Buying a second-hand car is often a stressful experience – there’s often big money at stake, so there’s an overwhelming urge to play it safe.
However, it doesn’t have to be like that. There are many left-field options which not only stand out from the crowd, but actually make sense as used car buys.
We’ve chosen 22 cars from the last 10-15 years which demonstrate the breadth of choice. So, whether you’re looking for a starter convertible or an budget-priced executive car, there’s an alternative something for everybody…
Nissan Figaro (1991)
This two-door 2+2 retro-styled convertible may have had a very short life, but 20,000 were manufactured and it has a cult following. Based on the Nissan Micra, it was powered by a little 1.0-litre petrol engine with automatic transmission and is now very collectable, so you’ll have to pay at least £4-5,000 for a good one, but watch out for rust.
Audi A2 (1999-2005)
The A2 was years ahead of its time. Boasting lightweight aluminium construction and especially frugal in 1.2 TDI form, it was also stylish and practical. However, sales were disappointing. That said, now’s the time to snap up a good example and to cherish it. They are available from as little as £500, but £3,000 will buy you a late, low mileage example with years left in it – if you can find one.
Mitsubishi Colt CZC (2006-09)
This budget introduction to drop-tops comes in the shape of the little CZC. It’s fair to say that it’s much prettier with the roof down, but if you can live with the awkward rear end otherwise it’s worth considering. Go for the 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine and it will do the 0-60mph sprint in a useful 8.3 seconds, and it handles surprisingly well too. Good ones are available from less than £2,000.
Skoda Roomster (2006-15)
The Roomster was another quirky vehicle from Skoda that makes a great family car because there’s loads of space inside for both luggage and passengers, plus it’s reliable and cheap to run. There’s 480 litres of luggage capacity with all the seats up or 1,585 litres with the rear seats folded down. However, if you remove the back seats completely there’s a van-like 1,810 litres available. Roomsters have held their value well – decent examples are around the £5,000-mark.
Renault Avantime (2001–03)
A bold design statement, the Avantime was effectively a four-seat coupe based on the third-generation Renault Espace. It wasn’t a great success and just 8,557 examples were made until production ceased in 2003. If you want to stand out from the crowd, this is a rare car. Expect to pay around £3,000, though tip-top examples with the sweet 3.0-litre V6 can go for as much as £5,000.
Toyota iQ (2009-14)
With its compact dimensions, the funky iQ was a triumph of packaging, boasting light steering and a tight turning circle which made it an ideal city car. The designers even managed to squeeze in four seats, though in reality it was a 3+1 because the front passenger seat sits slightly further forward than the driver’s seat, which allows an adult passenger to sit behind the front passenger and a child to squeeze in behind the driver. Low mileage late used iQs are available from £4,000.
Hyundai Veloster (2012-14)
Sadly only on sale in the UK between 2012-14, the Veloster is a stylish, sleek, compact coupe that’s well equipped and still turns heads. It’s not be as hot to drive as it looks and it’s cramped in the rear, but it has fairly cheap running costs and it’s different. Choose a late version and you may even benefit from the end of Hyundai’s generous five-year warranty. Velosters are rare and have held their value, so you’ll have to pay closer to £6,000+ for a nice low miler.
Citroen C6 (2005–12)
The big C6 was meant to be the Citroen executive car that would beat the Germans at their own game. Harking back to classic Citroens such as DS, SM, CX and XM, the distinctive C6 offered a smooth ride and effortless performance, and the best-selling version was powered by a 3.0 HDi V6. Now that depreciation has worked its magic (some models were just shy of £40,000 originally), it’s possible to buy a low miler for as little as £5,000. However, bear in mind that it probably won’t be the most reliable car you’ve ever owned…
Ford StreetKA (2003-06)
The cute little StreetKA is another budget introduction to the world of wind-in-your-hair motoring. It doesn’t just look funky, it’s fun to drive too, and though it’s a two-seater, the boot is surprisingly big. You can buy a really nice Ford StreetKA for as little as £1,500.
Nissan Cube (2010-11)
Only officially on sale in the UK for a couple of years, plenty of examples of this evergreen cult car were also imported from Japan. Despite being only the length of a supermini, its clever design boasts plenty of space, but it’s really only a city car, so don’t expect much more in the handling department. Above all, it’s still one of the most distinctive cars on the road. Very collectable, expect to pay £4,000+.
Honda HR-V (1999–2006)
The distinctive first generation HR-V was arguably way ahead of its time when it was launched – a car-like driving experience mated to an elevated driving position in a compact SUV package. Sound familiar? Like many a Honda before and since, it’s well engineered and reliable and there are still plenty of examples in everyday use. Expect to pay £2-£3,000 for an HR-V with low miles.
