Best cheap cars for 2019
By Adrian Porter
Article 15 of 16
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. Equally, we’ve found some shocking models that attempt to woo you with a temptingly low price tag only to disappoint at every turn.
Here, we round-up six cheap cars, each from a different class. They 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 fashionable SUV, sprightly city car or an ideal family hatchback - we've got the popular classes covered.
Plus three cheap cars you should avoid.
The best cheap cars
You don't need to compromise to get an exceptional cheap car - our experts select models that have pulled well above their weight in our rigorous lab tests, beating models many times their price.
Best cheap cars
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.
A spacious estate car that won’t make you sacrifice driving pleasure for the extra practicality. It’s easy to live with and is competitively priced. The boot is not the largest in class, but it’s usefully bigger than the hatchback model. Watch out for stingy equipment levels on base models.
This large car majors on practicality. It’s got a huge boot and plenty of space for passengers both front and rear. It’s also economical and nicely comfortable on long journeys. The interior may not have the stylistic flair of more expensive models, but there’s an impressive array of kit available, and it feels built to last.
Based on the same underpinnings as a more expensive model, this medium hatchback offers a similarly complete driving experience. It’s fun to drive, reasonably economical and practical, too. There’s some noticeable cost-cutting in terms of the cabin plastics, but otherwise this car feels like a high-quality product.
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.