Cheap and cheerful isn’t good enough anymore. We really don’t care about the colour, or whether a car has got an electric lumbar support – the one thing that a used car must be is economical.
Ideally it should be cheap to tax, insure and fuel. So with a nominal budget of not very much at all, which frugal beauties should we be considering? Here’s a mixed selection of cheapies that our worthy of consideration.
Vauxhall Astra 1.7 DTi
It’s all very well to pick a happy shopper with three doors and tiny boot, but what most families really want is a spacious and comfy vehicle that is going to be truly practical. The Vauxhall Astra is that vehicle and in 1.7 DTi form will officially deliver a rather excellent 58.9mpg overall (claimed). The estate is superbly flexible. Well-used models can have issues related to suspension and electrics, but very rattly engines could mean a new timing chain, which could cost more than you paid.
Now quite long in the tooth, you can get yourself early 2000s examples of the Toyota Prius hybrid at the usual small family car money. Is it better than an Vauxhall Astra or Ford Focus? Well, the petrol engine will return a decent 57.6mpg especially when there is plenty of stop/start motoring, like you get when commuting and doing the school run. On the whole the Prius has a reputation for being incredibly reliable, although there can be issues with the gearbox once the miles build up. The software and the controller can be faulty and if there are any strange noises or a sense of hesitation during driving, best not to buy.
Seat Arosa 1.4 TDi
Funky looking Volkswagen Lupo, or the more boring Seat Arosa? Well, it is a tad cheaper and otherwise essentially the same. So it’s small, well finished and is as basic as cars can be. That simplicity translates into low running costs and contributes to the excellent overall economy figure of 64.2mpg. What can happen is that those great big, easy to enter/exit doors can drop on their hinges. Although the electrical items are minimal, check them anyway for niggling faults, which attract the most complaints from owners.
Peugeot 307 2.0 HDi
If you want a lot of economical car for the money then the podgy Peugeot 307 is it. There may be a 1.4 HDi available, but the 2.0 diesel version is around in greater numbers and bear in mind there are 90 or 110bhp models. Our advice is to just buy what’s cheapest especially as both will record 54.3mpg according to the official figures. It's a safe and comfortable way to travel for all the family. When it comes to checking them out, it is suspension and electrical niggles which cause the most complaints.