Buying guide: The best used city cars for under £5,000

Savings in the city

city car buying guide advice

FOLLOWING 2013’s raft of supercar launches (Ferrari La Ferrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder) the arrival this year of the all-new Citroën C1, Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 108 should come as a breath of fresh air to real-world motorists on a budget.

Not only should these city cars be cheap as chips on a PCP deal, where you pay only a portion of the list price, but, as is the way with these things, they should be better to drive than the models they replace. It gets better. The arrival of these new cars can only depress the prices of their immediate predecessors, nearly new examples in particular.

So, if you’re a young driver looking for something cheap to run and insure, a pensioner wanting something easy to park and cheap to fuel, or just about anyone else with a requirement for nippy, no-nonsense, economical motoring, things just got easier.

Below, we bring you a potted guide to buying a current C1, Aygo and 107 for around £4,750, plus rival models you should also consider


Citroën C1, Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107 (current)

£4,750 buys: 2011 61-reg Citroën C1 1.0i VT (AC) 3dr; 2010 59-reg Peugeot 107 1.0 Urban 5dr; 2010 59-reg Toyota Aygo VVT-i 3dr

toyota Aygo comp

Which of these you buy will probably come down to what style you prefer and what kit each has, because under the skin they are pretty much identical, and were built on the same production line. There’s a choice of 1-litre petrol or 1.4-litre diesel engines, manual or automatic gearboxes, and three or five doors.  The petrol engine needs working and compared with newer rivals such as the Seat Mii, the cars are only average in the ride and handling departments.

Image isn’t really an issue at this price level but what little the C1 possesses, has been tarnished by super-generous finance deals on new cars. As a result, secondhand prices tend to be the lowest of the three cars. The Aygo and Peugeot are about neck and neck but the Toyota’s case is helped by its having a five-year warranty, introduced in 2010 (the other two have three-year warranties), and its perceived higher quality. On a worrying note, post 2009 facelifted examples of the trio were marked down (from four to three out of five stars) by crash test organisation Euro NCAP after it re-tested them against new, tougher criteria.


Our choice: Fiat Panda

£4,750 buys: 2011 11-reg Panda 1.2 Active 5dr

fiat panda

A Panda (the car, not the bear) isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Upright, functional looking and with lingering, but unfounded, concerns over reliability and quality, it appeals to individuals with a job to do, whether that’s moving people, occasional bulky loads, or both.

And my, it’s good value. Our target car, the Active, is a lot of motor for the money with stacks of storage solutions, a sliding rear bench seat, remote central locking and roof rails all part of the deal. The driving position is high for good visibility, the supple suspension absorbs hard knocks like a prize fighter and the 1.2-litre engine is a simple, willing and economical (55mpg) unit.



Ford Ka 2

£4,750 buys: 2009 09-reg Ka 1.2 Studio 3dr

buying guide ford ka

As you can see, Ford’s baby isn’t cheap. Our budget stretches to a five-year-old example only, and all we’ve got is the modest Studio version. Still, it comes with smart body-colour bumpers, twin airbags and speed sensitive front/rear wipers, while those plastic wheel trims will be less stressful than shiny alloys. The Ka 2, launched in 2008, shares its underpinnings with the Fiat 500 but has never caught the imagination quite like that model or indeed, its Ka predecessor. Newer, better-value rivals outclass it these days and it possibly lacks unisex appeal, but it remains a smart, practical and tidy handling little car.


Kia Picanto Mk 1

£4,750 buys: 2011 11-reg 1.1 2 5dr

buying guide kia picanto

First, the bad news: the new Picanto, launched in 2011, is far superior to this one from a few months earlier, but you’ll need to find around £1,000 over our budget for the entry-level model, so this version will have to do. Also, the Mk 1 earned only three stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests.

Don’t give up on it, though; this is the facelifted version of the Mk 1 with a cuter face, nimble handling (backed up with electronic stability control) and a refreshed interior featuring air conditioning, a USB socket and electric front windows. The Picanto is a roomy car and available only as a five-door, which should make its case stronger still. But what seals it is that our target example will come with the balance of Kia’s seven-year warranty.


Seat Mii

£4,750 buys: 2011 61-reg Mii 1.0 S 3dr

buying guide seat mii

We’re talking entry-level Mii here but the model is impressive enough at its core to warrant making a few sacrifices. It’s directly related to the Skoda Citigo and VW Up! but Seat’s slightly weaker image and budget positioning mean it’s the only one available for around £4,750, unless, of course, you find one with above-average mileage or in the private classifieds (during our researches we saw a 2013/13 with 5,000 miles for £5,000).

It could work harder in the safety department (it has antilock brakes but electronic stability control and brake force assist are options) and performance is tardy (59bhp) but it is deceptively roomy, brilliantly fun to drive and solidly built.



VW Fox

£4,750 buys: 2010 10-reg Urban Fox 1.2 3dr

buying guide volkswagen fox

Old Reynard’s becoming a bit of a nuisance these days but his automotive equivalent is a useful, if bland, little tool that hates food bins but loves hacking around choked streets. It’s light at the helm and the suspension is soft enough to absorb most speed bump and pothole punishment. It’s a VW but don’t expect contemporary VW interior quality. This is an old-gen model originally built for the South American market back in 2003. That said, it’s likely to have been cherished by one careful owner, so don’t expect your Fox to be too mangy.