Renault Megane Scenic MK2
The Megane Scenic falls into the compact MPV category and is a fantastic family car. It's economical to run, for example, the 1.5 dCi returns has a combined 54mpg and tax costs are £130 per year, reasonable for a car of that age.
Two areas you expect the Scenic to very strong in are space and versatility. With a 410L boot capacity and generous legroom for all seating areas, it's a comfortable vehicle to travel in as well as offering reasonable storage. The glass tailgate opens independently from the boot and the middle of the back seats can be removed creating extra space. These features enable to driver to maximise all storage space. Safety is another reason why the Megane Scenic is a good choice for a family car as it received a 5-star Euro NCAP rating upon its release.
The MPV is available with a variety of engines specifications, it's fairly attractive as far as cars in this class go and has a good build quality. With the Megane Scenic, you get a lot of car for your money.
The Peugeot 206 is the first of the superminis to be included in this list. Released in 1998, the 206 was in production for 12 years and have been a very popular used car choice over the majority of that time. The real attraction of the 206 is its design and appearance, as the aerodynamic shape and sporty features makes it one of the best looking cars in its class.
There's a wide range of engine variations available and they're all fairly economical. Most petrol engines will be capable of producing 40mpg and the majority of the diesels will offer 50mpg. One of the more popular engine choices is a 1.1L petrol, so you're likely to see more of these available on the market than others. Overall the 206 would be a good choice as a first car, it's attractive, has low running costs and you can get them relatively cheaply.
Ford Focus MK2
The Ford Focus is one of the most popular used cars in the UK, and you can get a mk2 model for less than £3,000. This family-sized hatchback offers a lot of space compared to other cars in its class. Backseat passengers can expect to have a generous amount of leg, the large cabin area makes it comfortable to drive and the 316L boot space means you have adequate storage space.
The popular engine specification is the petrol 1.6L zetec which produces 98bhp, has a top speed of 112mph and has a 0-60 time of 11.5 seconds. It handles very well when cornering and has good drive quality. The practical Ford Focus also has an excellent safety rating as it was awarded a 5-star Euro NCAP rating when launched in 2005. There's no doubt that this car represents very good value for money.
Ford Fiesta MK6
The Ford Fiesta is the UK's most popular car and is the 2nd supermini to be included in the list after the 206. The MK6 was in production for 2001 - 2009 and thanks to its popularity, the used car market is saturated with this model. This class leading hatchback has a lot of similar qualities to its bigger sibling, the Focus. With good handling and performance from all specs, it's easy to see why the Fiesta is more desirable than alternative cars in its class. Taking the 1.6L Zetec S as an example, it has a top speed of 114mph, has a sub 10 second 0-60mph time, and can produce 98bhp. If you're looking for economy, the 1.4L TDCi would be a better choice as returns a combined 64.2mpg.
Considering it's a supermini, the Fiesta has a spacious cabin, plenty of legroom for all seating areas and the 284L boot capacity is more than generous. Reliability of the Fiesta is also very good, however, the 4-star Euro NCAP safety rating it received in 2002 fell short of some competitors that achieved a 5-star rating. In 2008 this model had a facelift which meant the Fiesta had a more aerodynamic appearance, although you are very unlikely to find on 2008 onwards model for under £3,000.
MK2 Mazda MX-5
This 2 door roadster is the only car in its class included in the list, but it could well be the most desirable for driving purists. The MX-5 may not be a commuter's choice, but as a car that's designed for pleasure, there's not many better within this price range. It corners flat, handles extremely well and has a solid build quality, making the MX-5 enjoyable to drive.
The aerodynamic design, convertible roof, sports features such as the 15-inch alloys and a multitude of special editions that were issued makes the MK-5 look the part. Performance is also every impressive for the MK2, for example the1.8L petrol version produces 140bhp, can go from 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds and has a top speed of 127mph. The 1.8L petrol is also fairly economical considering its class and age as it returns a combined 33.2mpg.
