Top 10 best used small cars 2023
Looking for a small, sensible secondhand buy? We name 10 of the best small used cars
Small cars, such as hatchbacks and city cars, are often a great choice for motorists in the UK. They’re easy to park and manoeuvre, and usually offer enough space for four people and their luggage. Thanks to the popularity of this type of car, there’s plenty of choice on the second-hand market, with many used small cars available for very little money.
Most small cars are powered by smaller efficient petrol engines, meaning they should be inexpensive to run, too. Even in today’s climate of high prices, you might be surprised at what you can get for a relatively modest amount, especially as cars registered a year or two ago have already suffered most of the depreciation they’ll incur.
When choosing from the best used small cars, there are certain factors to take into account that are less relevant to new car buyers. Cars on the second-hand market may be getting near the end of their manufacturer warranties, so you’ll probably want a car that has a reputation for and a history of good reliability. Check out our guide to the most reliable small cars on sale if that’s a top priority.
You'll find many of the cars in our list for sale among the Approved Used schemes offered by their respective dealers, and they're all popular choices for independent used car dealers to keep in stock as well.
If you’re after something with a bit more space, our guide to the best used small SUVs covers cars that maximise space in a small footprint. We’ve also listed our best used electric cars for if you’re considering making the switch to plug-in power. For our weekly picks of enticing secondhand buys, check out our best used car deals page. For now, keep reading to find out our picks for the best used small cars currently on sale.
The Vauxhall Corsa received our Best Used Small Car Award in the 2024 Carbuyer Used Car Awards as it represents great value as a secondhand buy. Even though a facelifted car has recently been released, the pre-facelift model still offers low running costs, a good interior and a satisfying driving experience.
This generation of Corsa offers a wider choice of powertrains than ever before, so you can find models with a 1.2-litre petrol engine producing 74bhp, 99bhp or 124bhp, an electric version with 134bhp, and if you’re after a diesel version, your only choice is to go secondhand, because the 1.5-litre unit with 101bhp was discontinued in 2022. Every model is well-equipped with air conditioning, a seven-inch touchscreen, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and alloy wheels. The SRi Edition trim is our pick of the range, adding sportier styling, a contrasting black roof, heated sports seats and electronic climate control.
The Volkswagen Polo has long been a household name and key rival to the Fiesta and Corsa superminis, but it’s always stood out for its slightly more upmarket image. We like the Polo’s impressive build quality and sophisticated feel, and although the latest iteration has grown in size, that means it’s more spacious and practical on the inside.
While it’s always been quiet and refined, the Polo hasn’t always appealed to everyone because of its less engaging driving experience. However, the latest Polo is sharper and more responsive than ever, making it a more playful car than previous iterations. Despite that, we think it’s still managed to stay very smooth and comfortable, even over pothole-filled British roads. It’s a cheap car to insure in most cases, too, with the lowest-powered version sitting in insurance group one, so there’s lots to like about the Polo.
The Ford Fiesta has been a popular pick with UK drivers for decades and the latest model excels in almost every department. It’s well-equipped, great to drive, spacious, stylish and reliable, and it’s rightfully the default choice in the small hatch class. The Fiesta is an ideal car for first-time drivers, older people and everyone in between. It was sadly discontinued midway through 2023, but buyers are still spoilt for choice on the second-hand market with so many models having been sold in the past.
The last generation Fiesta was on sale for quite a few years with various trim levels on offer – we’d recommend going for Zetec model at least, and it’s worth looking for models with features such as the optional sat nav system with Apple CarPlay compatibility and cruise control. Even without going for the hot ‘ST’ version, the Fiesta is an extremely enjoyable car to drive in any guise, and while they say familiarity breeds contempt, despite its popularity on UK roads, the Fiesta still looks fresh.
The Skoda Fabia received a minor facelift in 2019, so the pre-facelift model is still our recommendation. There are plenty of low-mileage, good-condition examples in the classifieds, and they tend to be quite a bit cheaper than a brand new one. Even the base ‘S’ model features Bluetooth and DAB radio, while the SE trim level adds upgrades like alloy wheels and cruise control.
The Fabia is essentially a Volkswagen Polo underneath, so it benefits from VW’s build quality and reliability. It's cheap to run too, with a good offering of both petrol and diesel engines and a slick DSG automatic gearbox available too. Both the hatchback and estate versions offer excellent practicality as well.
