Looking for a city car and wondering which one to buy?
Each month a car buyer challenges John Swift, award-winning Motoring Journalist, to pick out the best cars for their needs & budget.
- Model type: City Car
- Budget: up to £7,500
- Age of car: up to 4 years old
The two main criteria for the buyers here is cost and quality. Cost because they want a car that is cheap to finance, insure and fuel, and quality because they want one that is still quite fresh and young with not too many miles on it and come with a good service record.
Given that the new car market is dominated by three year finance deals which demand that the vehicle is routinely serviced then these cars most likely come with a full maintenance record so this is a good place to start your search.
You can have a three or a more family-friendly five door, manual or automatic but for engine choice my recommendation would be to opt for a petrol one. Diesels are being hit harder with tax and in small, lighter cars the benefits of their superior fuel economy are not quite so pronounced.
There are some models which are always popular in this size, age and price bracket. The Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio and Vauxhall Corsa are sold in vast numbers to daily rental fleets and this is reflected in their low residual values which makes them quite cheap second hand. All are good cars and the last generation Ford was the best riding/handling model in the sector.
Among the Japanese makes the latest-look Toyota Aygo has funky interiors and fresh, youthful styling. In contrast Honda’s Jazz is a bit more sober and grown up but has an amazingly roomy interior and makes a brilliant family car.
From the VW group you can pick from the Skoda Citigo or its sister model, the Volkswagen Up!. These are five door superminis and if you look at the C pillar, the piece of metal framing the rear window, you will see it is more upright than in many others which indicates that the more boxy shape has more room inside. Both are regular poll toppers in customer satisfaction surveys.
Other star cars include the Kia Picanto or Hyundai i10, if for no other reason that if you buy a four year old one they will still be within the manufacturer’s warranty (7 years for Kia, 5 for Hyundai) which gives you peace of mind.
And who could overlook the super little and cute Fiat 500. A three door only, it comes in lots of different colour and trim options and partly for that reason is usually a more individualistic, stand-out car, than others. Good reliability and low running costs just add to the appeal.
Hyundai i10. Bomb proof reliability, lots of interior room, practicality. Just voted What Car?’s best used city car.
You can get one with less than 20,000 miles for around £5,500. On this budget you’re looking at the 1.0 litre engine (60 mpg) and a decent spec which includes Bluetooth, alloys, air conditioning and CD/MP3, parking sensors and cruise control.
Honda Jazz. A favourite with owners and a regular top three car in customer satisfaction studies, it has a best-in-class interior for room and configuration flexibility thanks to its `magic seat’ design, all backed by 24 carat build quality.
With a maximum of £7,500 you should be looking for a mid-spec Jazz with around 20,000 miles and a perfect history.
SEAT Citigo / VW Up! Essentially the same car under the bodywork with lots of common components and strong points include roominess, low running costs, good engines.
We have a 2016 Citigo with less than 10,000 miles on sale at just under £7,000. This is a very fresh car with excellent spec – Bluetooth, air con, sat nav, full safety suite, radio/CD/MP3, privacy glass etc – and saves you some £3,500 against a brand new one.
Citroen C1 / Peugeot 108. Also share many components and are cheap to buy and run.
Less than £6,000 will get you into a 20,000 miles version of either of these and you will enjoy the good ride and proper family-sized interior.
Fiat 500. A perennial favourite among the three door cars. Others may have more room or more features but none can match the chic Fiat for the fun factor.
Prices for a 10,000 to 15,000 mile model come in at the low £5,000 area – say, £100 pcm on a finance deal – and that will give you a clean car with good history and decent spec.