As we’ve touched on, just because a car is small doesn’t mean that it’s going to bring a load of drawbacks. If you’re focused on reducing overall costs, driving down monthly servicing bills and using a car with a lower environmental impact, then opting for a cheap small car is a great idea.

The best cheap small cars have all the features you need but avoid being overcomplicated or difficult to maintain. Most of the cars on this list come with smaller, less powerful engines, too, which makes them cheaper to insure – a real bonus if you’re looking for a car for a first-time driver.

The cheapest small used cars to buy

Variety is something that the small car segment has on its side. It’s been a popular segment of the car-buying world for a long time, which means that there are countless options available from wide range of different manufacturers.

Don’t go thinking that this is going to be a standard list of superminis, either. In recent times the small car segment has expanded to include several different types of cars so if you’re after something a little bit different from the norm, we might have something right up your street. Let’s take a look at what we’ve got on offer.

1. Ford Fiesta (2008-2017)

We could hardly talk about the best cheap small used cars without mentioning the Ford Fiesta, could we? It’s a true household name here in the UK and there’s a good reason for that – the Fiesta has always been there to provide reliable, low-cost transportation that doesn’t feel cut-price.

We’ve opted for the model built between 2008 and 2017, as it brings the best blend of value and features. There are many, many options of this type of Fiesta available on the used market, too, bringing plenty of standard features such as air conditioning and electric windows. Plus, the vast majority of models come with a fuel-sipping 1.2-litre petrol engine that’ll prove very inexpensive to run.

Plus, the Fiesta’s long production run and high numbers mean that parts are easy to find and inexpensive to buy, so you should find that routine repairs won’t cost the earth.

Best Features

  • High production numbers mean that there are plenty of Fiestas to choose from.
  • Tried-and-tested engines have a good reputation for reliability.
  • Will prove inexpensive to run and cheap to repair if you have a bump.

Things to consider

  • Fiestas are popular as learner driver cars, so look out for bumper grazes and scratched corners.
  • Some examples will have been modified – look out for larger-than-standard wheels and bigger exhausts as these can seriously drive up your insurance.
  • Rear headroom is a little bit tight, so you might want to consider a different option if you’ve often got taller passengers.

2. Skoda Fabia (2015-2021)

The Skoda Fabia is a car which packs a lot into a small package. This third-generation model is well regarded for its comfortable and spacious cabin, while a refined driving experience means that this is a small car that can do big distances with ease. 

It’s accompanied by a great choice of efficient engines, too, with the turbocharged 1.0-litre units being our pick of the bunch thanks to the extra flexibility that they bring – they’re quiet, and efficient but have a good amount of punch for getting up to speed when joining the motorway, for example. As with all Skoda models, the Fabia has been designed with practicality in mind which is why you’ll find plenty of usefully-sized cubbies and a handily square boot. 


Best Features

  • Practical despite compact dimensions
  • Lots of engines to choose from
  • Feels solid and good to drive

Things to consider

  • Some interior plastics aren’t the nicest
  • Base-specification cars don’t get a lot of equipment
  • Styling might be a bit plain for some

3. Hyundai i10 (2014-2020)

If a no-frills cheap used small car is what you’re after, then look no further than the Hyundai i10. It’s built with Hyundai’s now-legendary attention to value, with hard-wearing materials used throughout to ensure that it still looks fresh even after years of use.

But what we love about the i10 is its refinement. Though it’s a very small car, the i10 feels and drives like a far larger vehicle and remains quiet even on the motorway. It’s the second-generation car that we’re focused on here, too, as it offers great value for money but still has all of those must-have features. This generation of i10 is available with two petrol engines; either a three-cylinder 1.0-litre or a four-cylinder 1.2. Pick the latter if you’re after a little more punch on the open road.

Best Features

  • Compact size means that the i10 is really easy to park and live with day-to-day
  • Impressive five-year warranty means that later models could still have some cover included
  • Hyundai cars are known for their reliability, so an i10 should prove headache-free to run

Things to consider

  • Entry-level 1.0-litre engine is better suited for around-town driving – pick the 1.2-litre if you’re often travelling further afield
  • Automatic i10s use a four-speed gearbox, so they feel slower and are noisier at high speeds
  • There’s an efficiency-focused SE Blue trim level, but what out as it only has four seats – all ‘normal’ i10s get five as standard

4. Honda Jazz (2015-2020)

The Honda Jazz is something akin to a big car-little car. What do we mean? Well, despite its relatively small proportions, the Jazz can deliver absolutely loads of interior space alongside a large boot, making it a model with very few drawbacks.

This third-generation model combines the low running costs of a compact car with the versatility of an MPV, all tied together in a vehicle which looks and feels solid.

For instance, even though it nears the Ford Fiesta in size, it’s able to offer a boot similar in capacity to that of the larger Focus. Plus, because of its boxy design, it’s got plenty to give in the headroom department. All versions get loads of standard equipment, too, including air conditioning and Bluetooth connectivity.

