Our guide to the best used small cars for 2021, covering the top second hand city cars and superminis
Brits love small cars, and since most of us can't afford to buy brand-new models, it stands to reason that used small cars are the most popular of all. But which ones are the best to buy now?
When we talk about small cars, we're really focusing on two different types of car – superminis and city cars. Superminis are the larger of the two and cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo fall into this category. City cars are smaller, lighter and often have tiny 1.0-litre engines that are focused on economy and low insurance costs. They're not as practical, but tend to be cheaper than superminis.
- Best small cars to buy 2020/2021
Yet no matter which type of small car you choose, running costs and maintenance are cheap. These cars use small, efficient engines for strong fuel economy and low insurance costs, even for young drivers. The light weight of these cars means that things like brakes and tyres last a long time, too.
Here we've picked out a selection of the best used small cars. Each one has a great balance of practicality, comfort, fun and low running costs at an affordable price, so you can be sure that every car you'll see below is well worth considering if you're after a used car…
Best use small cars to buy
- SEAT Ibiza
- Ford Fiesta
- Skoda Citigo
- Dacia Sandero
- VW Up!
- VW Polo
- Kia Picanto
- Hyundai i10
1. SEAT Ibiza – Best used supermini
The SEAT Ibiza was a recent winner in our New Car Awards, yet now you can pick up a recent-shape car for very little money, making it our favourite used supermini at the moment.
Even basic SE models come with a colour touchscreen infotainment system with the latest phone connectivity for navigation, and the 1.0-litre petrol model boasts a broad spread of power and torque, so performance is good too; this is still the engine of choice in a brand-new Ibiza, so it makes sense to go for this car second-hand.
The big factor that elevated the Ibiza to the top of its class was the space on offer inside. It’s roomy in the rear to the point where this fifth-generation Ibiza can occasionally operate as a family car. The 355-litre boot means there’s almost as much luggage space here as you’ll find in a current-shape Vauxhall Astra.
Quality is sound, and although the cabin is a little plasticky, the materials used are hard-wearing. So even three years and 35,000 miles after it was first registered, this Ibiza should be in good condition. With mileage under the average for this age of vehicle as well, there’s plenty of life in this car.
Our road tests when the car was brand new saw the 1.0 TSI 95 engine return around 50mpg, so the Ibiza should be frugal to run. The steering is direct, and while the ride is a little firm, SE comes with a comfort-focused suspension set-up, and refinement on the move – especially on the motorway – doesn’t give away the SEAT as a small car.
See the latest SEAT Ibiza prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
2. Ford Fiesta
The Ford Fiesta isn't quite as practical or modern as the Ibiza, but not many used superminis are so affordable so it could be an even better buy for those who love driving – because the Ford is brilliant fun in any guise.
There is a hot Fiesta ST model with around 200bhp but that model is more expensive, so let's focus on the lesser versions that use the 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine. These models are still great fun to drive, as they have plenty of grip, an enjoyable gearshift, plenty of performance and stay planted to the road even over bumps and potholes.
So despite being fun, the Fiesta is also comfortable and stays nice and quiet inside on motorway trips. It doesn't excel on long trips but it's more than capable of keeping you comfy on a motorway run occasionally. It's also economical and cheap to buy, because there are thousands of sale at any one time.
See the latest Ford Fiesta prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
3. Skoda Citigo – Best used city car
The Skoda Citigo won our award as the Used City Car of the Year in 2020 – and it's our pick if you want a smaller car that's cheaper to run.
Despite its size the Skoda offers superb practicality, with five-door models available as well as three-door versions. It’s affordable for almost any car buyer and used Citigos are still holding their money well, so you shouldn’t lose too much if you sell it on.
It’s also good fun to drive because the Citigo is light, compact and nimble; add in some clever touches, such as the removable touchscreen infotainment system, and it even offers a few big-car features. The packaging is superb, especially in five-door form, where access to the rear seats is much easier, yet you don’t lose out on boot space. A load area of 251 litres is reasonable for such a small car.
