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Best Cars

Best Cheap Cars for 2017

Article 2 of 15

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.

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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.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access to our table and all of our online reviews by taking a £1 trial to Which?

Best cheap cars

Price from £10,220
Brand score 75%
Reviewed Jan 2015
Driving stability:
4 out of 5
Performance:
4 out of 5
Seat comfort:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
Seat space:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive
CO2 emissions (best measured):
Member exclusive

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.

Price from £18,883
Brand score 74%
Reviewed Jul 2016
Driving stability:
4 out of 5
Performance:
5 out of 5
Seat comfort:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
3 out of 5
Seat space:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive
CO2 emissions (best measured):
Member exclusive

This crossover SUV has more space than most, whether you’re a passenger or you have a load of luggage to lug. You won’t be getting any complaints from people sat in the back, and you won’t struggle to find space in the 400-litre boot. Though it’s on our list of the best cheap cars it’s actually pricey by this brand’s standards, but it’s still cheaper than much of the competition that didn’t fare as well in our tests.

Price from £14,078
Brand score 73%
Reviewed Nov 2010
Driving stability:
4 out of 5
Performance:
4 out of 5
Seat comfort:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
Seat space:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive
CO2 emissions (best measured):
Member exclusive

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.

Price from £14,216
Brand score 72%
Reviewed Mar 2013
Driving stability:
5 out of 5
Performance:
4 out of 5
Seat comfort:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
Seat space:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive
CO2 emissions (best measured):
Member exclusive

This sporty looking hatchback has a healthy amount of nippy petrol engine options and two diesels if you’re planning on putting the miles in. Interior space is generous and the boot is big, though the high boot floor could make it tricky if you’re loading heavy items. It’s based on the same platform as some other popular medium hatchbacks, but has them all beat - and it’s cheaper too.

Price from £15,818
Brand score 72%
Reviewed Mar 2013
Driving stability:
4 out of 5
Performance:
3 out of 5
Seat comfort:
4 out of 5
Ride quality:
4 out of 5
Seat space:
4 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive
CO2 emissions (best measured):
Member exclusive

This brand isn’t always at the forefront of people’s mind when they think of quality cars, but it managed to get two cars onto our list of the best cheap models. This large car has the look and feel of a car that should cost several thousand more pounds than it does. It’s an enormous car, both in terms of interior and boot space, and an upmarket feel pervades throughout. Considering its size, the range of petrol and diesel engines deliver lively performance and it isn’t dull to drive - only the weaker diesel models feel underpowered.

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

 

And here's 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

Price from £12,533
Brand score 49%
Reviewed Sep 1998
Driving stability:
1 out of 5
Performance:
1 out of 5
Seat comfort:
2 out of 5
Ride quality:
2 out of 5
Seat space:
1 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive
CO2 emissions (best measured):
Member exclusive

Unless you get the latest version of this small SUV, it won’t have electronic stability control and its high centre gravity can lead to a rollover. It hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, but our own tests are enough to know this car isn’t safe enough to recommend.

Price from £9,495
Brand score 45%
Reviewed Jan 2013
Driving stability:
3 out of 5
Performance:
3 out of 5
Seat comfort:
3 out of 5
Ride quality:
3 out of 5
Seat space:
3 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive
CO2 emissions (best measured):
Member exclusive

For all this car’s good points, which include an ample boot, responsive engines and that low price, it all counts for nought when put next to its safety rating. It only scored three stars out of five in the Euro NCAP crash test. It also has only four airbags, which is below the class average of six – there’s no option for curtain airbags either. Older models are even worse since they didn’t have electronic stability control.

Price from £9,931
Brand score 45%
Reviewed Apr 2017
Driving stability:
2 out of 5
Performance:
4 out of 5
Seat comfort:
2 out of 5
Ride quality:
2 out of 5
Seat space:
3 out of 5
On sale date:
Member exclusive
Boot space with seats up (litres):
Member exclusive
Combined mpg (best measured):
Member exclusive
CO2 emissions (best measured):
Member exclusive

The car has a well-designed interior that maximised space and comfort, but we still wouldn’t recommend it. It’s unsafe – cheaper models have with three-out-of-five star Euro NCAP safety rating. You could pay more and get a four-star rated car, but then it wouldn’t be cheap and you don’t need to sacrifice safety for a low-cost car.

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.

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