As is common with city cars, the Volkswagen up! is one of three near-identical triplets, sharing parts and bodywork with the Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii - although the VW is now the only one of the three still available with a petrol engine. There's precious little to choose between the three on the used market – the VW arguably has the most upmarket image and offers a more powerful engine, but all offer excellent value for money as a second-hand buy.
Whichever you choose, though, it comes highly recommended for its style, practicality and driver appeal, although it's worth bearing in mind that all three are strict four-seaters. Volkswagen Group doesn't offer the most generous warranty in the business, but all three cars have all proven reliable since their 2011 debut. They’re simple cars without much to go wrong.
The SEAT Ibiza combines some Spanish flair with the sturdy underpinnings of the Volkswagen Polo, and offers quite a lot of equipment and space - especially on the used market. The SE Technology includes must-have kit like DAB radio and air con, plus niceties like sat nav and metallic paint. FR trim adds sporty looks, while Xcellence brings even more kit such as keyless entry and adaptive cruise control.
The boot is among the biggest in the class at 355 litres (just 25 litres short of bigger cars like the VW Golf), while the big-selling 1.0-litre engine is peppy and economical. We’d recommend going for the turbocharged 94bhp or 113bhp versions because the 79bhp MPI engine can feel underpowered. SEAT Approved cars come with extra peace of mind thanks to 12 months’ warranty and roadside assistance.
The MINI is one of the most fun-to-drive small cars on sale, even if you go for the entry-level One model. You could almost think of it as a cut-price sports car and, just like sports cars, it prioritises driving fun and a pleasing interior over practicality. Five-door models are available and are better if you’re regularly going to be carrying passengers in the rear seats, and the boot is still big enough for a shopping trip or a couple of suitcases.
There are plenty available for about half the price of a new model, with peppy petrol or diesel engines, and all come with front fog lights, heated mirrors, Bluetooth and DAB radio. MINIs use the same underpinnings as some BMWs, and the MINI hatchback is definitely more of an upmarket proposition compared to the Fiesta and Fabia.
We think the latest Toyota Yaris is a stylish-looking thing, and for the most recent iteration, all versions aside from the sporty GR Yaris come with the brand’s tried-and-tested hybrid technology, helping to keep running costs down. As a new buy the Yaris is a little more expensive due to this technology, but buying used helps keep the cost down, and Toyota’s impressive 10-year warranty (so long as servicing is carried out through the official dealer network and every year or 10,000 miles) will help give peace of mind.
It’s very well-equipped, too, with all cars getting at least 16-inch alloy wheels, a seven-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reversing camera, air conditioning and automatic lights and wipers. Buying used means you can step up to a higher trim for a lower price, though, so we recommend going for GR Sport if you want some racier styling and a sportier suspension setup, or Excel if you’re looking for a slightly more high-end experience.
It sounds a little dull to cite a car's warranty as its most attractive feature, but similar to the Kia Rio, the Hyundai i10's five-year/unlimited-mileage policy is too impressive to ignore. The rest of the car isn't too shoddy, either. It's not the most glamorous city car you can buy, but has developed its own identity in recent years and could almost be described as sporty-looking. It's no dull soul to drive, either, with a peppy feel from its free-revving petrol engines and slick manual gearbox.
It's also a genuine five-seater, with four side doors and seatbelts for five, although taller rear-seat adults might find long journeys a little taxing. The Hyundai badge might not get neighbours' curtains twitching with admiration, but that helps to keep used i10 prices low, which makes it fantastic value for money.
The latest Honda Jazz is one of the best small cars if you want to get from A to B efficiently, easily and in comfort. It’s only offered as a hybrid, making it very frugal and cheap to run. Its powertrain is smooth around town and it’s an easy car for anyone to step into and drive.
One of the Jazz’s other USPs is its impressive practicality. It’s big enough inside to seat four six-foot-tall adults in comfort, with lots of headroom and nifty storage solutions. Though a Renault Clio might have a larger boot, the Jazz gets unique features such as its ‘Magic Seats’ which allow you to flip the bases of the rear seats up to provide a tall load space behind the front seats – handy if you want to transport a small bicycle, plants or flatpack furniture.
Thinking of treating yourself to something new? Check out our list of the top 10 best small cars and superminis
The best used small cars
- Vauxhall Corsa
- Volkswagen Polo
- Ford Fiesta
- Skoda Fabia
- Volkswagen up!
- SEAT Ibiza
- MINI hatch
- Toyota Yaris Hybrid
- Hyundai i10
- Honda Jazz
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