Top 10 Cheap Practical Cars In 2020< Back to blog
With increasing demand for staycations and a general desire to cut motoring costs while retaining functionality, cheap practical cars offer the best of both these worlds.
10. Vauxhall Grandland X – from £191.38pcm
The Grandland X may be Vauxhall‘s flagship SUV – sitting above the smaller Crossland X thanks to its longer, wider and taller dimensions – but it has brilliant passenger and boot space given its entry-level price tag.
Where Vauxhall’s number one SUV does score well is in the little practical details. For example, it has a flat floor which means your passengers in the back won’t be fighting over foot space, especially if you’re carrying three abreast. Also, the standard 60:40-split folding rear seats pop down very easily via handy quick-release levers accessed through the boot.
Speaking of the boot, the Grandland X’s 514-litre cargo area is no less than you’d expect from a family SUV. However, hybrid versions of the car have more of a hatchback capacity (380 litres) to make room for the rechargeable 13.2kWh battery.
With regards to running costs, you won’t be left grumbling at the amount of fuel the Grandland X burns through. The 1.5-litre diesel unit is has the best return out of the combustion engine options, and you can expect more than 50mpg. With that being said, the 1.2-litre petrol alternative isn’t far off this, with new WLTP fuel economy tests reporting back more than 40mpg.
Hybrid models are the cheapest at the pumps, if you don’t mind paying a higher price for the car. An all-electric range of 35 miles is to thank for this, while the sub-100g of CO2 emissions naturally come with a
9. Seat Ateca – from £201.01pcm
For a little more sportiness and luxury you can spend slightly more money on Seat‘s highly-rated Ateca SUV.
As standard, entry-level SE variations of the Ateca come with all the comforts any family would need for daily driving and the occasional longer journey. This includes dual-zone climate control, cruise control and a full 8″ touchscreen infotainment system.
Where the Ateca really scores highly though is in its reliability and practicality. As a member of the Volkswagen Group, the Ateca has been gifted a lot of the mechanical robustness that its more premium cousin, the Tiguan, boasts. Since it’s based on the same platform as the Tiguan, the Spanish manufacturer’s family car earned the coveted Euro NCAP five-star safety rating when it was tested following its latest facelift.
Seat designed a high roofline for the Ateca, which is head and shoulders (sorry) above most of its competition, barring the Tiguan and Sportage. Despite this, taller passengers won’t ever struggle for comfort in the back of this car.
At 510 litres, the Ateca’s boot beats two of the best-selling cars in this class – the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage. What’s more is that it’s an ideal shape too for easily loading items, with a wide square opening.
Engine choices for the Ateca are very flexible to driver needs and are, for the most part, frugal too. The base 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine has a power output of 113bhp, which doesn’t feel lacking in oomph. More importantly, it returns a combined fuel economy of 44mpg.
There’s a more powerful 1.5-litre version with 148bhp that most drivers are likely to favour, mostly due to its brisker acceleration from low revs and the fact that it doesn’t need to be worked too hard either to get to motorway speeds. You can expect to get around 40mpg from the fuel department too, which is close enough to the 1.0-litre unit’s efficiency to justify the extra power. Of course, this will come at a slightly increased monthly cost if you’re looking to lease.
8. Nissan Qashqai – from £213.47pcm
Officially the best-selling crossover SUV in the UK, the Nissan Qashqai receives many plaudits from drivers and critics alike because of its combination of comfort, efficiency and practicality.
A standout feature of the Qashqai among its competitors is how configurable its boot is. Although it isn’t the biggest (430 litres), it comes with a set of useful dividers and shelves that can be laid out in 18 different ways to suit your packing needs. Because it’s slightly smaller too, knee and leg room for passengers in the back is prioritised, making it one of the comfiest vehicles in the family car market.
There’s a brilliant range of engines to choose from in the Qashqai, which have been massively refined from previous models. The old 1.2-litre petrol engine has been replaced with a larger 1.3-litre unit that can be selected in a 138bhp or punchier 160bhp guise. The latter comes with a combined fuel economy of 40mpg, while the less-powered version is slightly better at 41.3mpg.
If you want the savviest engine of the bunch, look to the diesel options. There’s only one choice – a 1.5-litre engine which returns a canny 51.9mpg.
7. Renault Kadjar – from £204.20pcm
The Renault Kadjar has much in common with the Nissan Qashqai, however its exterior styling does make it stand out from the crowd a lot more. It’s also longer, wider and taller than its Japanese competitor.
