Top 3 small cars for £3k
Best buys archive
Running on a tight budget? Here's our pick - three terrific second-hand buys that won't batter your bank balanceVolkswagen Polo 1.4 Match 5dr
2001, 51-registered, 54,000 miles
Fine value at this price because this car is tough, nice to drive, and (if you pick this ‘Match’ model) generously equipped. Alloy wheels, twin front airbags, air conditioning, central locking and heated mirrors all come as standard. Five-door models are scarcer than three-doors but they are worth hunting down if you carry passengers regularly, because getting into the back seats is a scramble. The 1.4 petrol engine is reasonably peppy and should see you right for 40mpg all-in. Condition and history matters more than mileage and favour cars that have had only one- or two previous owners and have full service records, too.
Skoda Fabia 1.2 Classic 5dr
2003, 53-registered, 49,000 miles
The one to get if you aren’t that fussed about gadgets but are keen on getting the most for your cash. This is the entry model to the range so you’ll have to wind the windows up/down yourself. But that three-cylinder petrol engine feels willing and is frugal, so you could touch 50mpg overall. And you’ll find anti-lock brakes and twin front airbags as standard, which is more safety kit than you’ll see elsewhere. The Fabia comes with five doors as standard and is roomy inside, while its boot is bigger than most. It’s good to drive, too, because it shares its running gear with the post-2002 Volkswagen Polo. Go for one- or two-owner cars (because there’s a better chance they’ll have been cared for) and hunt down one with a full Skoda service history. Verdict ****
Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 SXi 3dr
2001, Y-registered, 45,000 miles
Well equipped car has sporty looks but a small engine. It drives sweetly and the 1.2 petrol motor fizzes along. But – and this is vital if you’re buying a car for a young driver – its 75bhp is modest enough to keep the insurance cover affordable. Alloy wheels and a silver-finish centre to the dash add appeal, while it also has a CD player when the others here make do with a radio/cassette. It isn’t as roomy inside as the Fabia, but there’s enough space for four grown-ups inside and the boot is a decent size. There are plenty for sale at this price, so take your time and weed out any with scuffed cabins or without a maintenance history. A tip: look at the tyres. A matched set of ‘name brand’ rubber is a strong sign of a cared-for car, while a mongrel mix of budget make tells a different story.