Which is the best used family car for £5k?

James Mills
Written by: James Mills
Posted on: 6 May 2016

The hatchback is the most popular type of family car in Britain. But which is the best-used hatchback for £5,000? That’s the question Ian Parry wants answered, as he seeks to buy a replacement for his ageing Jeep Cherokee.

However, picking the right family car within the set budget is daunting. Ian is after a car that will be safe, reliable and spacious enough for his two children. He also wants something that is affordable to run and, ideally, powered by a petrol engine as it will be regularly used for local trips.

James Mills has been reviewing cars for more than 20 years, so Direct Line Magazine thought he was best placed to suggest the hatchbacks that best meet Ian’s needs.

1. Which is the most practical family hatchback for £5,000?

Honda Civic

Honda Civic

The Honda Civic is as close to a multi-tool as a family hatchback gets. The back seats make the Civic more versatile than other used hatchbacks. The seat bases flip up, much like theatre chairs, so you can stand tall items upright on the floor. Or, when you need to load up the boot, one pull of a handle has the whole seat mechanism tumbling forward and lying flat, increasing the space from an already class-leading 485-litres.

Admittedly, the Civic’s styling isn’t to everyone’s tastes. And the layout of the dashboard is more complicated than rival cars like the Ford Focus or Kia Cee’d. But it’s got a spacious cabin and the car’s reliability is excellent, according to Warranty Direct.

The version available from Honda dealers is the post 2006-era Civic. We found a selection of 2008 Civic 1.8-litre models from Honda’s approved used car programme for £5,000. It’s a good performer but engine and tyre noise are a little loud. The 1.8 returns 44mpg and road tax is £180 a year, but the Civic’s safety wasn’t quite as good as the Focus and Cee’d (see below), scoring four out of five stars in EuroNCAP crash testing.

2. What’s the best driving family hatchback for £5,000?

Ford Focus

Ford Focus

You don’t have to be a car enthusiast to appreciate the well-oiled qualities of the Ford Focus. This is a car that comes with a precision feel as standard. And drivers will often comment on how good it is to drive, even if they can’t quite put their finger on what it is that makes it so good.

The steering feels precise, the suspension delivers comfort on straight roads and poise round corners, the gear change is slick and there’s a hushed refinement to the engines. All this adds up to a very satisfying driving experience.

A reasonably robust interior, comfortable seats and a boot that holds a generous 385-litres of luggage are just some of the more practical reasons for considering a used Ford Focus for £5,000. It’s also safe: EuroNCAP awarded it a maximum five-star rating after its crash tests.

We found Ford dealers were selling approved-used 2009 Focus 1.6 Zetec models for £5,000, which isn’t as good value as the Kia Cee’d (see below) but then the Ford undoubtedly feels better to drive. The 1.6-litre petrol engine is smooth, can achieve an average of 42mpg and road tax comes to £180 a year.

3. What’s the £5,000 used family hatchback with the longest warranty?

Kia Cee'd

Kia Cee'd

Many drivers aren’t won over by the thought of owning a car with a posh badge on its bonnet. They would much prefer the peace of mind of buying a car with a long manufacturer guarantee. A car like the Kia Cee’d.

The Cee’d is Kia’s equivalent of a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf. But Kia’s unique selling point is that all its new cars are sold with a seven-year warranty.

Browsing the Korean car maker’s approved-used car website there are 2011 Cee’ds with a 1.4-litre petrol engine for sale for just under £5,000. They are prepared to meet Kia’s approved-used standard and include a warranty until the end of February 2018, or 100,000 miles (whichever is reached first).

Naturally, that alone is not reason enough for buying the Cee’d. It has to be spacious and practical, strong and safe, easy to drive and affordable to run. The good news is that it’s all these things and more. The car is comfortable enough for four people, cosy enough for five. The boot holds 340-litres of luggage and the car achieved an impressive five-star crash safety rating when tested by EuroNCAP. The driving experience is good, the 1.4-litre petrol motor can return an average of 48mpg and the road tax costs a reasonable £130 a year – both better than the Ford Focus 1.6.

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