Most economical used cars
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!
Vauxhall Astra 1.7 DTi - 130g/km
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.
Toyota Prius - 114g/km
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.
SEAT Arosa 1.4 TDi - 119g/km
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.
Smart Fortwo - 118g/km
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.
Daihatsu Cuore - 127g/km
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.
Vauxhall Corsa 1.0 - 135g/km
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.
Peugeot 307 2.0 HDi - 138g/km
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.
Skoda Octavia 1.9 TDi - 135g/km
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.
Ford Fiesta 1.4 TD - 114g/km
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.
Renault Megane 1.5TD - 120g/km
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.
More from MSN Cars
Especially if you are not doing a high mileage.
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
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.
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.
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.