Most reliable used small cars 2024

Looking for a reliable small used car? These are the best options, according to our Driver Power survey

Used superminis and city cars are some of the biggest bargains on the market. Many of these compact models boast the same features as much bigger cars, but they’re often easier to drive and offer much lower running costs. However, pricey repairs can quickly wipe out these savings, so choosing one of the most reliable used small cars is very important.

Our 2023 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey gathers data from thousands of car drivers who have owned their car for between one and seven years. Each participant gives us detailed information about their car, such as the issues they have faced and how often they have occurred, and this helps to paint a clearer picture of which used small cars are proving to be the most reliable.

While our Driver Power survey helps to provide a general idea of a used car’s reliability, the previous maintenance of any prospective purchase must also be considered. For maximum peace of mind, try to find a well looked after example with a full service history

Our Driver Power percentage ratings are based on each owner’s scores for reliability. The more reliable a used car is, the higher its percentage.

What are the most reliable used small cars?

Read on to find the most reliable used small cars, according to our Driver Power survey, listed in reverse order…

5. Volkswagen Polo Mk5 - 90.84%

  • Years of manufacture: 2009-2017
  • Price now from: £3,400

Six years on from its replacement, the Mk5 Polo continues to be a dependable supermini. Owners are also enjoying the savings that they’re making at the fuel pumps, along with reasonable insurance and servicing costs. If you’re after a cost-effective family car, though, you may need to look elsewhere as poor boot space and a lack of child-friendly features were two key disappointments.

4. BMW i3 Mk1 - 91.52%

  • Years of manufacture: 2013-2017
  • Price now from: £7.500

With fewer moving parts, there’s a perception that electric cars should be very reliable, and the BMW i3 could be on its way towards proving this theory. The little BMW’s smooth and quiet drivetrain is a hit with owners, and it ranked as the second-best overall in that area. The first-generation i3 topped the satisfaction charts for efficiency, too.

However, before you get too excited about saving money on running costs, the BMW’s servicing bills are rather on the high side. The practicality and handling also left a lot to be desired, meaning the ownership experience seems to be a very mixed bag.

3. Honda Jazz Mk3 - 92.12%

  • Years of manufacture: 2015 to 2020
  • Price now from: £6,750

The Honda Jazz has slipped slightly downwards from its first-place finish in 2022, but it’s remaining trouble-free for many of its owners. Decent overall ratings for the MPG, running costs and practicality categories also reflect the Honda Jazz’s core values. It’s a small car with the space and relaxed driving experience of a much larger model, not the most exciting supermini choice, but one that owners love.  

2. Toyota Yaris Mk3 - 92.27%

  • Years of manufacture: 2012 to 2020
  • Price now from: £4,000

As a brand, Toyota has a strong reputation for building highly-dependable cars. The Mk3 Yaris is certainly no exception as, just like last year, it finishes in second place in our used small car reliability list. Unfortunately, this reliability means making a sacrifice when it comes to driver engagement, much like the Honda Jazz mentioned above.

1. Volkswagen up! Mk1 - 92.53%

  • Years of manufacture: 2011 to present
  • Price now from: £4,000

The Volkswagen up! was a multiple Auto Express New Car Award winner from new, and now it looks to be a pretty top-notch used purchase. Not only is the up! the most reliable small car in our 2023 Driver Power survey, but its low fuel consumption and even lower road tax are helping to maintain this tiny VW’s popularity with buyers. The stingy standard equipment list is disappointing, though, and a near-bottom ranking for safety equipment is quite alarming.

The top 10 most reliable used small cars

  1. Volkswagen up! Mk1 - 92.53% 
  2. Toyota Yaris Mk3- 92.27% 
  3. Honda Jazz Mk3 - 92.12%
  4. BMW i3 Mk1 - 91.52% 
  5. Volkswagen Polo Mk5 - 90.84%
  6. Toyota Aygo Mk2 - 90.23%
  7. BMW i3 Mk2 - 90.21% 
  8. Hyundai i10 Mk2 - 89.72%
  9. MINI Hatchback Mk3 - 89.43% 
  10. Ford Fiesta Mk8 - 87.76%

Click below to find out the most reliable cars by sector... 

Tell us what you love (and hate) about your car. Take the Driver Power survey now and you could win a £100 Amazon voucher...

Shane is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2021, he worked as a radio producer and presenter for outlets such as the BBC.

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