Top 3 used luxury small cars for £15,000
I want a small luxury car for £15,000. It must have a nice interior and plenty of equipment as standard. What do you recommend?
The concept of the small luxury car has been around for more than 50 years, ever since the introduction of highly specced versions of the original MINI in the late sixties. Since then, several manufacturers have given us their take on the small luxury car formula, with recent efforts including the Ford Fiesta Vignale and, in keeping with recent buying trends, small SUVs such as the SEAT Arona in Xcellence Lux trim.
Small luxury cars need to offer similar levels of equipment to large luxury saloons. Buyers expect dual-zone climate control, sat nav, a premium stereo system and of course, a luxurious leather trimmed interior to match the premium badge.
Today, with nearly every manufacturer offering an upmarket version of their smaller models, buyers can pick from a wide range of different cars, with nearly every small hatchback and SUV available in a luxury trim level.
Cars of this type usually share most of the same engines and gearboxes with less luxurious versions, leaving you with a decent range of options. Most also offer both petrol and diesel, ensuring that a small luxury car shouldn’t be any more expensive to run than the same in car in a lower trim level.
Our reader wants a small luxury car that’s comfortable and has plenty of equipment and luxuries. All of our picks can be bought for under £15,000,and all offer a decent amount of space, everyday usability and a plush, well-equipped interior.
The stylish choice: Audi A1 Sportback
For: Sharp looks, most examples are low-mileageAgainst: Strong residuals make a used A1 pricey
The Mk1 Audi A1 has modern looks and a minimalist cabin. But it’s starting to show its age, with a platform that can trace its roots back to the 2008 SEAT Ibiza. It trails the MINI for driver involvement and the Polo for comfort (especially when fitted with sportier S line suspension).
Used prices remain strong, with previous-generation A1s commanding a £2,000 premium over the equivalent MINI, and £1,000 over a similarly specced Polo. We saw a 2018 A1, with 9,250 miles on the clock, for £12,250.
The A1’s front seats are comfortable, its infotainment system is logical and feature-rich, and there’s more space in the rear seats than there is in the MINI. However, next to the all-new Volkswagen Polo, the old A1 is starting to feel dated inside.
Your budget gives you the pick of the A1’s engines. The peppy 1.0-litre three-cylinder is a good place to start, with the 123bhp or 148bhp 1.4-litre four-cylinder offering more poke. Diesel fans can have a 1.6-litre or a (rare) 2.0-litre TDI, while the 228bhp 2.0-litre petrol S1 provides serious pace.
The sporty choice: MINI Cooper
For: Keen handling, efficient engines, retro stylingAgainst: Firm ride, small boot, cramped rear seats
Introduced in 2014, the third-generation MINI is an upmarket hatch that blends retro styling with a strong driving experience. It’s longer and wider than the model it replaced, improving passenger and luggage space.
Despite this, it remains the least practical of these cars, offering the smallest boot and rear, although the driving position is improved over its predecessor’s. We found a 26,000-mile 2018 model for £10,500, while spending all your budget will net a nearly new car with delivery miles.
Inside, the MINI Hatchback blends modern technology with yesteryear design. All versions are fitted with a BMW iDrive-style infotainment system, while a row of old-fashioned toggle switches operate most of the car’s functions.
The MINI’s 134bhp three-cylinder engine is eager to be revved, while its taut chassis and famed ‘go-kart’ handling make it fun to drive on a back road. However, the MINI isn’t as refined as the Polo because its ride can be firm at low speeds, although things settle down reasonably well on the motorway.
The Premium choice: Volkswagen Polo
For: Plenty of space, high-quality interior, composed rideAgainst: Not that fun to drive, dear for a supermini
Opting for a VW badge gets you the latest version of the Polo, which builds on its predecessors’ strengths. With Golf-like refinement, decent space and the latest Apple CarPlay and Android Auto infotainment tech, the Polo feels like a big car in a small package.
It rides well for a supermini, ironing out all but the most severe imperfections. Minimal wind and road noise levels, an accommodating driving position, plus impressive fit and finish give an upmarket feel. We spotted a 2018 car that had covered around 22,000 miles for £11,500.
Most second-hand Polos are mid-range SE models, which come with an eight-inch touchscreen system, air-conditioning and a multifunction steering wheel as standard. Step up to SEL for an upgraded infotainment system and climate control.
The Polo’s 94bhp engine offers a reasonable amount of grunt, but leaves a little to be desired for keen drivers. Its soft suspension set-up and heavily assisted controls are biased towards comfort rather than outright fun. An auto gearbox is available, but we’d stick with the five or six-speed manuals.