Ford Ka - Group 2 and above
The Ford Ka has been around since 1996, a year in which it revolutionised the city car market with its quirky looks, decent practicality and excellent running costs. All those things are still true about the current generation, but with added safety technology and a more refined driving experience.
The newer generation (2009 onwards) has a much lower insurance rating, as the cars are safer and actually a bit slower (the older 1.3is were deceptively quick), thanks largely to a smaller 1.2-litre engine. Studio models have a rating of just group 2, though they have very little in terms of specification. Edge models add air conditioning, and they're rated at group 3, as are Zetec models which adds bits like alloy wheels, a trip computer and a quickclear heated front windscreen.
Peugeot 107/Citroën C1 - Group 1 and above
Two of the most popular choices of first car, the Peugeot 107 and Citroën C1. They both use the same platform which allows for low running costs amongst other cost saving benefits. £5,000 will be enough to find a fairly modern version which has the added benefit of being face-lifted over the original version. They're available in a range of funky colours, including bright blue, bright red and even bright yellow!
Both the C1 and 107 should be able to achieve over 60mpg. Each 107 (apart from the 2013 Envy models) are group 3 insurance, which is very low indeed. The C1 manages to go one step further however, and 1.0i Vibe and Airplay models manage to be in the very lowest group 1 for insurance. Other models range between 2 and 3, so you won't see too much difference in cost.
Search Used Citroen C1
Kia Picanto - Group 2 and above
For around £5,000, it is possible to get behind the wheel of a fairly new Kia Picanto, which has just turned 3 years old. However, if you want a better specification and more 'toys', you are going to be better offer getting a slightly older one from around 2013-2015.
The '1' trim level with 65bhp produced from its 1.0-litre engine is the model to go for if you want to pay peanuts for your insurance, and as with many more desirable or higher specification cars, it gradually rises the 'posher' your Picanto.
The later cars tick many boxes for those looking to find a well-spec'd, good-looking, cheap to run car and cars up to 7 years old will benefit from a manufacturer warranty that's transferable between owners. What's not to like?Search Used Kia Picanto
Nissan Micra - Group 6 and above
£5,000 won't get you into the latest, all-new Micra, but the old one still has plenty of virtues that make its residual values strong. The £5k budget will see you acquire a low mileage version with decent specification in Tekna, N-Tec or Acenta+ trim, though the insurance groups of those models are a slightly higher-than-you-might-expect 11. They come with a lot of equipment though, and Tekna models have sat nav, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, mp3 connectivity, 16" alloy wheels and automatic lights/wipers all as standard, so it might be worth paying a bit more. 'E' models have the lowest insurance group rating of just 6.
1.2-litre models are the most frugal as well as the cheapest to insure, and manage a respectable 47.9mpg on the combined cycle. The boot on the Micra is also bigger than you might expect, at 251-litres.
Citroen C3 - Group 2 and above
Another car in this list that provides more space than a typical city car. Its useful 282-litre boot is one of the largest in this list. The petrol ones are the cheapest to insure, with 1.1i Vibe and VT models rated at just group 4 but the diesels are only group 4 or 6 too, and you'd be hard pressed to find a diesel car with a lower insurance group than that. Combined economy is 64.2mpg on a 1.4 HDi Airdream+ model (insurance group 7).
VT models aren't really the last word in specification, but it makes them good value. Remote central locking, electric front windows, and steering wheel audio controls are the plus points. A CD and mp3 compatible stereo is present though, so that should keep you entertained at least. The aforementioned Airdream+ model adds rear parking sensors, alloy wheels and tinted windows to the mix.
Hyundai i10 - Group 2 and above
The i10 is another surprising little car that's actually rather fun. Okay, so it may not be the most powerful car ever, but for what it lacks in speed it makes up for in character.
It is a doddle to run, won't break the bank and some cars will come with an attractive 5-year warranty, showing just how confident Hyundai are with their little supermini/city car. For £5,000, it is possible to find a 2015 car. This means it will be 4 years old, therefore still having a year or so of manufacturer warranty left, for added peace of mind.
The i10 also comes with 5-doors for added practicality and it's surprisingly spacious inside too.
Smart ForTwo Coupe/Cabriolet - Group 2 and above
The 'Smart Car' has been around since 1998 believe it or not, but it still looks fresh and funky today. It is however due to be replaced in the near future by an all new model.
As the name suggests, it can only seat two people, and space for luggage is understandably limited, though there is a woman who works at Evans Halshaw HQ that swears she once got a washing machine in the back of hers (this video kind of backs up her story).
Its tiny size allows for a tiny 999cc engine, and with it only producing 61bhp, insurance costs can't be anything but low. Group 2 for the lowest spec pure variant, group 3 for the pulse and ratings rise to group 7 for an 84bhp Passion with a Luxury Pack fitted.Search Used Smart
Seat Ibiza - Group 5 and above
Some Spanish flair with German sensibleness. The SEAT Ibiza is a fantastic small hatchback, and is perhaps one of the most grown-up cars in our list, offering a lot more creature comforts than the other city cars mentioned. Owned by VW, the SEAT Ibiza features decent build quality and attractive design cues, some of which are of course borrowed from some VW group cars.
This is of course no bad thing, but it just means you'll get an older car in comparison to the rest in the list for your £5,000. A 2015 model is possible, but it will have done circa 50,000 miles and above. The Ibiza is also available in a sleek 3-door or more practical 5-door offering.Search Used Seat Ibiza
Renault Twingo - Group 3 and above
You can get behind the wheel of the latest shape Twingo for under £5,000, along with the previous generation shapes too. No matter which one you opt for, you are guaranteed the typical French car style and charm.
Older models come with 3 doors, whereas the latest model comes with 5-doors, which is impressive for such a small and compact car. Cuteness is what the Twingo offers, yet flair and style are evident from the exterior style. Previous generation interiors are quirky, but the latest versions add colour and digital screens for an enhanced city car experience.
The Twingo isn't going to break the bank to run either, with over 50mpg achievable without breaking sweat from its small petrol engines.Search Used Renault Twingo
Suzuki Alto - Group 4
The Alto had a four-year absence from the UK between 2005 and 2009, while Suzuki went back to the drawing board to make a city car that was more suited to life in Britain. It became more refined, more economical and much safer. Current Altos can be had in either SZ, SZ2, SZ3 or SZ4 specification, and the good news is there is no insurance group penalty for moving up the specification ladder. All Suzuki Altos are in insurance group 4 - even the automatic version.
SZ4 models are very well equipped, and come with alloy wheels, a trip computer, 6 speakers for the MP3 compatible stereo, electric windows, front fog lamps, a height adjustable driver's seat and air conditioning, while ABS, brake assist and electronic stability programme are all present to keep you safe. All Altos come with a 1.0-litre engine, and the manual version manages 65mpg!