Tackling the Motorway
For many drivers, both new and experienced, travelling on the motorway can be a daunting task due to the busy nature, high speed and endless number of large articulated trucks. Unfortunately, motorways have become a time-saving necessity in the modern world, unless you fancy taking the often longer, scenic route.
But don't fear, automotive manufacturers around the world regularly update their cars with handy, innovative technology that can provide assistance when tackling these large carriageways. It isn't just the more expensive flagships that get the kit either, many of the smaller vehicles now have a range of equipment that can help you eat up those miles. Oh, they can also keep you comfortable whilst doing so.
With that being said, we've selected our top 10 best small used cars for motorway driving that are currently available, to help you find your next used car.
In 2019, the French manufacturer rethought their styling and the Peugeot 208 is now one of the best-looking superminis on the road. But good looks don't help you on the motorway, technology does, and the 208 isn't short of that either.
Features such as active lane keeping assist and the Driver Attention Alert 3 (DAA3) system automatically calculate the trajectory of the vehicle, pinging you with a warning via the dash if it feels like your safety may be compromised. There's a range of other kit that comes as optional on lower specifications, or standard on higher ones, such as adaptive cruise control, lane positioning assist, and TomTom® navigation.
With a simple line-up of engines, the 208 offers a 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine available with 75, 100, or 130bhp. The higher powered variants are much more comfortable getting up to, and cruising, at speed. A diesel engine is also available, which is more economical on fuel, but these are less common on the used car market. Don't forget the all-electric e-208, which can tackle shorter motorway trips.
The UK's most popular car and for good reason, the Ford Fiesta is a versatile supermini that can easily complete long motorway stints. The Euro NCAP five-star safety rating is reassuring, with a number of gadgets helping the driver to stay safe.
Lane keeping assist systems are standard across the range, along with automatic hazard warning lights in cases where sharp braking occurs. Higher specification examples, such as the posh Vignale, offer a more premium and comfortable interior, along with further features such as adaptive cruise control.
The award-winning EcoBoost petrol engines offer great fuel economy when cruising on the motorway. A range of petrol, diesel and mild-hybrid variants are available to cover a variety of preferences. All are capable of achieving upwards of 50mpg, but opting for more power gives you pokey performance, which is useful when overtaking slower moving vehicles.
Another common sight on the road is the SEAT Ibiza, being one of the best-equipped small used cars your money can buy. Furthermore, the spacious boot and cabin allows you to transport luggage in a relaxed manner.
The latest generation of the Ibiza features full smartphone integration (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) as standard, which allows you to keep your full attention on the road whilst answering important calls. The Ibiza also performed well in Euro NCAP's rigorous safety test, achieving the full five-star rating thanks to available kit such as autonomous braking and a tiredness recognition system.
A variety of 1.0-litre engines are available at different levels of power. Each performs well in terms of fuel economy, achieving upwards of at least 45mpg, but the lower powered variants require a heavy right foot to get up to standard motorway speeds.
Japanese manufacturers and reliable cars go hand-in-hand and the latest generation of the Toyota Yaris definitely plays ball. Toyota are so confident, they offer an extended 5-year warranty on the major power components, giving you peace of mind on younger used examples should any unforeseen breakdowns occur.
The typical Toyota functionality crops up again within the cabin, but comfort elements have also been included, such as a centre console armrest, which is painfully vacant within a lot of small cars. The standard equipment list is lengthy, including adaptive cruise control and smartphone connectivity. Safety tools such as driver attention alert systems allowed the Yaris to gain the full five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
Fourth generation Yaris' come with a simple choice of, well, one engine. A 1.5-litre self-charging petrol hybrid offers fuel economy figures north of 57mpg. But previous generations offer traditional petrol and diesel variants, with the latter being less common.
Who says city cars have to be restricted to city driving? Hyundai definitely didn't. The i10 can cope with anything you throw at it, dispatching long motorway trips with a surprisingly small amount of effort. Of course it doesn't have as much room for luggage as its bigger i20 sibling, but the i10's impressive big car feel makes it a strong contender on this list.
Entry-level examples come with convenient bits of technology such as cruise control, but better specification models include comfort features such as a heated steering wheel and seats, making the i10's cabin a cosy place to be for those crisp early morning motorway commutes.
