If you are in the market for a car within a humble budget of £10,000 ($12,800 USD), you are well catered for. There are countless premium vehicles that will guarantee you a comfortable experience from destination A to B, however, many car enthusiasts would rather invest in an exciting vehicle for the same money. Yes, you can get something mildly fun in this budget without emptying your wallet through maintenance costs. The trade-off of selecting such a car comes in the form of increased fuel costs, greater insurance premiums and the fact that you will need to purchase a slightly older vehicle in order to fit the budget.
Note that insurance may vary ±2 groups depending on the exact specification and condition of the vehicle you find, all fuel economy numbers are combined figures, and all vehicles have a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating unless stated otherwise. All vehicles are closely ranked.
10. Abarth 595 T-Jet (2018)
The Abarth is the pocket-rocket of this list, featuring a sensational engine in a compact package. It's equipped with a 1.4L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces 145bhp, allowing it to perform to 0-60mph in a reasonable 7.8 seconds. Of course, you can get it with a manual. You can pick up a pristine example with around 12,000 miles for a smudge under £10,000 and can view relevant AutoTrader listings by clicking here.
If you are purchasing a sporty vehicle, chances are that practicality is the least of your concerns; however, many reviews criticise the Abarth's extremely tight cabin. They also commented on its inflated price tag from new but it is a steal at this used price – or is it? It sits high in insurance group 29 so you may not have cash to spare for its relatively mediocre fuel consumption of 39.2 MPG. Ownership experiences suggest positive reliability but I would not call it gospel, for any car, that is.
A strong selling point of this 2018 model is its young age, meaning most of the warranty will be intact. Overall it is a strong contender but it cannot truly excel in this list due to its 3-Star Euro NCAP safety rating; imagine being T-boned in this T-Jet...
9. Renault Clio 1.6 Turbo (2015)
The Renault is the quickest on this list and is offered in the coolest colour: Liquid Yellow. It features a 1.6L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces a cool 200bhp, allowing it to accelerate to 60mph in just 6.7 seconds with its automatic transmission; sadly there is no manual.
On the bright side some models have red callipers and a red-themed interior. The driving experience is described as excellent in many reviews and the ability to pick one up with around 40,000 miles for under £9,500 is rather reasonable. You can view relevant AutoTrader listings by clicking here.
Five doors and a strong fuel consumption of 47.9 MPG means that you can drive the Clio just about everywhere with the family. Sadly it suffers from high-insurance-syndrome like the Abarth and sits in group 29.
By default, Renault's warranty in the UK lasts up to three years so do check if it is possible to obtain an extended warranty (even after market) for peace of mind. Do note that it has mostly positive ownership reports and maintenance parts are relatively affordable.
8. Ford Fiesta ST (2017)
Swift and stylish, the Fiesta ST is a strong choice when it comes to an affordable city runabout. It features a 1.6L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces 180bhp and accelerates to 60mph in just 6.9 seconds. And yes, the Fiesta is offered with a manual.
Read almost any review on this vehicle and you will encounter words such as "fun" and "exciting". You can pick one up with between 40-50,000 miles for about £9,500 and most of them have red brake callipers which is a neat touch. You can view relevant AutoTrader listings by clicking here.
Like the Renault, the Fiesta sits in insurance group 29 and achieves the same claimed fuel consumption of 47.9 MPG. There is the odd reliability complaint from some owners but that should be forgivable as service parts are highly affordable.
An advantage over the Renault is that this 2017 Fiesta will still have a smudge of its three year warranty left. The interior may feel a tad on the cheap side with its plastics but it's functional and acceptable at this price point. So with three or five doors, why not daily drive this true hot hatchback?
7. Volkswagen Polo 1.4 TSI (2015)
The Polo is a posh daily driver that features an elegant exterior, upmarket interior and a reputable engine. The 1.4L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine produces a reasonable 148bhp that enables for it to achieve 0-60mph in 7.8 seconds using its manual gearbox.
Reviews are positive and it is a reasonable choice as you can pick one up with 40-50,000 miles for £9,500. You can view relevant AutoTrader listings by .
There are a handful of advantages over the Fiesta too, including its lower insurance at group 23 and better claimed fuel economy at 58.9 MPG.
Most listings would have lost their warranty by now but there are some that still have theirs, however, do check for options to extend it as there is the odd reliability complaint.
Unfortunately the biggest drawback of the Polo would be its relatively steep servicing costs. If you want something sensible and know a decent mechanic then go for the Polo.
6. Vauxhall Astra GTC 1.6 Turbo SRi (2016)
This is no ordinary Astra, it's the sportier and sleeker GTC; it's the Scirocco to the Golf. This stylish package houses a 1.6L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces 197bhp, allowing it to achieve 0-60mph in 7.3 seconds.
The car is reported to be sharp around corners and the manual is highly recommended for maximum engagement. You can pick one up with just 25,000 miles for under £8,500 and can view relevant AutoTrader listings by clicking here.
Like the Fiesta, let's just say that you are not buying the Astra for its interior. Ownership experiences come across as good with a handful diesel owners having reliability complaints. If there were any major build quality issues they should have been resolved by the previous owner.
The factory three year warranty on most listings would have elapsed by now but unlike the Polo, parts should be far more affordable. The only trouble is that the GTC sits high in insurance group 27 and achieves an "all right" fuel economy of 42.2 MPG. One should certainly consider the GTC as it is a brilliant all-rounder.
5. Mazda MX-5 2.0 (2013)
The NC generation MX-5 may not be the lightest Miata at 2450lbs (1110kg) but it is certainly not compromised in terms of handling and excitement. Assuming you can fit inside the compact cabin, an MX-5 is a thrilling experience that every car enthusiast should encounter at least once in their lifetime.
