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6 October 2020

Best cheap cars for 2020

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 2 463755
AP
Adrian Porter

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 bumpy rides, but that’s not always 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.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, join Which? to access our reviews and test scores. 

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.

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74%
Best Buy
£23,698
Reviewed

Proof that large cars don't need to be powered by diesel to be economical, this hybrid model excels across the board. It's comfortable, easy to use and is backed up by its maker's rock-solid reliability rating. It's also one of the more affordable large hybrid cars you can buy, sealing its appeal.

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73%
£15,476
Reviewed

It’s getting larger with every successive generation, but there’s no doubting this remains an entertaining and high quality, premium small car. High emissions in our tests, which are more stringent than official ones, prevent it from being a Best Buy.

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72%
Best Buy
£11,447
Reviewed

One of the best all-round and best-looking compact crossovers money can buy; this is especially good new given the low starting price. It's also economical, quiet and comfortable. We have issues with models made before the 2018 facelift - specifically how they handle during sudden swerving manoeuvres - you'll want to avoid these early models, read our review for more.

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71%
Best Buy
£21,522
Reviewed

Eye-catching styling and an appealing price sees this five-door hatchback stand out from the crowd, but it's more than just a pretty face. It's got a great cabin and plenty of standard equipment. It's very satisfying to drive, too. Just watch our for pinched rear cabin space and a compromised rear-view.

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71%
Best Buy
£23,916
Reviewed

This brand’s most luxurious car looks especially good value when you consider how much passenger space it has. The boot is very large, too, and its comfort takes the sting out of long journeys. Just don’t expect the quality of the cabin materials to compete with a true luxury model.

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69%
£13,754
Reviewed

Practicality and ease of use are the name of the game in this five-door hatchback. It's one of the roomiest small cars available and has plenty of luggage space. It's cheap to run and easy to drive, if not the most exciting to look at or sit in.

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Not found the car for you? We'll help you make the right choice for your budget. See all our car reviews.

Cheap cars to avoid

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45%
Don't buy
£11,245
Reviewed

This model has won plenty of fans with its no-frills approach to motoring. It’s a credible compact SUV, with just the basic equipment. Unfortunately that includes its active safety kit - an area we don’t think you should have to compromise on. With a three-star out of five Euro NCAP safety rating, it’s a definite Don't Buy.

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45%
Don't buy
£9,973
Reviewed

This city car should be the brand’s best yet. It’s decent to drive, has a well-built interior and is backed by a generous warranty. Unfortunately, key active safety equipment is only available as an option on entry-level models – these versions don’t have AEB so won’t automatically mitigate a collision should it detect one about to occur. We don’t think safety should be optional, so it’s been given a Don’t Buy rating due to its Euro NCAP score.

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6%
Don't buy
£10,199
Reviewed

It might be spacious and reasonably practical for its size, but there’s very little else to recommend about this small hatchback. It’s been on sale for far too long, and has fallen way behind the times, particularly in terms of safety. It’s one of the lowest scoring cars we’ve reviewed – avoid like the plague.

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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.

You can find out which cars pass our reliability assessments with flying colours by taking a look at our guide to the most reliable cars.  

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