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Most economical used cars under £5,000
Last time we looked at cheap used cars that don't cost much to run, we had a budget of just three grand. But sometimes that simply isn't enough, especially when just a little more money can get you a whole lot more car.
So now we're upping the budget to open up a whole new range of enticing motors. Here's our pick of the eco-friendly cars you can get for up to £5,000, arranged by category.
City car: Citroën C1 1.0 - 109g/km - 61.4mpg
Most tiddlers are light on fuel and the pocket generally, but the C1 is also a lot of fun to drive and better embraces the less-is-more philosophy than many other city cars.
It raises a smile on the outside and inside too, as the dashboard is basic but nicely styled. It may have been built down to a price but it is practical enough to get four adults on board which is a real bonus in a tiny car. Worth finding a four-door then.
That lack of overall quality has meant some issues about door sealing and even locks. Otherwise it's been pretty reliable.
Supermini: Toyota Yaris - 127g/km - 52.3mpg
Those who want a bit more quality and class when it comes to shopping for hatches should look no further than the Yaris. It may cost more than some rivals, but it is actually worth it when it comes to reliability and practicality.
You can choose between quite early models and the later ones that have an almost MPV-like driving position and clever folding rear seats. It is certainly more stylish than some rivals, comfortable and with more than enough cubbyholes and storage space.
The reliability has been very good even on the tired high-mileage cars. If there is a service history it's usually a guarantee that it won't break down.
Family hatch: Renault Megane 1.5dCi - 120g/km - 62.8mpg
It still looks different enough to turn heads and so is never less than distinctive. On the road it's dull, but who needs excitement when they want to save fuel and transport their family in safety?
Well, there is no safer small family car, which has low insurance ratings and is refined and comfortable for everyone. The diesel engine is particularly frugal and the Megane remains one of the best-value used cars in the marketplace.
There are though some reliability issues, mainly related to the electrics which can fail completely due to moisture ingress.
Large family: Citroën C5 1.6 HDi - 139g/km - 52.3mpg
It would be harder to find a much bigger or more family-friendly vehicle than the C5. Here is a spacious and hugely comfortable car that will seat five adults without any trouble at all. There is also a great big boot for all their luggage too.
The estate is even more practical but you will get a lot of hatchback for your money if you target that model. In terms of standard equipment almost everything is standard anyway, but it is easy enough to find a luxury car specification without really trying very hard.
However, reliability can be a bit patchy, centred on the otherwise brilliant self-levelling suspension and the electrics.
Junior executive: Jaguar X-Type 2.0D - 149g/km, 50mpg
There are so many obvious choices here, mostly German ones with TDi engines, but it's the Jaguar X-Type that's now incredible value for money.
As we are choosing on economical grounds, the Peugeot-related 2.0D engine returns a handy 50mpg overall, but is fairly slow and unresponsive. To be honest it's a little average for a Jaguar - but it is still a Jag, and compared to an Audi or BMW you will get a car that's quite a few years younger.
Executive: Volvo S80 2.4TD - 172g/km - 43.5mpg
Here is another alternative German domination of this market and for that we need to go to Sweden. Aside from the Saab 9-5 perhaps, the most overlooked Executive has to be the Volvo S80.
It's a superbly well-built vehicle that has a very impressive level of standard equipment from the SE upwards. This is the value-for-money choice, which is fine to drive and has plenty of room inside plus a boot that can be extended into the cabin.
The diesel engine is tough and well proven with only some customer niggles related mainly to electrical issues. Buy a well-maintained ex-company car if you can.
Luxury: Jaguar XJ8 3.2 LPG-converted - 305g/km - 42.8mpg
Finding a luxury car that is truly frugal for not much cash is about as simple as tracking down a needle-shaped object in a fat low-profile tyre. Instead we thought creatively about this and decided that an LPG (liquid petroleum gas) conversion would effectively double the mpg by virtue of the fact that it is half the cost of petrol.
The Jaguar XJ is one of the most popular conversions and there is usually a handful to choose from at any one time. Also it is a lovely way to travel, always comfy, but sporty. A 3.2 V8 is the best power plant to go for.
Just make sure the conversion is a good one - and get it checked by a specialist.
Coupé/cabriolet: Smart Roadster (80) - 122g/km - 55.4mpg
It's hard to believe that they stopped making these, but here is a sports car that could have be designed specifically for these tough times, when low running costs and high mpg figures are a priority.
This is how sports cars used to be, simple, light and underpowered, but still fun. Not everyone will like the semi-automatic gearbox, but there is no getting away from it. Most owners can live with it, along with the lack of storage space.
It's cheap to own and run, although prices are stabilising now and values can only go up. Leaky roofs and grounded exhausts are the only ownership issues.
MPV: Ford Galaxy 1.9TD - 178g/km - 43.5mpg
There are plenty of compact people-carriers that are just overambitious hatchbacks, so a proper body shifter is in order and the Galaxy is it. There are loads around which means choice should not be a problem and it also helps to keep prices realistic even for in-demand diesels.
The sheer ubiquity of Galaxys also means that servicing and parts are reasonable and if you are prepared to shop for second-hand parts then incidental running costs will fall even further.
On the whole it's very reliable and only when it's of high mileage will you have to spend on suspension and brakes to any large degree.
4x4: Nissan X-Trail 2.2Di - 190g/km - 39.2mpg
There are some big, ugly and brutish 4x4s out there, which are not going to be at the top of anyone's most frugal list. Best to find one that is more than capable on- and off-road, and is practical enough for the whole family.
That would be the X-Trail then, one of the best of the handy-sized 4x4s, which can't be described as a soft-roader at all. This is the real deal, which is perfectly happy off-road and behaves just like a loyal estate car.
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