I need used car suggestions for in the UK

The summer student who’s staying with me will be heading back to the UK soon and is interested in buying a car.

She needs something small and safe that runs well - can anyone suggest some good brands for her to look for?

Is Volkswagon good in the UK? She likes the look of a Golf. She also mentioned Renaut or Pugot but I don’t know much about either of those brands.

Please advise.

  • How much will she drive?
  • How much is she willing to spend?

I bought a Toyota Yaris T-Spirit (1300cc) new in 2003 and it’s still running well up to the time of this post, after which it will doubtless develop a complex mechanical problem requiring vast amounts of money to rectify successfully.

The car gets 50 miles to the gallon* across all types of road, it’s pretty quick for its class, and it’s cheap to service. On the other hand, leg room for passengers in the rear seats allows only for people the size of Toulouse-Lautrec, or maybe shorter. Rear visibilty isn’t that great and the parcel shelf in the hatch keeps falling off.

Before that I drove a VW Polo 1.4. A deer jumped over a hedge one day and landed on the hood of this vehicle, but apart from that it was very reliable.

Anyone buying a used car right now, or a new car for that matter, can drive a very, very hard bargain.

*As we speak, you’ll be lucky to find petrol at £1 per litre (£4.54 or $7.64 per gallon.)

Peugeot and Renault also make good european cars. For something comparable to a Golf look at a Renault Megane or a Peugeot 307.

Golf would be a good choice - popular car here with a bit of cachet. Would cost more than similar cars in its class. A polo is the next one down. A massively popular car in the UK is (or was) the Ford Focus. Biggest selling car in the UK for several years. Excellent, reliable motor that is v cheap to service, and there will be loads on offer second hand.

She might consider the VW Polo instead. My mother’s does 88 mpg.

VWs hold their value very well - great for the first owner, but expensive down the line. When I was shopping around a couple of years ago, the same and and spec VW compared to Ford, at the same price, would have had a mileage difference of close to a 100k (and that’s at under 3 years old).

On the topic, check out Ford Fiestas, the manufacturer depreciates quickly. Also Seats and Skodas, which are essentially Volkswagens in disguise, plus Vauxhall as well.

www.whatcar.co.uk is a good place to start for impartial and knowledgeable reviews - ‘supermini’ is the section you’re after in the reviews.

I’m a fan of VWs, but a cheaper option is the Skoda or SEAT equivalent. They have the same VW engine/drivetrain design, but slightly different bodywork and a cheaper finish. Get a diesel model and it will possibly go forever.

My wifes next car will almost certainly be one of these.


I got a new diesel VW polo in June- it is AWESOME! I get 450 miles to a £50 tank of diesel.
I worked out it would cost me only £1000 more to get a new car as opposed to a 3 year old Polo, and for that £1000 I’d get warranties, tax, and a year’s free insurance and breakdown cover. VW does good deals on finance too.

Those things run for years and years though- if she wasn’t looking for a new used car a Golf from the nineties would be very good.

I did a LOT of research before deciding on the VW Polo.
My thinking was this:
Minis are good, but expensive.
Fiats break down.
Fords, Vauxhalls and Peugeots don’t have great build quality and aren’t nice to drive.
Seats and Skodas are good cars, but not flashy and don’t have the cachet of VW, even if they do have the German engineering.
Renault Clios are hit and miss- they’re nice to drive, but break down frequently.
I didn’t like the driving feel of the Toyotas, Hyundais, Kias and Mazdas I looked at- it was all a bit plasticky and mushy.

I basically wanted a nice, safe, solidly built, economical diesel 5 door small car that I could drive until it stopped, and wouldn’t leave me stranded on a dark road waiting for repair vans on a regular basis.

I couldn’t afford a BMW, Audi or Merc, so, in my view I went for the next best thing!

I’ll agree with the latter statement in the context of Vauxhalls and Peugeots, but one of the reasons I ended up with a Fiesta is precisely because it is nice to drive. As long as you get a big enough engine, that is, because the basic options are seriously underpowered (true of the Focus as well, as many hire-car users will know).

Question: why do you Brits use metric liquid measure (liters0 nad miles for distance? Are not all distances in the UK in kilometers?
Second: are french cars somewhat iffy? How about Citroens? And Fiat (very popular in Brazil)-how are they regarded?
Finally: I am told that vehicle inspection is very strict in the UK-you cannot register a car that has rust perforation of the body-do the french cars rust prematurely?

This is a common American misconception, it seems. Our metrication is fudged and incomplete in a typically British way. Our petrol is sold in litres, but we’ll talk about mileage in MPG.

The French have a bit of a lingering reputation for poor quality and reliability, although even this is now mostly undeserved, and Renault in particular are known for keeping at the top of the game in terms of passenger safety. Similarly, Fiats also have the breakdown image, perhaps a bit more warranted, but nonetheless are considered a good option if you’re on a tight budget.

While some brands are less reliable than others, the quality gap is much smaller these days. Fiat probably has the worst reputation of the big European brands, but that dates back to the dark days of the seventies when they truly were unreliable rustbuckets. Nowadays, they are not that bad, reasonably well made and often pleasant to drive. French makers are also still trying to shake off a reputation for poor build quality, but again, current models are fine and very popular. It’s really getting quite difficult to buy a bad car, actually. I disagree with the comments about Ford/Vauxhall/Peugeot being poorly made and unpleasant to drive. In fact Ford’s European models are renowned for their sharp handling these days.

Regarding rust, manufacturers seem to have licked that problem. Even ten year old cars rarely show any sign of it unless they’ve been badly abused.