It's equipped with a 2.0L naturally aspirated 4 cylinder engine that produces 158bhp, allowing it to hit 60mph in 7.6 seconds with its manual. You can pick one up with around 40,000 miles for £9,500 and can view relevant AutoTrader listings by clicking here.
While the drive of the MX-5 may be sublime, the vehicle has been criticised for its lack of equipment and amenities; this truly is a driving-focused car.
While it is reported to have incredible reliability and affordable parts, the associated running costs are something to be wary of. The vehicle's position in insurance group 28 and relatively poor fuel consumption of 36.2 MPG may be disheartening. The 4-star Euro NCAP safety rating is not a dealbreaker but a noteworthy observation. If you do not need the practicality and infotainment gimmicks, this is the car for you and countryside backroads.
4. Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI (2016)
I know what you're thinking: how could this mundane-looking family sedan with tiny wheels be worth my money?
If you want a robust, practical and affordable family car with a hint of excitement, the Octavia would be it. The reviews and ownership experiences are so promising that in Australia, (where this very vehicle is also sold) Skoda topped customer satisfaction in a credible study.
It is equipped with a 1.4L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces 148bhp, allowing it to hit 60mph in 7.8 seconds with its manual. You can pick one up with about 50,000 miles for £9,500 and can view relevant AutoTrader listings by clicking here.
Not only is the Octavia just as quick as the Polo and more practical, it also sits lower in insurance group 20. It's fuel economy is closely rated to the Polo at 57.7 MPG but then again, this is a Volkswagen product.
Sure it may not be as fun and engaging as the Polo and MX-5 around corners but this is for the mature buyer who needs the rear seats and large boot. Do note though that parts may be a tad pricier than rivals as it shares components with the Volkswagen Group.
3. Kia ProCeed 1.6T GDi GT (2015)
You know a manufacturer has faith in their product when they offer a seven year warranty. Kia is one of few current brands with such an incredible warranty. Most listings should still have their warranty intact and that will allow you to sleep at night should something ever go wrong.
This ProCeed uses a 1.6L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces 201bhp, allowing for it to achieve 0-60mph in 7.4 seconds with its manual. The main points of criticism in most reviews were its exhaust note and handling, which could have been more exciting and precise respectively.
The vehicle's price from new was also highly critiqued, however, for under £10,000 it seems to be a steal. You can pick one up with 40,000 miles within the budget and can view relevant AutoTrader listings by clicking here.
Whilst the car should be tough as nails when it comes to reliability, some reports suggest that Kia's servicing costs are not as affordable as you might have hoped. Two other drawbacks include the ProCeed's position in insurance group 26 and its dreary combined fuel economy of 38.2 MPG. Regardless, the vehicle is a strong contender and is offered with either three or five doors depending on your practicality requirements.
2. Hyundai i30 Turbo (2016)
If you want to play it safe in terms of quality and reliability, look no further. The i30 may not be the quickest or most stylish car on this list but it has a strong reliability record based on tests and ownership experiences; parts are relatively affordable too.
It's powered by a 1.6L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces 183bhp, enabling it to hit 60mph in 8.0 seconds with its manual. It's the slowest on this list, however, the handling and grip are reported to be decent.
The lack of power was apparent in some reviews so this may not be the most exciting option if you are already driving a quick car. You can pick one up with around 25,000 miles for a smudge under £10,000 and can view relevant AutoTrader listings by clicking here.
Hyundai in the UK offer a five year warranty, meaning that most listings should still be covered. That should comfort you when you're refuelling your i30 that does a surprisingly poor 38.7 MPG.
However, the car does sit nicely in insurance group 21 and has a comfortable interior. It's not a byword for luxury but it is functional and good enough. If you're new to the hot hatchback scene or are paranoid about emptying your wallet, this Hyundai truly is worth a consideration.
1. MINI Cooper S (2016)
A pricy BMW Group product is probably not what you expected to top the list but bear with me as there is method behind the madness. The MINI Cooper features a stunning exterior, excellent driving dynamics and arguably the nicest interior on this list, even though it may not be the most spacious or ergonomic.
The 2.0L turbocharged 4 cylinder produces 189bhp, allowing it to perform 0-60mph in 6.9 seconds with its manual. The vehicle is reported to be agile and playful around corners with even the entry-level 1.5L 3 cylinder getting plenty of praise. You can trade performance for a better equipped car and newer car by opting for this 134bhp engine within the £10,000 budget. You can view relevant listings AutoTrader listings of both variants by clicking here.
Ownership experiences appear to be highly positive with the rare build quality complaint. The Cooper S sits in insurance group 23 whilst the base model mentioned earlier rests in group 18, the lowest on this list.
They both achieve reasonable fuel economies of 47.9 and 62.8 MPG respectively, which will come in handy when it comes to steep servicing costs. Like all cars on this list, the Cooper is not perfect and I would only recommend it on the basis that you know a mechanic in your area who will not charge a fortune for maintenance; you will want one as MINI's warranty is only for two years in the UK. Like the MX-5, the 4-star Euro NCAP safety rating is noteworthy but shouldn't be a dealbreaker.
Conclusion & Verdict
Each vehicle on this list has its own set of pros and cons but it is indeed possible to treat yourself for under £10,000. The vehicle you choose ultimately comes down to preference, knowing a good mechanic, and on how far you are willing to thin out your wallet to keep the car running. Even though the Abarth ranked 10th, it could very well be the most suitable car on this list for you.
Thanks for reading and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.