Top 10 best used small cars 2021
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.
Gone are the days where buying a small car meant sacrificing comfort and quality. The modern small car needs to be economical, safe, comfortable and capable on the occasional long journey. They also need to have features such as sat nav, smartphone connectivity and air conditioning. Thankfully, the cars on this list meet these criteria with ease.
Superminis and city cars excel in low running costs and low purchase prices, and that’s even more relevant for used buyers. 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. If you’re thinking of buying a used small car, you should be able to get low-mileage cars that are in nearly-new condition. If you are on a tighter budget, you can still find a surprising amount of great cars for under £5,000, especially if you are happy with a slightly older car or higher mileages.
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 programmes offered by their respective dealers, and they're all popular choices for independent used car dealers to keep in stock as well.
The Ford Fiesta has been a bestseller in the UK for several years and 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.
Now that the latest generation Fiesta has been on sale for a few years, you can pick up a Zetec model with sat nav (an optional extra), Apple CarPlay and cruise control for almost half the price of a current entry-level model. You can enjoy a multi-award winning car, and get a great deal seeing as you won’t suffer the heavy initial depreciation. With the biggest network of dealerships in the UK and cheap servicing, the Fiesta makes a great used buy.
See the latest prices for used Ford Fiesta models on our sister site Buyacar.
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.
See the latest prices for used Skoda Fabia models on our sister site Buyacar.
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.
See the latest prices for used Volkswagen up! models on our sister site Buyacar.
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.
See the latest prices for used SEAT Ibiza models on our sister site Buyacar.
It sounds a little dull to cite a car's warranty as its most attractive feature, but 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.
See the latest prices for used Hyundai i10 models on our sister site Buyacar.
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.
See the latest prices for used MINI hatchback models on our sister site Buyacar.
Electric cars are currently much more expensive than equivalent petrol or diesel cars but buying a used one brings prices down to a more reasonable level. The Renault ZOE has been one of the best-selling EVs since its launch, so there are plenty around, but newer models will be faster, better equipped and should offer more range. Savings continue when you’ve bought the car, too, with free VED (road tax) and low recharge costs.
The ZOE is quiet, nippy and produces no emissions, so it’s the perfect town companion, but doesn’t struggle on faster roads either. An eight-year warranty covers the battery if it drops below 66% of its original capacity, and you’ll need to remember that a used electric car won’t offer quite the same range as a brand-new model.
The entry for the Hyundai i10 above could almost have been written for the Kia Rio, which has an even longer seven-year/100,000-mile warranty. However, the Rio, from Hyundai's sister brand, is a slightly bigger car that competes with the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa – neither of which can hold a candle to the Kia where it comes to value for money.
The Rio's styling might not catch the eye, but it's smart and up-to-date, and quite fetching in bright colours. The subtle looks conceal a spacious interior with a big boot, and standard equipment is generous across the range. What's more, while the warranty is reassuring, a strong reputation for reliability means trips to the dealer should be infrequent.
See the latest prices for used Kia Rio models on our sister site Buyacar.
The latest Nissan Micra is one of the most mature and well built small hatchbacks you can buy - it challenges even the VW Polo for quality. Don’t let its reputation as a learner car put you off, as the new Micra is sophisticated and offers a strong level of standard equipment. WIth Acenta trim and above getting you essentials like electric windows, air conditioning and cruise control, plus front fog lights and appealing chrome trim.
Seeing as the current Micra was only launched in 2017, the prices aren’t at rock bottom yet, but the previous generation car is still a good choice if you want plenty of space, low running costs and an easy drive. These can be picked up for relatively low money, too.
See the latest prices for used Nissan Micra models on our sister site Buyacar.
The Suzuki Swift is a slightly different rival to the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo but it’s worth considering for those looking for a good-value used small car. Used Swifts will be cheaper than equivalent Fiestas but you still get DAB radio and a leather-trimmed steering wheel on all models. Hunt out a higher trim level, and you’ll enjoy a seven-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring and a reversing camera, not to mention a better safety rating due to extra driver assistance.
It’s cheap to run and is fun to drive - thanks to its weight and compact size - and is competent on long motorway journeys. Alongside the Toyota Yaris, the Swift is currently one of the only superminis available as a hybrid.
See the latest prices for used Suzuki Swift models on our sister site Buyacar.
Thinking of upsizing instead? Check out our list of the best used cars to see potential bargains across various sectors of the car market
Top 10 best first cars 2021
Top 10 best 4x4s and SUVs 2021
Electric MG 5 EV estate gets new look for 2022
What is a V5C? Here’s everything you need to know about the log book