Best Features

  • Spaciousness is on-par with cars that are much larger.
  • Jazz regularly tops lists of most-reliable cars so it should prove hassle-free to run.
  • Loads of handy pockets and storage areas mean it’s easy to keep the Jazz clutter-free.

Things to consider

  • Two engines were available with the Jazz – a 1.3 and a 1.5-litre petrol. Both are non-turbocharged, however, so need to be worked hard.
  • The Jazz’s low-speed ride is a bit firm, so avoid cars with larger wheels if you’re after the most comfortable suspension.
  • The automatic CVT gearbox is great for around town, but it’s very loud when accelerating hard – you might want the manual if you’re often on the motorway.

5. Seat Ibiza (2008-2017)

Seat’s Ibiza has always been a go-to choice for drivers after a low-cost mode of transport which still feels fun from behind the wheel. This model retains those features, too, and because of this car’s popularity, there are loads to choose from in the used market. With sharp styling and plenty of good colours to choose from, the Ibiza still looks as fresh today as ever. You’ll find loads of clean-running engines to pick between, too, as well as the option of either manual or automatic transmissions. 

There are three- and five-door versions to choose from while a more practical ST model is there for drivers who need a little extra space from their Ibiza. It’s also very nicely put together inside with chunky controls that help with this car’s user-friendliness. 

Best Features

  • Sharp styling looks fresh today
  • Decent amount of interior space
  • Material quality is good overall

Things to consider

  • Not quite as engaging to drive as some of its rivals
  • Space in the rear is tight
  • Lower-powered engines need to be worked hard

6. Renault Zoe (2013-2019)

Want a cheap small used car that also has an electric powertrain? Those requirements point towards one car – the Renault Zoe. It’s a car which epitomises the lightweight, un-fussy electric car appeal with its nippy powertrain and well made interior. The Zoe is also compact and easy to drive, so it’s ideal for use in the city where its zero-emissions powertrain means it incurs no extra charges in low-emissions or congestion zones.

The Zoe has been on sale since 2013, which means that there are plenty of examples available on the used market for cut-price amounts. Early examples only had compact batteries delivering up to 130 miles, but this is still more than enough for ‘usual’ trips and local journeys. Opt for a post-2015 model to get a range of up to 250 miles if you want to travel further afield.

Best Features

  • The Zoe’s battery is located under the rear seats, so it still has a well-sized boot
  • You get surprisingly nippy acceleration in the Zoe which is great for darting into gaps traffic
  • All versions get plenty of equipment such as cruise and climate control

Things to consider

  • Early Zoe models came with a battery leasing scheme – where you’ll have to pay a separate amount for the battery – so check whether this is in place
  • It’ll take around seven hours to fully charge an early, small battery Zoe via a 7kW home charger
  • Since it’s a city car primarily, thoroughly check any used Zoe for scuffs and scrapes along the bumpers

7. Citroen C4 Cactus (2014-2021)

Citroen has a longstanding history of creating quirky models and the C4 Cactus definitely tied into this. Released as a compact SUV, this is a car which doesn’t go to town size-wise but brings a little more space inside. Plus, because it was quite affordable when new, it represents a very well-priced option in the used market.

It’s accompanied by a solid range of petrol engines which are cheap to run, while a diesel model is there for those who require it. We particularly like the turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol as it offers a nice combination of performance and efficiency.

There’s loads of standard equipment on board the Cactus, too, including a seven-inch touchscreen and cruise control among other features. What are those panels on the side of the Cactus, you ask? They’re called ‘Airbumps’ and are designed to protect the Cactus from errant shopping trolleys or car park door-dings.

Best Features

  • Quirky design means that the C4 Cactus truly stands out from the crowd.
  • Interior is spacious and the upright seating position gives a good view out.
  • Frugal engines will be inexpensive to fuel; and tax.

Things to consider

  • The Cactus was updated in 2018, bringing a slightly sharper design.
  • Manual gear shift is a little bit vague and not that engaging.
  • Though three can sit in the back of the Cactus, it’ll be a little cramped due to the car’s compact design.

8. Mini Hatch (2006-2013)

The Mini Hatch has been a familiar sight on our roads ever since its rebirth by BMW in the early 2000s. Despite the onset of new rivals, the Mini’s popularity seems unwavering, too, and even though it’s quite compact, it fits the bill for a whole lot of drivers.

The Mini Hatch has always carried a premium price tag, but the second-generation model that we’re focusing on represents a really great used buy. It’s packed with features and loads of charm, but the overarching positive which covers all Mini models is how the Hatch drives – it’s great fun and genuinely engaging from behind the wheel.

Though the rear seats are pretty tight, but the interior is made to a high standard and feels special to this day. You’ve also got plenty of engine choices with this age of Mini, including a diesel which was introduced for the first time with this generation.