A 472-litre boot can be found in the back of Renault‘s entry-level SUV, which is a considerable 32 litres more than the Qashqai (with all seats in place). However, if you fold the rear passenger seats down in both of these cars, it’s Nissan’s beloved model which has the upper-hand, with 107 litres more room for your things.
In terms of engines and running costs, the Kadjar shares the same 1.3-litre petrol unit and two diesel options – a 1.5-litre and a 1.7-litre. The 1.5-litre diesel is the best all-round for efficiency, with around 57.7mpg combined, albeit it makes a slow 11.7-second crawl up to 62mph from standstill.
For better performance, the petrol engine in its more powerful guise (labelled ‘TCe 140’) is much faster off the mark, completing the same 0-62mph sprint in 10.4 seconds. With a fuel economy between 42.1-44.1mpg, it isn’t too thirsty either.
6. Ford Puma – from £176.02pcm
You may be looking at your screen with a raised eyebrow with this next one, because the Puma of old was a small ’90s coupe. But you can lower that brow and marvel at what is a trendy small SUV.
In terms of size, the Puma isn’t a direct competitor with any of the other mid to large SUVs featured in this list. The Puma has more in common with the likes of the Nissan Juke, Skoda Kamiq and Ford Ecosport.
Despite the sloped roofline and smaller body of the Puma, there’s still plenty of room for your average-sized adults in the front and back. Where you might struggle is fitting multiple six-footers in the back, because kneeroom and headroom isn’t quite as good as larger models in this list.
In better news, the Puma does come as standard with one of the most clever boots in the small SUV range.
The range of Puma models are dominated by 1.0-litre petrol mild-hybrid technology, available with a 125bhp or 155bhp output. Strangely enough, both have the same fuel efficiency stats, at around 50mpg. It’s a great balance between a fun-to-drive setup and frugal running costs. Insurance is bound to be cheap too, thanks to CO2 emissions of 125g/km for the entry-level 1.0 Ecoboost mHEV 125, which is better than the Puma’s competition.
5. Skoda Kamiq – from £177.12pcm
In recent years Skoda has seriously upped its game when it comes to creating fresh, modern cars which are reliable and practical.
At the entry point you’ve got the Kamiq which is the next grade up from a Puma in terms of interior and boot space. In short, it’s a ‘big’ small SUV which doesn’t compromise on space for either the front or back passengers, mostly thanks to the increased wheelbase the car has from the likes of the Seat Arona and Volkswagen T-Cross.
Skoda’s simple solution of creating a practical range by building its cars with box-shaped bodies has took this class of cars by storm. The result is masses of headroom and kneeroom, even when a pair of six-footers are behind one another. Even in the boot you won’t see a hatchback-like boot space, instead getting a 400-litre space that’s deep and wide.
Unfortunately you’ll need to spend a bit more for an optional adjustable boot floor to reduce the impact of the rather large load lip, but it’s not too expensive and well worth it if you want an easier time lifting heavier items in the back.
A choice of 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engines make up the engine range for the Kamiq. These low-cost, competent units are becoming more and more popular in larger cars, and they aren’t as underpowered as you might think. In the Kamiq, there’s a 94bhp or 113bhp variation, the former of which will be suitable for most, although you’ll still have a combined fuel economy of 50mpg if you decide to opt for greater power.
4. Kia Niro – from £204.42pcm
The Kia Niro has many stripes. Self-charging hybrid? No problem. Plug-in hybrid? It’s got it. All-electric drivetrain? Yup.
Each one has its own type of practicality, and we could spend a whole article comparing each one. However, for ease we’re going to stick with the self-charging hybrid.
Just like any car which makes use of a part-electrified powertrain, you’ll save plenty of money on fuel. The official WLTP economy of the car is a combined total of 58.9mpg and CO2 emissions are way down at 110g/km, which is very affordable both for fuelling and tax. Because the car costs less than £40,000 per year and has a hybrid drivetrain, it will only cost you £140 per year to tax.
A tiny 1.56kWh battery inside the Kia hybrid doesn’t take up too much space inside the car thanks to its size and low positioning. So, you’ll still be able to fit 382 litres of stuff in the boot, compared with just 324 litres in plug-in versions.
3. MG ZS – from £190.32pcm
MG has burst back on the car making scene after a short break back in the mid-2000s. In 2010 the now SAIC-owned manufacturer came out with the MG3, a stylish supermini which was a hit with UK drivers thanks to its fun driving setup and low running costs.
