Best cheap cars for 2019
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Buying a cheap car doesn't always mean compromising on quality. We reveal some cheap cars that are just as good as their pricier rivals.
Cheap cars can hit that sweet spot between being a reliable, safe, comfortable car that’s easy to drive and not too expensive to fill up, as well as being kind to your bank balance. If you're looking for a great-value car, you can find one - provided you use our test results to help you out.
You may think that skimping and buying a cheaper car will resign you to a fate of breakdowns and bumpy rides, but that’s not always the case. We’ve found high-scoring models that cost significantly less than models that came off worse in our testing. A poor car is something you can be stuck with for years, giving you a frustrating driving experience, a lack of space and comfort, as well as hefty fuel bills.
Equally, we’ve found some shocking models that attempt to woo you with a temptingly low price tag only to disappoint at every turn. Price doesn’t always line up with quality, which is why our expert, unbiased testing is so important.
We don’t take price into account when we review cars. Our lab casts an impartial eye over every car we test, putting them through over 320 checks and tests, and driving them for 500 miles before we reach a verdict. We've tested models that cost more than £70,000 that are less reliable than cars that are available for less than half the price.
Here, we round-up five cheap cars that are every bit as comfortable, easy to drive and efficient as some of their more expensive cousins. You'll find a car that suits your needs in our list, whether that's a spacious large SUV, sprightly small car or an ideal family hatchback - we've got the popular classes covered. Plus three cheap cars you should avoid.
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Best cheap cars
This car may be classed as a mini-MPV, but there’s still plenty of space inside. It’s easy to drive, reliable and oh so comfy - whether you’re sat in the front or the back. It’s a versatile car too, that lets you prioritise seat or boot space with its sliding rear seats.
If you think simple, straightforward sports cars had died out long ago, think again. This vehicle is a sharp-handling, light-feeling, pure sports car. Not only is it huge fun, it's also very good value. If you can live with its impracticalities, it's a fantastic bit of kit.
Few medium-size SUVs do such an impressive all-round job. It's great for families, with good space for passengers and luggage, and it's very safe. Add a healthy dose of standard equipment and a level of fit and finish that embarrasses some premium rivals. Fantastic value.
Though it can feel breathless on motorway journeys, in town it really excels thanks to its compact dimensions and nippy handling. Ride comfort is excellent for this type of car, too, and front passengers will be pleasantly surprised by the amount of room on offer.
This car manages to be both fun and practical, with a boot that’s bigger than average on a small car and a nice interior that’s especially comfortable if you’re sitting up front. The range of petrol engines provides enough oomph to get you away quickly at the traffic lights and when you’re overtaking. Best of all, it’s one of the cheapest small cars available.
And here are three cheap cars to avoid
Buy the wrong cheap car and you don't just have to put up with something that's annoying to drive. A bad car can be unsafe and cost you more money in the long term, with expensive fuel bills and repair costs.
You can get a cheap car that’s comparable or better than some of its more expensive competition, but there are cars that are cheap and nasty rather than cheap and cheerful.
We’ve found several cars whose benefits stop at being easy on your wallet.
Cheap cars to avoid
How do we separate the good cars from the bad?
When we test any car we leave nothing for granted and we never take a manufacturer at its word. Any new car launch comes with a string of claims about fuel economy, emissions, power and safety, and we put all of them to the test.
Our tests tell us that 98% of cars can't match the mpg stated by the manufacturer. Some cars miss it by a small margin while others don't get near the lofty figure you'll read on the companies website or dealer brochure.
We've found cars that are missing some of the most common safety features, such as curtain airbags and electronic stability control. We don't stop at collisions when we look at car safety, we check avoidance, too. Driving at 56mph we attempt to swerve past obstacles, something safe cars cope well with.
But our evasion test has found cars where the wheels lock in place preventing the driver from straightening up. You don't need us to explain the potentially catastrophic consequences of losing control of your car's direction.
When it comes to comfort and ease of use we trust our car experts with thousands of hours of driving experience in everything from the tiniest city car to the heftiest SUV to tell us whether a car is a pleasure or pain to drive. Each car is driven for over 500 miles on real roads and on bumpy test tracks that really put the suspension through its paces.
Even the best car is no better than scrap metal if it's always breaking down. That's why we ask tens of thousands of motorists to tell us how reliable their card are. If a car is plagued with niggling faults or prone to breakdowns then it will be reflected in the score, because anything as expensive as a car should, at the very least, be reliable.