Best cheap cars for 2021
A good cheap car can hit that sweet spot between being a reliable, safe, comfortable vehicle 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, sparse interiors and lackluster safety equipment, but that needn't be the case.
We’ve found high-scoring models that cost significantly less than rivals 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 almost certainly 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, we've highlighted 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.
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 company's 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.
A great car isn't all about safety. Our car testing experts have thousands of hours of driving experience in everything from the tiniest city car to the heftiest SUV. So, when it comes to comfort and ease of use, we trust them to tell us whether a car is a pleasure or pain to drive. Each car is driven for more than 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 cars are. If a car is plagued with niggling faults or prone to breakdowns, then it will be reflected in its overall score, because anything as expensive as a car should, at the very least, be reliable.