- Best city cars to buy 2020/2021
Your engine options are a 1.0-litre petrol engine with 59bhp or 74bhp. No matter which version you go for, there should be enough pace to keep up with city traffic, but even on the motorway the lower-powered Skoda still doesn’t feel out of its comfort zone.
Since pre-2017 cars only cost £20 to tax, and every model is capable of mid-40s mpg, the Citigo is super-cheap to run. All things combined, you get a level of quality, refinement, maturity and excellent practicality that has kept the Citigo king of the city car class.
See the latest Skoda Citigo prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
4. Dacia Sandero
The Dacia Sandero was Britain's cheapest new car, and while it's not exactly the cheapest used car you can buy, it's certainly a model to consider if you are on a tight budget. The Sandero's biggest plus point is its practicality, which is excellent – it has a big boot for a small car and can easily fit four adults inside.
Stay away from Access models as they don't even include a radio (though owners may have added one, so that may be worth checking) and you'll find that the Dacia has everything you really need and nothing you don't. It has a engine, seats and a steering wheel, so you'll get where you need to go in a fairly new car that's reasonably comfortable as well.
Yes, it's bare inside, but there's a certain charm to that. Its range of petrol and diesel engines do the job – they're a little loud but bring low running costs to match the car's low list price.
See the latest Dacia Sandero prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
5. Volkswagen Up
The Volkswagen Up is almost the same as the Skoda Citigo, and you'll occasionally find models that are cheaper than an equivalent Citigo. The SEAT Mii is another car to consider as this is also the same underneath. All three have the same 1.0-litre engines and deliver low costs all round, yet are surprisingly practical, fun and comfortable.
The Volkswagen Up's classy image is a selling point here, and since it's a great all-rounder, we can recommend it to anyone. It's practical enough to do the school run if you have a small family, can keep up with traffic on motorway trips and can even provide plenty of driver enjoyment on twisty roads.
Cheap insurance means young drivers will love the Up as well. There are three- and five-door models – the five-door is much more practical but tends to cost a little more.
See the latest VW Up prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
6. Volkswagen Polo
The Volkswagen Polo is a supermini, so it's roomier than the Up and has a bigger boot. It comes with a range of engines but the best is the 1.0-litre turbocharger TSI unit, which has just under 100bhp and is fun, frugal and cheap to buy.
The Polo is comfortable, and while it's not as fun as the SEAT Ibiza or Ford Fiesta, the Polo is more grown-up around town and on the motorway. It's quiet inside and has lots of tech including smartphone connectivity.
There are lots of Polos for sale, so like the best used cars you can find one that suits you, and walk away if it's not right.
See the latest VW Polo prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
7. Kia Picanto
The third-generation Picanto was a strong return to form for Kia in the city car segment. Space and practicality combine with impressive tech in the higher trims to deliver a small car with big appeal.
The infotainment is great as well – it's built-in, so it beats the VW Up and Skoda Citigo, which have stand-alone set-ups in early cars and no infotainment at all (just a phone holder) in later models.
The Picanto is also fun to drive, and while the non-turbo engines feel a little gutless, the turbo version that came more recently is surprisingly powerful and a lot of fun to use, even though it's more expensive.
See the latest Kia Picanto prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
8. Hyundai i10
The Hyundai i10 is another city car that makes a fantastic used buy. It's much more comfortable than you might expect, and quieter inside as well, so it's really good on the motorway. It's still at its best around town, as you might expect.
The 1.0-litre engine means it's cheap to run and insurance costs are low for younger drivers. The seats are comfy, it's quite fun to drive and there's enough tech to keep you happy as well.
The boot could be bigger, but all city cars tend to have small spaces behind the seats. You can fold down the rear bench if you don't have passengers, though, opening up a much roomier area.
See the latest Hyundai i10 prices on our sister site BuyaCar…
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