Money is always tight, especially when you have a growing, young family. Getting a flash sports car or speedy motor is no longer the priority it once was in your more formative years.
Fortunately there are still some wonderful choices of car out there, even for motorists on a budget, so in this article we review some of the best used family cars you can find for under £5K.
10. Audi A3
A great vehicle that looks good on the road, and still has the power to turn heads, even though it’s been around for a few years now. Wins lots of family car awards, so will always be fairly desirable, and as a result holds its value well, but that’s also because this is a very good car.
The space inside is great for shopping and kids, the ride is smooth, and the handling is everything you need to navigate busy urban streets. If you’re looking for quality then the A3 will always be a safe bet. Easy to find a petrol model as the diesels tend to be that little bit more popular – but watch out for the 1.6L petrol as this is renowned as the least reliable of the range. From the high quality interior to the drive handling of older models, it’s hard to go wrong with this Audi stalwart.
Our Pick: 2009 Audi A3 2.0 TDI Sport Sportback 5 door with 91,000 miles for £5K
9. Kia Cee’d
For hassle free, reliable motoring the Kia Cee’d has won its place on this list as a fairly safe bet. It’s not without style, but is more about its quiet comfort that comes with a whole load of space and in a durable package. From behind the wheel, you’ll always feel you’re in a well-made motor.
It’s not that exciting, but it has the steering credentials and agility to more than handle family life competently. Air con as standard, lumbar support on all seats, loads of room in the boot and plenty enough space for 3 passengers in the back, this is a true family affair.
We don’t mind the 1.4L and 1.6L petrol engine models, but our head was turned by the 1.6L CRDi diesel, offering fuel economy of over 60mpg. And with a transferable 7 year warranty as standard, chances are you’ll be buying one with a little lifespan left in this agreement, helping you out with repairs.
Our Pick: 2012 KIA Cee’d 1.6 CRDi 5 door with 79,000 miles for £5K
8. BMW 1 Series
It may be an entry level BMW, but it still holds a premium badge. Be aware though, it’s not that spacious, with restricted leg room and a small boot, but if you have little kids and still crave that big engine excitement, then it’s a good choice. Expect a slick manual gearbox and a pokey front wheel drive system that gives you the oomph when you need it without breaking the bank. However, this is a popular car so you may be forced to go for older models.
You can get enough power from both the diesel and petrol models, and recent versions of the BMW 1 series have surprisingly good fuel economy. Smart interior is standard, but you won’t get much more than the basics in your standard models. Harder suspension does lead to a firmer ride, which may be uncomfortable for some family members. One thing to watch for is timing chain failures so listen out for rattles on the test drive and be very vigilant.
Our Pick: 2009 BMW 1 Series 2.0 116i Sport 5 door with 51,000 miles for £5k
7. SEAT Leon
With sharp styling, the SEAT Leon has a fun and fast drive, taut chassis and responsive handling that’s great on the road. Like the BMW 1 Series however, be aware of the firmer ride quality that might not be great for all the family. Although the cabin appears large and spacious, the volume is better in the front and the back can feel cramped at times. Whilst this is a clear competitor for the VW Golf and the Skoda Octavia, we feel this vehicle has better looks than both.
When you’re considering which SEAT Leon to purchase, the later turbo petrol models offer a smooth and efficient choice when compared to the rest of the range. Although there’s plenty of mod cons inside, the interior does feel a little plastic, but is none-the-less well built. Servicing prices and maintenance costs are relatively low and the 1.6L TDI Ecomotive S model, introduced in 2010 achieved CO2 emission levels of 99g/km making it tax free.
You get a five star safety rating and 85.6mpg for 1.6 litre diesel models, what’s not to like about this classy looking family car?
Our Pick: 2010 SEAT Leon 1.4 TSI SE 5 door with 64500 miles for £5K
6. Mazda 6
Want a good all round family car that’s perfect for cruising and long journeys? Then you could do a whole lot worse than considering the Mazda 6, which balances the tricky equation of cost, driver appeal and practicality for all the family beautifully. It gives you plenty of room both in the back and the boot, and has excellent handling and refinement. And whilst the interior quality isn’t the best of any car on our list, there is more than enough comfort to keep small and big faces happy.
1.8L petrols and 2.2L diesels are the most commonly available models. We’d recommend the latter for 45 miles or more to the gallon. There’s also some good equipment on the TS and TS2 trims, with alloy wheels and climate control available. One possible stumbling block is the diesel particulate filter, so be sure to keep one eye open for warning lights and beware of cars that have spent their lives entirely in urban areas.
