James Ruppert
01/02/2011 13:15 | By James Ruppert, contributor, MSN Cars

Most economical used cars

We really don't care about the colour, or whether it has an electric lumbar support - what we want is a used green car that's cheap to both buy and run.

Most economical used cars (© Various)

In 2011, cheap and cheerful just isn't good enough anymore. We really don't care about the colour, or whether it has an electric lumbar support - what we want is a used green car that's cheap to both buy and run. Everyone is on the look out for the cheapest and most efficient used car to run, so you've come to the right place.

Ideally such a car should offer high mpg, cheap insurance and low tax costs. So, with a nominal budget of up to £3,000, what are the the cheapest and most cheerfully economical motors you can buy in the UK today?

To help you find your ideal used car we have included details on how green each car is, what can go wrong and where to find one online. So get saving!

Top 10 most economical cars
Most economical petrol cars
Most economical cars in each class
Most economical used cars under £5,000

Vauxhall Astra 1.7 DTi - 130g/km

Vauxhall Astra (© Vauxhall)

It's all very well to pick a happy shopper with three doors and a tiny boot, but what most families want is a spacious and comfy vehicle that's going to be really practical. The Astra is that car.

In 1.7 DTi form the Astra will deliver a rather excellent 58.9 mpg overall.

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.

Used Vauxhall Astras from £650 on Auto Trader
Vauxhall Astra (1998-2004) review
More Astra pictures on Bing

Toyota Prius - 114g/km

Toyota Prius (© Toyota)

The Prius has been around for a long time now and you can get yourself early 2000 examples at the usual small family car money. But is it better than an Astra or Focus?

The petrol engine will return a decent 57.6mpg, especially when there is plenty of stop-start motoring such as while commuting and doing the school run.

On the whole they have been incredibly reliable, but there are 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 hesitation, it's best not to buy.

Used Toyota Priuses from £1,695 on Auto Trader
Toyota Prius (2004-2008) review
More Prius pictures on Bing

SEAT Arosa 1.4 TDi - 119g/km

SEAT Arosa (© SEAT)

Should you get a funky-looking VW Lupo or the more boring SEAT? Well, the Arosa is a tad cheaper but otherwise it's essentially the same.

So it's small, well-finished and as basic as cars can be, really. And 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 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.

Used SEAT Arosas from £2,000 on Auto Trader
More Arosa pictures on Bing

Smart Fortwo - 118g/km

Smart Fortwo (© Smart)

When all you really want is a couple of doors and four wheels, the most exciting and funky package this side of a Caterham Seven has to be the Smart Fortwo.

There really isn't much more to the Smart and luggage room isn't going to be the reason you would buy. Instead you get easy-peasy parking and an overall 57.6mpg return. You can put up with the jerky ride and all the attention you get for the Fortwo's tiny running costs.

Popular problems have been exhausts that rust out and the manifold that can crack where they connect to the engine.

Used Smart Fortwo from £1,640 on Auto Trader
Smart Fortwo (2007) review
More Fortwo pictures on Bing

Daihatsu Cuore - 127g/km

Daihatsi Cuore (© Daihatsu)

Here is the most underrated small car in the entire world. The Cuore is not much of a looker and it isn't that comfortable, with a suitably low rent interior that you could probably hose down if need be.

However, it has a responsive and buzzy little engine that manages to record 53.3mpg overall. This is transportation at its most basic and endearing.

The Cuore is a robust little car that may, as a consequence, be neglected. Keep an eye out for the consumables such as tyres, suspension, brakes and clutch.

Used Daihatsu Cuores from £695 on Auto Trader
More Cuore pictures on Bing

Vauxhall Corsa 1.0 - 135g/km

Vauxhall Corsa (© Vauxhall)

This driving school favourite is easy to steer and look after, and the icing on the cake is a return of 50.4mpg.

Its tiny engine is willing, it's not an unpleasant experience on the move and there is a decently sized boot for when you stop for shopping. At least there will be thousands to choose from out there so there is no excuse for buying a rubbish one.

