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Used car tests

Car hunter: Tax-free superminis

Our reader has £6,000 to spend on a road tax-exempt supermini

Dear Chris, I’m looking for a supermini with good economy, and preferably one that’s exempt from road tax. 
I have £6,000 to spend. What do you recommend? Daniel Reynolds, E-mail 

If you'd like help choosing your next car, contact chris_ebbs@dennis.co.uk.

The best buys:

Top-quality choice: Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion

Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion

For: Usual VW strengths, good residualsAgainst: Unrefined, ugly aero add-ons

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Tax-free motoring has an obvious appeal, and the VW Polo BlueMotion is the car that started it for many buyers.

At launch in 2007, it was the only mainstream model to emit less than 100g/km of CO2, making it exempt from road tax. The 74mpg Polo is now within your budget, but ensure it’s the car badged 1 and not the higher-spec 2. The latter has air-con, which takes it over the tax threshold.

While the 80bhp three-cylinder diesel isn’t the most refined engine, it’ll certainly keep fuel bills down. But some buyers may not like the eco looks: the BlueMotion has a closed-off grille and special 14-inch wheels.

Otherwise, it’s identical to any other old-shape Polo, with its solid interior and good residuals. But those looks and the unrefined engine, plus the car’s rarity at this price used, would steer us towards the Ibiza or Fiesta.

Great-value option: SEAT Ibiza Ecomotive

SEAT Ibiza Ecomotive

For: Non-eco car looks, tidy handlingAgainst: Dated model, interior plastics

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The SEAT Ibiza Ecomotive is the Spanish brand's take on the BlueMotion, and it uses the same 1.4-litre three-cylinder diesel as the Polo, for similar tax-free CO2 emissions of 99g/km.

This MkIV Ibiza was on its way out when the eco model arrived in 2008. And it lacks the VW’s badge appeal, so the Ecomotive is better value, starting at £5,000. We found a 64,000-mile 2008 three-door for £5,800.

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The Ibiza doesn’t have the oddball styling of the Polo, but under the skin, SEAT lengthened the gear ratios and used lower-rolling-resistance tyres. Even if the latter have since been replaced, the car is still exempt from road tax.

It’s a lively performer, and is better to drive than the Polo. You can expect to get 50mpg-plus, too (although official economy is 74mpg). But clonking suspension is a common problem and the interior plastics a letdown.

Best for driving fun: Ford Fiesta ECOnetic

Ford Fiesta ECOnetic

For: Entertaining handling, latest lookAgainst: Gruff engine, choice at £6,000

The Ford Fiesta is the only other road tax-free supermini for around £6,000. The ECOnetic version was created in 2008. It was based on the standard 1.6-litre TDCi diesel, lowered by 20mm for better aerodynamics. A couple of other tweaks gave 76mpg economy and 98g/km of CO2.

The Fiesta is a popular car and £6,000 is the starting point for this three or five-door eco version. We found a one-owner car with a rather high 77,000 miles for £5,995.

Its 1.6-litre engine has 90bhp and 204Nm of torque, and feels more eager than the other models here, even if it can be similarly gruff. Combine that with the Fiesta’s excellent handling, and it’s definitely the fun option.

These days, most manufacturers sell a sub-100g/km option, but this Ford is a cheaper choice – it’s still modern and demands few compromises to dodge the taxman.

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