MK3 Vauxhall Vectra
The large family car was discontinued by Vauxhall in 2008 and replaced by the Insignia. However, the Vectra still remains a popular choice with used car buyers, and there are plenty of reasons why. With a wide range of engine variations, there's a models so suit all types of requirements. Like the rival Ford Mondeo which isn't included in this list but could have been, the Vectra is a great example of 'getting a lot of car for your money.' If you look hard enough, you can get one for under £1,000.
With a spacious layout and large storage area, the Vectra is a very comfortable and practical vehicle. For a large car, it handles well thanks to its solid structure and build-quality. The big winner for this car is its reliability. In 2003 the Vectra had a 98% breakdown free report which was head and shoulders ahead of its competition.
The C-Class (W203) was produced between 2000 and 2007 and is the first company executive car to make the list from a prestigious brand. This is considered to be the closest challenger to the dominant class leading BMW 3-series from the same period. Key factors supporting its desirability include its attractive/sporty appearance and that it's a premier German car that fits into a lower budget.
The C-Class handles very well like most Mercedes cars, is extremely comfortable and comes with good on-board technology. Performance is as you would expect with a car of this calibre, very good. Using a C200 sports coupe as an example, it produces 160bhp, has a top speed of 145mph and can travel 0-60mph in 8.8 seconds. One down side to the C-Class is that it loves to gobble fuel, although the positives probably outweigh this negative. However, the 1.8L supercharged engine version from 2002 onward offered a good level of power with between 143-163bhp, and is much more economical.
The Meriva is the second compact MPV to be included on this list. The smaller sibling to the Zafira has a big advantage working in its favour from its competitors, and that's its flexspace interior. With flexspace, practicality and versatility are enhanced in the vehicle. Various seating configurations are available, and the back seats can be folded to the floor making the extra boot space flat. Most compact MPVs have the challenge of utilising the space they provide in the best way possible, and the Meriva is a great example of one that does it well.
The design of the Meriva is fairly attractive considering most MPVs aren't built with aesthetics being a first priority. Its compact size makes it easy to handle in tight busy places such as towns and cities, again something bigger MPVs aren't as comfortable in. If you're looking for an economical Meriva, the 1.3CDTi would be the one to go with.
As mentioned previously, the 3-series saloon is a class leading vehicle, and has been throughout the different generations that it's been produced. The compact executive car is still one of the most popular used cars on the market. One big reason why that's the car is similar to the competitor car the C-Class and that's the opportunity to own a quality German manufactured car for a low price. The 3-series has an attractive appearance, a very good reliability record and excellent build quality.
Another reason for the popularity of the 3-series is the general performance across the engine range. Take the standard 318i which is one of the less powerful models as an example, it has a top speed of 133mph, 140bhp and a 0-60mph time of 9.9 seconds. Build quality is fantastic, and it's enjoyable to drive so being available for less than £3,000 represents good value.
The 407 is a large family car that was in production between 2004 and 2010. When it was released, it was considered to have one of the most adventurous and modern designs on a domestic car, and it was considered to be a 'game changer' in terms of design in its class. With a futuristic aerodynamic appearance, the 407 is an acquired taste and there's enough on the used car market to meet demand.
It's not all about style for the 407, it's comfortable to drive and be a passenger in with plenty of space for all. There's an adequate amount of storage as well with 407L of boot space available, and it also scores well with safety as it received a 5-star Euro NCAP rating when it was released. Performance and economy are fairly respectable as well, take the 1.8L petrol as an example, here are some stats. It can produce a combined 35mpg, has 117bhp and can go from 0-60mph in 10.9 seconds.
Search all used cars here
The used car market is so vast and is filled with vehicles of different ages, prices and styles. It can sometimes be a bit difficult to find what you're after, or even know what you want in the first place, however, most used car buyers do start with a budget. That's why we have put together a list of some of the best cars on the market for under £3,000, so you have somewhere to start your search if this is your budget range.