“What’s the Best Small Car for Local Rides?”

"What's the Best Small Car for Local Rides?"

Alex Robbins is an editor at Telegraph cars where he not only responds to reader questions, but also writes reviews of new and used cars, along with articles on buying and selling.

His knowledge of the used car market is the basis for his many buying guides to the best buys in certain sectors, with an emphasis on value for money. Every week he answers your questions about buying and selling, as well as solving your automotive problems, both consumer and mechanical.

Do you have a car dilemma that you want our expert to solve? For advice to consumers and used cars, or car breakdowns, please email [email protected] and quote your subscriber number. This week’s question…

Dear Alex,

I help my sister, who is 85, convert her 2008 Volkswagen Golf 1.9 TDI diesel into a more recent petrol automatic. A fiercely independent lady, she wants a small, easily accessible runabout for mostly local use. Her budget is about €7,500. Could a pre-owned Mitsubishi Mirage 1.2 CVT fit the bill? Do you have any advice on reliability, or models to stay away from (or recommend)?

– WB

Dear WB,

Without wishing to be melodramatic, I would first of all recommend that you run as far from the Mirage as your legs can carry you. After testing this car myself, it has poor ride quality, lumpy handling, a cowardly engine and terrible interior quality, compounded by a terrible CVT automatic gearbox that makes it incredibly noisy even at moderate acceleration.

What to get instead? I’d estimate a trade-in value between £3,000 and £4,000 for your sister’s Golf, which gives you a healthy budget of around £10,000. That’s enough to buy an early Toyota Yaris Hybrid with a low mileage. I found a 2012 copy with 43,000 miles and a full Toyota service history for £9,500. The Yaris’ ride quality is so-so and some of its interior plastics feel cheap, but the hybrid powertrain is extremely economical around town and, as a Toyota, it should of course be reliable.

If your sister wants a little easier parking, she can try the Kia Picanto city car, which is small on the outside but surprisingly spacious on the inside and feels well built.

Go for a third generation from 2017, which is roughly within budget – a 1.25 2017 car with 31,000 miles and a full history can be had for £9,995. And because the Picanto had a seven-year warranty from new, you even have a little bit left over, as long as it’s maintained to Kia standards.

A final option would be the Hyundai i20. This handsome little Ford Fiesta rival won’t be as efficient as the Yaris, but it’s more affordable too – my search turned up a 2015 1.4 SE Car with 40,000 miles and a generous equipment list for £9,995. I like the i20 – it’s comfortable, reliable, roomy and easy to drive.