As you'd expect, none of the i10's small petrol engines provide breakneck performance figures, but they're all capable of trundling down the motorway. Breaks at service stations will be reduced, at least on the i10's part, as it manages to do an average of 56mpg.
Based off of the same underpinnings as the SEAT Mii and the Skoda Citigo, the perky Volkswagen up! is another small city car with big road capabilities. Its spongey suspension provides a refined ride at high speeds, dealing with undulations in the road fairly easily.
A variety of engines are available, but we'd recommend avoiding the 59bhp block if you're tackling the motorway regularly. Unfortunately, as of 2020, Volkswagen have chopped the mid-powered variants from new car production, but thankfully there are plenty of used examples available with these motorway-ready engines.
The up! comes with a mobile phone docking station where you can download the free Maps+More app to give you access to satellite navigation. Volkswagen have produced a fairly safe car too, lane assist and stability control comes standard across the range.
The Clio is the French manufacturer's piece in a very competitive supermini class, and it fights its corner well when it comes to motorway driving. A range of engines are on offer, including an uber-economic hybrid option on facelift variants capable of achieving a minimum of 55mpg. Renault have also included a workhorse diesel in the range which will happily chug away, making it well-suited for motorway driving.
With physical controls seemingly becoming less popular with automotive manufacturers, we were glad to see the inclusion of actual buttons and knobs instead of touchscreen controls. These allow you to keep your eyes on the road and adjust by feel, improving the safety of yourself and other road users.
On the topic of safety, Euro NCAP's five-star safety rating was awarded to the Clio thanks to technology such as autonomous braking. If you ever find yourself on a busy stretch of the motorway, Renault's traffic jam companion on newer models provides semi-autonomous driving, ensuring you stay a sensible distance away from the car in front.
Offering excellent value for money, we'd recommend a used Dacia Sandero if you're working with a tighter budget. All examples are capable of getting you from A to B in the same time as a supercar, when sticking to the speed limits of course, but choosing a higher specification will grant you access to better technology.
We'd opt for the Comfort trim as you get voice recognition, cruise control and satellite navigation. If you're old school and are happy having your passenger guide you using a road atlas, or using a mobile phone holder when riding solo, the Essential model would also do the job.
The 67bhp powered variant has slug-like performance and may not get you up to speed by the end of the slip-road when entering the motorway. For this reason, the 91bhp petrol or 100bhp Bi-Fuel engines are more suited, capable of achieving 53 and 52mpg respectively.
As the stereotype goes, Germans are incredibly efficient and hold themselves to high standards. The Audi A1 is symbolic of this and is a fitting choice if you're after something at the premium end of the small car scale.
Multiple petrol engines are on offer, from a couple of fairly pokey 3-cylinder 1.0-litre engines, to hot-hatchback like 2.0-litre forms, there's sure to be something that suits everyone's bag. Fuel economy is also sufficient, even the higher-powered examples are capable of reaching figures of 44mpg.
As you'd expect from Audi, the range of gadgets is vast, but entry-level trims can sometimes only provide the essentials. However, plenty of used examples are of higher spec and have features such as cruise control and the pricey technology pack, which includes satellite navigation.
To round off the list we have Britain's second most popular car (after the Ford Fiesta), the Vauxhall Corsa. A cost-effective way of tackling the motorway, the latest generation of the Corsa looks great, comes well-equipped and is great value for money.
Mobile phone integration comes as standard, along with lane departure warning and lane keep assist systems. The top of the range Ultimate Nav trim comes fully-loaded with further benefits such as Satellite Navigation and a driver drowsiness system to make life easier for the driver and notify them when it's time to take a break.
Both petrol and diesel engines are available, including a zippy 1.2-litre petrol engine that's ideal for overtaking, and a mile-munching 1.5-litre diesel that can achieve up to 69mpg. Vauxhall have also given you something else to think about with the electric Corsa-e which offers a range of over 200 miles, offsetting your running costs substantially.
Find your perfect small used car with Evans Halshaw
Here at Evans Halshaw we have a wide range of excellent small used cars that are more than capable of tackling the motorway. With economic fuel consumption figures, high levels of kit and comfortable interiors on offer, we're sure to have something that suits your needs in our used car collection.
If you're after something slightly larger, why not take a look at our picks for the best used cars for motorway driving. Our blog section is also regularly updated with handy driving and buying guides to help you enjoy the open road.