These same fundamentals have been picked up and dropped into its second production, the ZS SUV.
There’s two petrol models and an electric version of the ZS. All of them represent a bargain in what’s often a class dominated by premium brands.
Admittedly, there isn’t a great deal to thrill inside the ZS. However, as standard you’ll get a generously sized 10.1″ colour touchscreen infotainment system that features smartphone mirroring. Couple this with convenience features such as cruise control, air conditioning and a leather steering wheel with integrated audio controls and there isn’t much more you can want from a vehicle at this price.
Where the ZS really comes into is own is interior space, where it can easily provide more room than its spacious rival Dacia Duster. Even people over six foot will be comfortable in the front and back because of the broad, tall stance it has on the road. Unfortunately, the middle seat won’t be suitable for anybody other than a small child due to a rather large hump in the middle of the floor. Plus, it’s a rather thin seat when compared with the outer two spots.
Combustion engine MG ZS models get a 448-litre boot, which is impressively big and on a par with a much bigger SUV. If you want to increase this, look to the all-electric version of the car, which adds an extra 22 litres of space.
Out of the gas-powered models, the 1.5-litre petrol represents the best value for money. Its 41.4mpg fuel economy pips the smaller, more sluggish 1.0-litre petrol (38.6mpg) and even beats it by a whole 1.5 seconds in a drag race to 62mph from standstill.
2. Citroen C4 Cactus – from £227.63pcm
The Citroen C4 Cactus may divide opinion when it comes to exterior design, but when it comes to practicality no-one can argue that it does interior space well.
Technically it’s an outsider in this list because it isn’t an SUV, but a very spacious hatchback. However, the C4 Cactus’ affordable asking price, low running costs and roomy interior means that it makes our list.
Wide-opening doors at the front and back of the C4 Cactus make getting in and out of the vehicle a doddle. What’s more is that the middle space in the back is similarly sized to the outer spots, with a headrest on the seat too. This makes it a lot less awkward for the person sitting there to get comfortable, especially because this place is often an awkward squeeze and usually far from being snug.
Cubby spaces are plentiful in the C4 Cactus too. There’s a dedicated spot for your phone, a sizeable glovebox on the dashboard, plus reasonably sized door bins in all the doors in the front and the back.
What about the boot, I hear you ask? Well, 358 litres is enough to fit suitcases for a family of five, and still have some space left for a couple of shopping bags. A slight downfall is its high loading lip, which you’ll have to negotiate with to get a heavy item over and in the cargo.
Stop-start technology is fitted to all models of the C4 Cactus, which makes a big difference in terms of fuel-saving, especially if you get stuck in traffic a lot while you’re driving. Choose between a 1.2-litre petrol engine with 108bhp or 128bhp outputs, or a 1.5-litre diesel with 99bhp or 118bhp. For low-mileage drivers, the PureTech 110 is probably the best option, returning 51.5mpg and having enough power for day-to-day driving.
More efficiency can be found with the diesel units. Nevertheless, you may want to avoid the 99bhp version as it feels slightly underpowered. Plus, the more powerful spec still gets a brilliant return of58.2mpg, which is a massive saving if you drive plenty of miles.
1. Peugeot 3008 – from £256.91pcm
First generation models of the Peugeot 3008 were rather drab in design, until the second generation came along in 2016. By this time, most of Peugeot‘s range was made up of entirely premium-looking and plush-feeling models.
The 3008 SUV is the brand’s mid-range model, slightly bigger than the small SUV 2008.
Boot space is where the 3008 is a champion, with a whopping 520 litres of volume. It’s 10 litres more than the roomy Seat Ateca, and a massive 90 litres more than the Qashqai. Passenger space doesn’t suffer too much either, with head and legroom still plentiful for those sat in the back. All the seats are identical in size, even the middle space which has a wide bottom and even a headrest. Sadly, there isn’t much kneeroom because the centre console in the front extends into the back.
Thrifty engines make up the 3008 range, including two petrol and diesels, plus a hybrid option which makes the car rather costly. Entry-level 1.2-litre petrol models are ideal if you do a lot of short-distance journeys, with a plentiful 128bhp under the hood and a return of 47.2mpg.
Diesel options are a happy-medium option if you want a good balance between a car which can double up as a daily driver and motorway cruiser. In base form there’s the 128bhp 1.5-litre diesel unit, which is pretty frugal at 55.1mpg.
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