Best Features

  • The Mini Hatch is great fun to drive and this makes your favourite roads more of an adventure.
  • You’ve got plenty of engine choices, from efficient diesels to sporty 2.0-litre turbocharged units.
  • All versions of the Mini Hatch are built to a high standard, so used examples will still feel fresh.

Things to consider

  • Minis are known for failing power steering pumps – listen out for overly noisy pumps and if the steering feels extra-heavy it may need replacing.
  • The boot of the Mini Hatch is quite small, so don’t go for one if you need lots of space.
  • A whistling noise when idling after the engine has warmed up could mean a worn water pump – ask plenty of questions if you hear this sound.

9. Toyota Yaris (2011-2020)

The Toyota Yaris is cheap small used car with very few drawbacks. It’s put together really solidly and though early entry-level Yaris models lacked creature comforts like air conditioning, the rest of the range had plenty of equipment to offer.

The Yaris is also a breeze to drive, particularly around town, thanks to light steering and good visibility. It’s not too big, either, so pitching into a tight parallel park shouldn’t cause too many issues.

Like so many other Toyota models, the Yaris was also offered with a hybrid engine alongside traditional petrol and diesels. Though the hybrid may cost a touch more than the equivalent ‘regular’ car, it’ll prove to be cheap to run and tax. Toyota claims it could return just over 80mpg combined, too.

Best Features

  • The Yaris will be inexpensive to run, while Toyota has a great background in making reliable cars so this one shouldn’t let you down mechanically.
  • For such a small car the Yaris offers a lot of space, helped no end by the interior’s flat floor.
  • Plenty of spares mean that if something does need replacing, it shouldn’t cost the earth.

Things to consider

  • Early entry-level Yaris models did without air conditioning, which could be a bit uncomfortable in the summer.
  • As a city runabout, the Yaris could be prone to damage and scrapes – make sure you look out for this.
  • No versions of this Yaris had either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto – so you can’t mirror your smartphone on the car’s screen.

10. Volkswagen Up! (2012-2023)

The Volkswagen Up! epitomises the small, value-orientated car. Since 2012 it has been the smallest car in the Volkswagen line-up, but has delivered strongly during that time thanks to its spacious interior, high levels of standard equipment and frugal engines.

These days, the Up! represents one of the best cheap small used cars you can buy. It has sold in big numbers since it first went on sale so there are loads to choose from, but because of its solid build quality, used examples have held “up” well. Volkswagen also wasn’t tempted to give it a big mid-life facelift, so there’s very little to distinguish older Up! models from more recent ones, giving it a timeless quality.

You could also get the Up! with an electric setup – in the e-Up! – and with a sportier flavour in the Up! GTI, though both of these models will cost a lot more to buy than the standard version.

Best Features

  • Small but perfectly formed, the Up! delivers loads of interior space despite its compact size.
  • The Up! is great to drive thanks to nippy handling and engines which have a decent amount of performance.
  • It’s also very refined at high speeds, so it’s more than comfortable enough for the motorway.

Things to consider

  • Because of its popularity, used Up! do carry a premium over other small cars from different manufacturers.
  • Clutches can often go on Up! models used in the city; make sure that it’s easy to operate and doesn’t slip.
  • Sides of the boot are only painted and not covered by carpet, so check that they’ve not been damaged.

What should you consider before buying a cheap small car?

If you’re opting for a cheap small car, then there are a few things to think about before you grab the keys and drive away.


Obviously, a small car isn’t going to offer the most amount of space. So think about what you do each day. Are you often loading the kids and their gear into the car?

Do you have some hobbies which require big equipment like surfboards or skis? If so, a small car might prove too tiny for the job. You can always tailor a car to your needs through racks and roof boxes, of course, but it might end up being annoying on a daily basis.


If you’re often doing trips on the motorway, then you’ll need to think hard about which small used car is right for you. Compact models are often a little louder and not as ‘planted’ when travelling at high speeds, while smaller engines have a tendency to feel underpowered when you’re joining a motorway.

However, many of the cars on our list – like the Volkswagen Up! and Mini Hatch – go against this rule and feel far more like a ‘larger’ car to drive.

Tips for finding and buying a cheap small car

Finding and buying a cheap small car doesn’t have to be tricky. In many ways, since these cars are often less complex than their larger alternatives there’s less to go wrong.

However, think about how a small used car may have been used beforehand. If you’re buying in an inner-city or urban area, then check out a used car’s exterior panels to make sure they’re free of scrapes and prangs . Plus, stop-start traffic can play havoc with a small car’s clutch, so test this out and make sure it performs as it should.

Small cars are often go-to choices for new drivers who are setting out on the roads for the first time. Much like cars used in the city, we’d be looking out for bumped corners and kerbed alloys on those models with them fitted.

You’ll also want to think about how you’re going to pay for the car, either through cash or finance. Take a look at our used car finance guide if you’d like to find out a bit more about the latter. We’ve also got an extensive range of reviews that can add a little extra detail to any car you’re interested in buying.

Frequently asked questions