Volkswagen Eos (2006-16)
A stylish convertible four-seater with a premium feel, the Eos was facelifted in 2010 and it features a clever five-piece folding roof. Owners seem to love them and it would definitely make a good daily driver with something extra special on offer for when the sun’s shining. They are available for as little as £2,000, but recent ones can go for as much as £16,000.
Kia Soul (2009-)
Distinctive it may be, but that squared off rear end divides opinion. Shame, because the Soul is a bold piece of design and it’s also available as a 100% electric vehicle. The first and second generation (2014-) are both similar to look it, though the newer version looks slightly more conventional. They are both spacious, easy to drive with great visibility, and if you buy wisely, you may even benefit from the tail-end of Kia’s seven-year warranty.
Volkswagen Phaeton (2002-16)
VW’s flagship saloon was meant to challenge Mercedes-Benz and BMW. However, it wasn’t a huge success, despite later facelifts. Volkswagen’s loss is our gain because examples of this awesome big car, which was even available with the stupidly fast 6.0-litre W12 out of the Bentley Continental, can be bought for less than £4,000, though low milers could set you back double that.
Citroen C3 Pluriel (2003-10)
If you’re looking for a cheap open-top, then this quirky car from Citroen might be it. It’s fine for the city (not the most engaging car to drive elsewhere), but it does have that certain je ne sais quoi. The good news is that it’s possible to find nice low mileage examples for as little as £1,000.
Skoda Yeti (2009-17)
The quirky yet highly practical Yeti has only just gone out of production and has a legion of fans – partly down to its looks, but also because it’s spacious, fun to drive, distinctive, well made and versatile. Yetis hold their value well, so expect to pay at least £5,000, but you’ll have to shell out considerably more if you want a minter with low mileage.
Mitsubishi Grandis (2004–2010)
People carriers didn’t get much roomier than the big Mitsubishi Grandis seven-seater. Long and sleek, owners report good reliability. Powered by either a 2.0-litre diesel or 2.4-litre petrol engine, performance was decent rather than swift and it handled well enough. If you can find one with low mileage, expect to pay closer to £3,000.
Renault Wind (2010-2012)
It wasn’t on sale for long in the UK and it’s a fairly rare sight on our roads, but this little two-seat coupe is well worth considering. Cute, compact, well-equipped and fun to drive, it has a clever ‘targa’-style roof that folds away in just 12 seconds. There’s a choice of two engines, but we’d recommend the smaller 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol unit. The Wind has held its value well, so expect to pay £3,000+ – if you can find one.
Vauxhall Tigra (1994-2009)
There were two generations of Vauxhall’s little coupe convertible, but we’ll concentrate on the newer one available from 2004. Strictly a two-seater, the Tigra was cute and boasted an electric folding hard-top which folds in 20 seconds. Even though it wasn’t particularly engaging to drive, it’s a good value second-hand buy. Decent late examples go for as little as £2,000.
Fiat Multipla (1999–2010)
Its looks were divisive, but Fiat’s innovative Multipla people carrier (it had two rows of three seats) very nearly won the 2000 European Car of the Year title. It scored 325, but was just beaten by Toyota Yaris (344pts). Refreshed in 2004, Multiplas are now fairly rare and can be bought cheaply. Definitely one to buy if you want space and you like to stand out from the crowd. However, you’ll really have to cherish it if you’re expecting years of Multipla motoring.
Suzuki Jimny (1998-2017)
The legendary Jimny can still put a big smile on your face. Yes, it’s cheap and cheerful, but it’s also tough and a real mountain goat of a 4×4. What’s more, it’s little 1.3-litre petrol engine is capable of 40mpg. With a fourth generation model due to go on sale in 2019, current Jimnys (on sale since 1998) are suddenly very collectable. At present, £3,000 will buy you a nice 10-year-old example with years left in it.
Mazda RX-8 (2003-10)
Entertaining to drive and surprisingly spacious, the Mazda RX-8 is like no other “coupe”. In fact, it isn’t really a coupe at all because it can seat four people and it has two unusual rear-hinged side doors. What really sets this car apart is its unique rotary engine which may only be 1.3 litres, but it’s smooth and powerful, pumping out either 189bhp or 228bhp, depending on the model. Sadly, it’s not the cheapest car to run, with high petrol and oil consumption. Good low mileage examples from around 2006 can be found for as little as £3,000, but the RX-8 is perhaps best left to enthusiasts.