Skip advert
Advertisement
Best cars

Top 10 best used small cars 2024

Looking for a small, sensible secondhand buy? We name 10 of the best small used cars

The best used small cars hero 2023

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.

Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

Vauxhall Corsa review – the best Corsa yet

Vauxhall Corsa facelift
Carbuyer rating

4.1 out of 5

Read full review

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. 

Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

Volkswagen Polo review – an iconic supermini

Volkswagen Polo - front 3/4 dynamic
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

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.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

Ford Fiesta review (2017-2023)

Facelifted Ford Fiesta driving
Carbuyer rating

3.4 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

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.

Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

Skoda Fabia hatchback review (2015-2021)

Skoda Fabia Best Buy cutout
Carbuyer rating

3.9 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

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.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

Volkswagen up! hatchback review

Orange Volkswagen up!
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

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.

Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

SEAT Ibiza review - a stylish and spacious supermini

SEAT Ibiza hatchback
Carbuyer rating

4.2 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

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.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

MINI hatchback review - smiles and style

2021 MINI hatchback driving
Carbuyer rating

4.1 out of 5

Read full review

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.

Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

Toyota Yaris review - a frugal hybrid supermini

Toyota Yaris Carbuyer drive
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

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.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

Hyundai i10 review - tech-filled and practical small car

hyundai i10 facelift
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

Read full review

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.

Advertisement - Article continues below

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.

Honda Jazz review – an easy-to-drive hybrid supermini

honda jazz ex style
Carbuyer rating

4.1 out of 5

Read full reviewWatch video

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

  1. Vauxhall Corsa
  2. Volkswagen Polo
  3. Ford Fiesta
  4. Skoda Fabia
  5. Volkswagen up!
  6. SEAT Ibiza
  7. MINI hatch
  8. Toyota Yaris Hybrid
  9. Hyundai i10
  10. Honda Jazz

 

Skip advert
Advertisement

Andy is Carbuyer's managing editor, with more than a decade of experience helping consumers find their perfect car. He has an MA in automotive journalism and has tested hundreds of vehicles.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

The UK's top 10 best-selling cars 2024
The UK's best-selling cars hero
Best cars
4 Jul 2024

The UK's top 10 best-selling cars 2024

Top 10 best cars for students 2024
Best cars for students
Best cars
6 Jun 2024

Top 10 best cars for students 2024

Hyundai i10 review - tech-filled and practical small car
hyundai i10 facelift
In-depth reviews
13 May 2024

Hyundai i10 review - tech-filled and practical small car

Top 10 best city cars 2024
best city cars
Best cars
25 Apr 2024

Top 10 best city cars 2024

Most Popular

Porsche Macan Electric now £2,600 cheaper thanks to new entry-level model
Porsche Macan 4S Electric front quarter
News
16 Jul 2024

Porsche Macan Electric now £2,600 cheaper thanks to new entry-level model

Kia Sorento review – a great SUV now made even better
2024 Kia Sorento UK drive
In-depth reviews
19 Jul 2024

Kia Sorento review – a great SUV now made even better

2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5: updated EV is now even cheaper
Hyundai Ioniq 5 2024 front quarter
News
18 Jul 2024

2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5: updated EV is now even cheaper

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
26 Mar 2024

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: public networks, charger types, apps and maps
Charging station
Tips and advice
23 Jul 2024

Electric car charging stations: public networks, charger types, apps and maps

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
17 May 2022

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
21 Mar 2024

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors

Top 10 best electric cars 2024
Best electric cars
Best cars
16 May 2024

Top 10 best electric cars 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024
The best cheap-to-run cars 2023
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024
Fastest hot hatchbacks hero
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024