black cab. It’s surprisingly fun to drive, delivers decent practicality and costs less to buy than many rivals.
7. Toyota Yaris (Mk3)
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.
8. SEAT Ibiza (Mk5)
A used SEAT Ibiza can picked for very little money, making it a pretty solid choice. What's more, the biggest bargain don't necessarily mean big sacrifices.
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.
Now find out more about the best used cars you can buy...