The biggest issue has been cam belt changes, so the history should show 40K mile changes ideally.

Used Vauxhall Corsas from £295 on Auto Trader
Vauxhall Corsa (2002-2006) review
More Corsa pictures on Bing

Peugeot 307 2.0 HDi - 138g/km

Peugeot 307 (© Peugeot)

If you want a lot of economical car for the money then the podgy 307 is it.

There may be a 1.4 HDi available, but the 2.0 version is around in greater numbers and bear in mind there are 90 or 110bhp models. Just buy what's cheapest, especially as both officially record 54.3mpg.

The 307 is a safe and comfortable way to travel for all the family. When it comes to checking them out it is suspension and electrical niggles that cause the most complaints.

Used Peugeot 307s 2.0 HDi from £950 on Auto Trader
Peugeot 307 review
More 307 pictures on Bing

Skoda Octavia 1.9 TDi - 135g/km

Skoda Octavia (© Skoda)

However tempting it may be to go for a Volkswagen, you will always find yourself paying a premium for that badge - which is where Skoda comes in.

Using the best VW diesel is what makes the Octavia so special, which means a very decent 54.3mpg. The estate version is popular but often hard-used, so the hatchback should be better value.

Octavias have been very well made and caused few problems, but you should look at the electronic control units on the diesels which can be faulty and cause rough running and high fuel consumption.

Used Skoda Octavia 1.9 TDis from £600 on Auto Trader
Skoda Octavia (2004) review
More Octavia pictures on Bing

Ford Fiesta 1.4 TD - 114g/km

Ford Fiesta (© Ford)

Although you can pay just a few hundred for a knackered old Fiesta, it won't be that joyous to look at or own. Instead go for the TDi-powered version from 2001, which is notable not least for the 65.7mpg it is alleged to return.

It is also good to drive and despite a limited boot it's very spacious inside. It has also proved reliable, with just minor electrical niggles that leaves warning lights on and some water leaks fixed by new door seals. Privately owned from new means tidier cosmetics.

Used Ford Fiesta 1.4 TD from £1,725 on Auto Trader
Ford Fiesta (2002-2005) review
More Fiesta pictures on Bing

Renault Megane 1.5TD - 120g/km

Renault Megane (© Renault)

For those who want comfort and refinement while going about their economical business (a decent 61.4mpg), then the Megane ought to be a serious option.

The four-door model is roomy enough, with plenty of headroom and an okay boot. Its styling still looks mad to some, but at least it is distinctive.

Reliability has been patchy, due to electrics that are susceptible to moisture, so make sure everything works. Dodgy electric steering can also be an issue.

Used Renault Megane from £1,694 on Auto Trader
Renault Megane (2002-2008) review
More Megane pictures on Bing

More from MSN Cars

Top 10 most economical cars
Most economical petrol cars
Most economical cars in each class
Most economical used cars under £5,000

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02/02/2011 10:14
I have owned a Renault Megane 1.5td from NEW and it is only four years old and I hate it... Electric problems is an undestatment...warranty a joke...trip computer a chance for garages to ip you off £110+ just to see whats wong with it..oh and the 62 mpg it used to do... NOW does 54!!! in four years I would steer very clear peoples..
20/12/2011 20:49
It's all very well quoting prices and MPG, but road tax (VED) is also a big factor.
Especially if  you are not doing a high mileage.

