It’s funny how some car buyers just want something that is funky-looking and on-trend, when really all they need is a hard-working hatchback. Here’s what Ryan said to me: “Hey James, I’m looking for a small and cheap motor to run between local schools for my sports coaching company. I’ve looked at a Smart car and a Toyota iQ. Could you recommend any?”
Well, the Smart is quite an old bit of kit now and the Toyota iQ is no longer with us but that doesn’t make them bad choices. The Smart is well proven and the Toyota is a Toyota, so it won’t break down. Both are small and neither is that cheap, although a tidy 2003 Fortwo Passion with 50k miles is around a grand and a proper warranted iQ from 2009 is £2500. That’s not too bad, but if you’re using a small car for work, it can turn out to be not that practical – especially a minimally booted Smart. That’s why an old-school shopping hatch is always going to be a better idea.
The Ford Ka won’t be around for that much longer, but I rather like them. I was surprised that a pre-Aston grille example from 2009 is just over £1000. The mileage was 100k, but it had service stamps and was at a dealer, so they had a responsibility if anything was awry. For that money, it would be a three-door 1.2 Zetec.
Ryan might find he wants a couple more doors, so let’s think Kia Picanto. They’re mostly privately owned and well looked after. Picantos have tiny wheels and do look a bit toy-town, but a 2004 1.1 SE with lots of MOT and a fresh service for £700 is pretty good going. It would do a spectacular job and keep Ryan running for a year without a worry, proper cheap motoring and high-50s economy.
At this point, Ryan came back to me. The Ka seemed to fit his criteria pretty closely and I had mentioned the Toyota Aygo in passing, but he was unaware of the badge engineering which also created the Citroën C1 and Peugeot 107. A 2008 1.0, for instance, is £20 road tax and, with 100,000 miles showing, costs £750. So that’s a contender. Ryan, though, had his head turned by a Volkswagen Up. More style over substance? I like them, but Ryan would struggle to get very much below £3000 and he would be dodging insurance write-offs to do it. But if he wants to Up his budget, then by all means do it.