Our Pick: 2011 Mazda 6 2.0 TS 5 door with 69000 miles for £5K
5. Honda Civic
If reliability is your watchword then make the Honda Civic your steed. This vehicle gives you an unparalleled reputation for dependability coupled with a very attractive price bracket. There’s plenty of older models on the market, many of which offer expansive boot space including the magic foldaway seats that allow you to store surprisingly tall bulky items.
As you’d expect from a vehicle that’s known for assuredness, the engine is very economical and likely to last. The 1.6L diesel can return 78.5 mpg. Legroom is plentiful both in the back and front of the car, if you can get over the off-the-wall interior décor which some people have pegged as wacky or sci-fi inspired. Steering is not as great as some of the other makes and models in this list and you’ll want to listen out for excessive tyre noise on your test drive as this can be annoying.
Our Pick: 2010 Honda Civic 1.4 i-VTEC SE 5 door with 43,000 miles for £5K
4. Ford Focus
You were probably wondering where the UK’s favourite family hatchback would end up on our list. Offering a package that’s both cheap to buy and inexpensive to run, this is one car that gives you true value. And it’s downright reliable too. Easy to drive, with a good, firm chassis and responsive steering, even the 1.0L turbo model has enough pep for most people. And if you’re worried about driving safely, the car has been given a five star crash test rating by NCAP.
Whilst the car doesn’t quite have the classy interior of its rivals such as the VW Golf, the titanium spec model does have plenty of the right stuff to keep you comfortable in the car. As with any hatchback the boot space suffers, but there’s still enough room in the cabin to keep all the crew happy. Thanks to the popularity of this model, you should have no trouble finding a good diesel or petrol second generation car at the right price, but the smart advice says stay clear of the 1.0L EcoBoost cars as these are known to have problems.
Our Pick: 2011 Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi Zetec 5 door with 76,000 miles for £5K
3. Skoda Octavia
The second generation Octavia offers practicality, comfort and exceptional value together with the same excellent turbo petrol engines that have made the VW Golf such a success, whilst remaining cheaper than its rival. There’s load of space in this car both for passengers and in the boot and you’ll never feel pushed for effort behind the wheel, thanks to the smooth, easy drive style that remains ultimately composed in the corners.
Available in a wide range of cheap-to-run engines and transmission variants, you’ll always find a decent amount of kit available on the Octavia, especially when you start looking at the SE specification and above. Watch for suspension problems and rattling air conditioning on the test drive but otherwise, going down this road is a fine choice for any family.
Our Pick: 2010 Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI CR SE 5 door with 73,000 miles for £5K
2. Vauxhall Astra
A popular car both for home motorists and fleet managers means that you can easily find a wide range of second hand Vauxhall Astras available on the second hand market. Simply put, it’s a great value vehicle that gives you loads of car for your cash. Good build quality, economical on the road and the space for all the family, there’s a reason why this car came second on our list. And when you factor in the handling and nice speeds available, you’ll see that this is a great all-rounder at an accessible cost.
However, the Astra lacks something of the high quality feel as some of its rivals on our list and you’re forced between the choice of a lethargic petrol model or a noisy diesel. Also be careful to consider well known issues with the flywheel, clutch and the electrical gremlins.
Our Pick: 2012 Vauxhall Astra 1.4i VVT 16v Sri 5 door with 54,000 miles for £5K
1. VW Golf
It’s been emotional, but we got there. The first place vehicle on our list is the VW Golf, which is in short, a fantastic all round that is the real deal. Comfort, handling, space enough for most families with a reliable reputation that’s made it a hit with everyone from commuters to school runners. Expect a quality ride experience that’s quiet and understated, together with a luxury-feel interior that comes with the timeless VW feeling.
Whilst this car is a little pricier than others on the list, you do get what you pay for and the vehicle holds its value well when you eventually decide to trade in. Although servicing can also be a little more expensive, parts are reasonable and you have an excellent choice of petrol engines when you make that buying decision. TDI models are the most popular but we would urge you to avoid Twincharger variants and DSG auto transmissions, as although these are generally reliable, if they do go down then it’s a big money fix.
Our Pick: 2009 VW Golf 1.4 TSE SE 5 door with 65,000 miles for £5K
As with all second hand cars, it’s always best to take them on a test drive before you even consider parting with your money. And remember, you do not have to take the option in front of you. The great thing about all the cars on our list, is that if you’re unsure of making a purchase – then you can always find a similar model in no time at all.