13/05/2012 21:57
I own a 1.5 dci 2001 Clio, it easily averages 65mpg without trying. This is by far the best car I have ever owned and I would highly recommend it. Mine has now done 140k and is still running smooth and with only £30 a year road tax and low insurance it really is cheap in every way. I've recently had a company car with one of the new Eco petrol engines and they are a complete joke, struggling to average 30mpg when really trying. Always stick with diesel for Eco in my opinion!!
25/11/2011 22:52

My vote goes to the wedge shaped fiat punto it  does about 58 to the gallon on a run and about 48 mpg around town and there are loads of second hand parts available for them the last of them were made in 2005 although some ended up with 06 registrations

these cars can be serviced without a laptop

28/08/2013 06:53
One of the most underrated, un-noticed and unmentioned, although one of the most versatile, comfortable and family friendly cars on the road is the Citroen Picasso. I have a 2002 diesel 2ltr HDI. it has been serviced every 10k miles and new parts fitted when needed. It has 189k miles on the clock, does 58 to 61 MPG on a mixture of town and motorway driving. I use it for whatever the occasion calls for. I.E. As a van, a people carrier, dog carrier, towing a caravan, (51 MPG when doing that!). When it has done 250k miles I intend to get anoter one or a C4 Picasso. it knocks the socks of Vauxhall, Ford and Peugeot, forget renault, It is cheaper to buy than most, parts cost is reasonable and easy to get.If you have never driven one, try one, you will be pleasantly surprised.
20/01/2012 20:28
My Smart for Four 1.5 diesel does between 55mpg and 65mpg without being carefull and is booked at 70mpg but i have not seen it however I dont drive that carefully.  Stopped production in 2006 mine is 2004 with 87k on clock most fun drive I have ever had!
rover 75 2.0 cdt .what can i say . its the dogs ****
07/02/2013 01:54

The way any car is driven has a VAST effect on the economy and emissions, however eco friendly it may be reported. Start stop driving, short trips, hilly driving, heavy of foot on the gas or brake peddle can make rubbish of both the emissions and mpg figures. Drivers needs a eco-driving style equal to the vehicles efficient dynamics and green friendly capabilities.

03/04/2014 23:32
I have the corsa c 1.7 diesal. It gives me a whopping 60mpg. Cambelt change was required at 90000 miles. That including a new engine mount. At £600 was not cheap but has happily chugged on for another 20000 miles. No problems. Love this cheap motoring.
28/08/2013 09:53
I would Have a 1.6HDI PICASSO every time above all these 
13/03/2014 16:02
I have a VW Passat worst car ever made ,in fact I wouldn't buy another  VW after this if a gun was placed at my head ...German engineering !!! what a joke
07/09/2013 16:45

I agree re the Astra. the 1998-04 Astra G is very well screwed together and the choice of cars priced under £900 is extensive. In the long term, petrol engines are cheaper to source new and used than diesel if the worst happens. My recommendation is a late model (03 onwards) LS version which comes with Aircon, ABS, CD radio, power steering, electric windows and airbags everywhere. As a daily hack you need little more. It does everything it should and is boringly competent and reliable rather than exciting.

Be generous with oil change intervals and the car will go on forever - mine has 200,000 on the clock and still returns 44mpg. It drives quietly and there are no rattles or squeaks. Apart from service items it has had nothing replaced other than the battery (after 8 years). It is on the original clutch and exhaust. Best of all, nobody ever wants to steal it from the station car park!


Incidentally re the above article, the Corsa C 1.0 has no cam belt to change. The 1.0 and 1.2 petrol engine has a cam chain which will last the life of the car if the oil is changed twice a year.

15/09/2013 20:22

My Peugeot 205D does between 50-55MPG urban & motorway, & being 20 years old cost just £4 (yes £FOUR) per year extra on my insurance for my LandRover & classic Triumphs.  Unfortunately costs £220 VED so it means that I need to use it often over my much more enjoyable LandRover Defender, Triumph Spitfire & Vitesse to make it worth it.

However, I can insure my LandRover, Peugeot & two Triumphs, fully comp, agreed value & with free breakdown cover for under £150 per year... Just a shame I have to pay £220 VED each on the two diesels cars.

26/06/2012 18:03
I've owned a 2005 Renault Megane 1.5 Dci since 2006 at 4700 miles .  It's now 2012 and it's now done 112000 miles of trouble free motoring; averaging around 60mpg, £25 per year road tax and it's quite nippy for a diesel.  When it's dead and gone, I'll be looking for another. 
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