James Ruppert: Budget bangers lead used market resurgence

The used car business never really went away: it’s just a question of finding the right cars at the right price. Those who stockpiled cheapies have been rewarded with an awful lot of sales. The simple fact is that, more than ever, people need to remain mobile. Even better, as we consistently prove on these pages, keeping on the move doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

The Ford Focus remains the go-to family hatch, and that’s hard to argue against given their practicality and their perkiness for those in the driving seat. Sift out the scruffy ones and there are some excellent examples around. Go for the 1.6 petrol and you won’t get banned from city centres. There are some cheapies, but I rather liked a five-door 2010 Zetec with just over 60k miles at £2500. Low miles backed up by a history – and it’s with a trader so it’s probably a part-exchange.

You might think that a convertible 4×4 is one of those newfangled model mash-ups, except that if you travel back to the late 1990s, the Suzuki Vitara was still a thing. Not only that, it came in a Targa-style format. I was rather taken by a 1998 1.6 JX on offer from a private seller at £1200. There was not a lot of description, so I would need to have a good look at it, but these look great. Especially when we are in the era of the £50k brand-new Defender.

Those 2006 BMW 3 Series are good looking, aren’t they? Properly proportioned grilles, and in 330d guise they look really pumped, too. A specialist performance dealer has one wearing M3 CSL alloys. It has covered a reasonable 130k, comes with a ton of history and has had just the three previous owners. The specification is epically detailed and includes push-button start and puddle lights, so it’s an aftermarket special, but at £4400 it all seems very reasonable.

Which brings me to just how cheap Audi TTs have become. Not the originals, but the revamped ones. So it was extremely exciting to stumble across a 2007 2.0 TFSI with 150k miles at just £2995. Its MOT runs well into next year and it has only some minor cosmetic issues and scuffs on the rear alloys but no dents or scrapes. That’s a winner for me.



Question: I’m planning to buy a ‘two-car garage’ for £15k. One car must be an automatic – probably the reliable family hatch – but I want the other one to be something fun and manual. Any suggestions? Joe Marlow, Devon

Answer: Let’s split that £15k budget down the middle. The first half will get you an early Mk7 Volkswagen Golf to cover the family duties – a 1.4 TSI DSG that has covered a relatively high 80,000 miles but should be a sound bet. That leaves £7500 to snap up a riotous 14-plate Ford Fiesta ST or (pictured) a Mk3 Mazda MX-5. DR