Good car design is a difficult quality to get down - either a vehicle has it, or it doesn't. But just because a car isn't supermodel-pretty, it shouldn't be dismissed, as this week's used buying guide proves.
1 - BMW 5 Series GT (2009-present)
Just when it seemed as if the major car makers had filled every possible niche, BMW released this mash-up of 5-Series, X5 and 7-Series.
Broadly speaking, the 5 GT was meant to combine a road presence similar to that of the high-riding X SUVs with the versatility of a hatchback and the space of a full-size saloon. But BMW ended up with an ungainly model with looks not dissimilar to those of a pygmy rhino.
If you can live with the design, though, there’s a case to be made for a used 5 GT. The cabin is superb, but don’t expect the ultimate driving experience, and look out for air suspension and spring failures and electrical issues. We found a 2009 530d SE for £13,979.
2 - Fiat 500L (2012-present)
It’s only natural that Fiat would seek to replicate the runaway success of its retro-look 500 supermini, but the 500L proves that you can’t repeat your glories simply by putting a model into the photocopier and pressing ‘enlarge’.
Here, the popular 500’s dinky looks haven’t exactly lent themselves to being pumped up to mini-MPV size, so it’s no coincidence that there are some decent 500L bargains out there. A three-yearold 1.6-litre Multijet 105 Pop Star model with 53,000 miles now costs £6500, which is 63% less than new.
The stylish, practical cabin and decent roster of safety kit are plus points, but the ride isn’t great and the 500’s tidy handling has got lost in translation.
3 - Citroën C1 (2005-2014)
The C1 certainly isn’t without merit, though. It is one of the cheapest cars to insure and has extremely low running costs, making it an excellent first car.
Things are much better when you’re inside, and not only because you can’t see those poorly resolved looks. The fascia is simple and smartly styled, with easy to use controls. You’ll squeeze two adults into the back seats, but the boot struggles to take more than an iPad and a skateboard. We found a 53,700-mile 1.0-litre Citroën C1 Vibe for just £1795.
4 - Skoda Roomster (2006-2015)
With its oversized, rhomboid-shaped rear windows, the Roomster may look like a Popemobile made by a back-street chop shop, but this van-like Skoda shouldn’t be dismissed simply because of its styling. The swooping curves and disjointed window lines, though clumsy looking, inject interest into a shape that is necessarily boxy and slab-sided, so at least it’s not boring to look at.
The Roomster can be pleasingly entertaining to drive, too. With keen steering, it changes direction eagerly and grips well, while the ride is supple. All of this is allied to heaps of practicality and a van-like load capacity.
A Roomster 3 with a 1.4-litre petrol engine can be yours for just £3295.
5 - Peugeot 3008 (2008-present)
Peugeot’s effort, the 3008, comes from the ‘we can see what you were trying to do’ school of car design. This part-SUV, part-hatchback, part-MPV hotchpotch is combined in a package that few would call beautiful.
In fairness, the 3008 possesses some neat design touches, such as the rugged-looking front and rear fake skid plates and a Range Rover-style split tailgate.
It drives well — you could even call it agile — with well-controlled body roll and a pleasing steering set-up. The low-speed ride is a little fidgety, though.
A 60-plate 1.6 VTi Sport with 68,000 miles could be yours for £4950