Buyer’s Guide: The best cars for less than £30,000

Affordable motors with the stamp of approval from expert testers…

John Calne
Friday 28 October 2016 17:32 BST
(What Car?
(What Car? (What Car?)

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Louise Thomas

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If you’re looking to gauge a car by its merits, take a look and see how many stars it’s been given by What Car? magazine.

Some of the most exacting testing in the world goes into ascertaining What Car?’s star ratings. So only the very best get the coveted five-star award.

These aren’t just the sort of cars real people can’t afford, either. Every model in this guide, indeed, has two things in common.

One is a five-star rating. The other is a price tag of less than £30,000. Some cost a lot less than that, too – showing that wherever you are in the market, there’s a top-quality car for everyone.

(What Car?
(What Car? (What Car?)

City car

Hyundai i10

A piece of cake to drive in town, yet more spacious and better kitted than its competitors, the i10 is the definitive city car – at prices that mean it makes more sense than ever.

How much? £8995

Which one? 1.2 Premium

(What Car?
(What Car? (What Car?)

Small car

Skoda Fabia

Nice to drive and really handy when it comes to carrying people and luggage alike, when the Fabia was new it won What Car?’s overall Car of the Year title. It’s brilliant value, too.

How much? £10,750

Which one? 1.2 TSI 90 SE

Family car

Audi A3

Another former winner of the What Car? Car of the Year title, the A3 is the premium choice among cars of its size and price range. Interior quality is sky-high, its engines are excellent and it’s both classy and cheap to own.

How much? £19,365

Which one? 1.4 TFSI SE Sportback

Skoda Octavia

Immensely spacious inside, the Octavia is a latter-day practicality legend. It’s based on the VW Golf and is every bit as comfy and enjoyable to drive – as well as looking like very tidy value for money.

How much? £16,660

Our pick: 1.0 TSI SE

(What Car?
(What Car? (What Car?)

Small SUV

Seat Ateca

Closely related to the new VW Tiguan, the Ateca is an attractively priced SUV with loads of room inside and one of the most entertaining chassis you’ll find under a 4x4.

How much? £17,990

Which one? 2.0 TDI 150 SE Nav

(What Car?
(What Car? (What Car?)

Large SUV

Mazda CX-5

Majoring on kit and practicality, the CX-5 is an outstanding family wagon. It’s among the most fuel-efficient SUVs, too – and not a lot can match it for driving pleasure.

How much? £23,195

Which one? 2.2 Skyactiv-D SE-L Nav

(What Car?
(What Car? (What Car?)

Executive car

Audi A4

The A4 is What Car?’s current Car of the Year, so you know it’s going to be good. Typical of Audi is an interior blending space and usability with gorgeous build quality, and comfort and refinement are top-drawer.

How much? £27,300

Which one? 2.0 TDI Sport S Tronic

Skoda Superb

These days, no-one blinks when you call a Skoda an executive car. That’s because the Superb lives right up to its name, with a winning blend of practicality, comfort, space, kit and all-round driving quality.

How much? £22,555

Which one? 2.0 TDI SE technology

bg-auditt.jpg, by Sean OGrady
bg-auditt.jpg, by Sean OGrady (What Car?)


Audi TT

Another Audi, another brilliant interior. In its materials and technology, the TT can live with cars costing three times as much – and as well as being usable everyday, it’s a blast to drive.

How much? £27,585

Which one? 2.0 TFSI Sport


Ford Mondeo Estate

If you enjoy driving, the Mondeo’s dynamics will put a smile on your face. But it’s also tremendously roomy and practical, as well as being great value to buy and cheap to run.

How much? £23,295

Which one? 1.5 TDCi Econetic Zetec

Skoda Superb Estate

The Superb Estate has the same qualities as the saloon (see above) and adds a giant amount of space to an interior that was already roomy. It’s just as comfy to drive, too, and every bit as well equipped.

How much? £23,755

Which one? 2.0 TDI SE Technology

(What Car?
(What Car? (What Car?)

VW Golf Estate

There’s a certain something about the Golf which elevates it above the crowd, and if you’re looking for a smaller estate you’ll find it capacious, pleasing to drive and as well equipped as it is practical.

How much? £26,350

Which one? 1.6 TDI 110 SE

(What Car?
(What Car? (What Car?)


VW Touran

Proving that MPVs don’t need to be huge and expensive to accommodate seven people with skill, the Touran has a cabin whose design and build quality are Volkswagen through and through – as is its fuel efficiency.

How much? £22,270

Which one? 1.6 TDI 105 Bluemotion Tech SE

(What Car?
(What Car? (What Car?)


Audi A3 Cabriolet

Another A3, this time with a fabric hood that can be retracted at any legal town speed. You get a good choice of engines and a classy, comfy cabin in which to enjoy its fine handling with the wind in your hair.

How much? £26,875

bg-auditt.jpg, by Sean OGrady
bg-auditt.jpg, by Sean OGrady (What Car?)

Which one? 1.4 TFSI Sport

Audi TT Roadster

Like the Coupe version of the TT, the Roadster punches way above its weight for cabin quality and smart electronics. It’s also a great car to drive – and of course it has looks to die for.

How much? £29,215

Which one? 2.0 TFSI Sport

Mazda MX-5

The definitive open-top sports car remains as entertaining to drive as ever. It looks cool, too, and it’s entirely usable as an everyday motor – as well as being excellent on fuel and a complete bargain to buy.

How much? £18,495

Which one? 2.0 SE-L

Demand for private vehicles has gone down 10%
Demand for private vehicles has gone down 10% (What Car?)

Hot hatch

Ford Fiesta ST

The ST is as easy to use and live with as any other Fiesta, especially now that Ford has added a five-door version to the range. And it’s still as much fun as it ever was – enough to see off every rival it’s ever had.

How much? £16,295

Which one? 1.6T ST-2

What Car?

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