James Ruppert: Used market finds for five grand

Most of the press releases I get are utterly irrelevant, but one from a supermarket called Imperial Cars piqued my interest, because it claims to have seen sales of cars costing less than £5000 rise by 36% on average so far in 2020 compared with the same time last year. I found this interesting, because for many years, with no adjustments for inflation, we’ve had £5000 as the default ceiling for buying a half-decent motor.

As the world looks for a way to stay mobile, £5000 is quite possibly the best place to start. So let’s do some price-point shopping, because there are some incredibly good motors out there.

Everyone seems to love a hot Skoda, and for £4895 you can get yourself an Octavia vRS from 2010 with a not-outrageous 75k miles. It’s a 2.0-litre turbo petrol, so it’s ULEZ-friendly, and you should get late 30s to the gallon overall. They’re handsome and subtle old things.

Staying in the Volkswagen Group orbit, I spotted an Up for £4900 at a car supermarket. That bags you a 2013 1.0 High with 48k miles.

For three-door budget fun, the trendily utilitarian Fiat 500 is difficult to beat. Around £4800 will get you into a great example – in this case a 1.2 S from 2015 with 46k miles on the clock. The one I spotted is a private sale, but there seems to be a pretty comprehensive service record and it looks nice in the pictures.

Families want much more space than that, though, and a Mazda CX-7 is a good place to get it. For £4700, you can buy a 2011 2.2 TD Sport with 82k miles, three previous owners and history. It’s an SUV that doesn’t look like all the rest, and the dealer was offering it with lots of warranty, which is reassuring.

If all of those models seem dull and worthy, £5k gets you the sort of BMW that is, well, still pretty. Dodging past the oh-so-tempting 645 CSi, a 2010 330d SE coupé with 130k miles looks like an interesting way to travel. Quick, of course, and apparently fairly rare, it will get you within a whisker of 50mpg if you’re diligent enough.

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Answer: We’d recommend the Cupra Ateca. You can get a good used example with the optional Comfort and Sound Pack (which includes an electric tailgate, heated front seats, Beats audio and extra driver aids) and it’ll have been well under £40k when it was new. MA