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Friday 3rd February
Top Gear Advice

10 used cars for less than £2.5k we found this week

Want a set of wheels for the price of a UK gas bill? Right this way

Honda Prelude
  1. BMW E46 330Ci

    BMW E46 330Ci

    We’re simple animals. 

    OK, to actually stop and think for a moment, we’re fantastically complex animals, using an array of electrical and chemical systems, feedback loops and failsafes to sustain our existence. 

    But at least when it comes to cars, we are animals with fairly simple ideas of what’s good. A small-ish two-door BMW with a 3.0-litre straight six, manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive? That’s reason enough to keep sustaining our existence. 

    We’d pick an E46 over anything that came after it... or before it. Prove us wrong, children! Prove us wrong

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  2. Ford Mondeo ST220 estate

    Ford Mondeo ST220 estate

    Our reaction when we came across a Mondeo ST220 estate was a mixture of nostalgia and respect. Our reaction when we realised someone could acquire it for £2,500 is entirely unpublishable in all but the most pertinacious of publications, and would likely be overkill there as well. 

    As short and to-the-point as those words may have been (and as long and long-winded as the explanation that followed), the big takeaway here is you can have one of the most unsung V6s in existence, hooked up to a six-speed manual and the kind of handling that Ford Europe reliably delivered for decades... and the practicality of an estate. 

    Let’s just say it was some variation of “Mondeo ST220 estate? Go...lly, how f...antastically good that would be”

  3. Skoda Octavia vRS

    Skoda Octavia vRS

    Obviously we’d love to get the Yeti in here, given its extraordinary ability to be a crossover and yet not a complete joy sponge at every juncture. But, alas, some television show clearly did far too good of a job extolling its virtues and, as a result, values remain mostly outside our budget.

    But well within budget (a whole £10, in fact), is the old, old Octavia vRS estate. Want to know why the fast Octavia wagon remains a top-line pick for those who have kids, but still have a kinship with speed? Start here.

    And yes, there is also a disturbing preponderance of gilets among this subset of people

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  4. Fiat Panda

    Fiat Panda

    Here’s a fun factoid for you: apparently, the Fiat Panda isn’t named after the bamboo eating bear; it’s actually named after the Roman goddess Empanda, who also went by... well, you guessed it. 

    The story goes that the doors to Empanda’s temple were always open to the people, where – if they were in need – they be given one of life’s true essentials: food. No word on whether that food was empanadas, but, before we give historians eye twitches for life, let’s bring it back to the car. 

    Like Empanda’s temple, the doors to Panda ownership are always open. A well-priced, personable and popular city car when new, neither time nor toil have tarnished its qualities or abilities. And because Fiat hardly ever updated the look of the thing, the modern(ish) Panda becomes even harder to figure out if it’s new or as old as a Roman temple. Do some mental gymnastics and that could possibly translate in to timelessness. Yeah, you’re welcome. 

    Is it just us that thinks there should have been a really quick version called the Panda Express? Anyone?

  5. Honda Prelude

    Honda Prelude

    Remember a little while ago when every person and their favoured car manufacturer was hyped up about four-wheel steering? Yeah, us too. And the time before that, as well. 

    See, much like vactrains, flying cars and alternative fuels, four-wheel steering is one of those things that has a moment in the sun, then wanes like the moon, only to rise again another day. Mmm, the sound of tortured metaphors sustains us.

    Anywho, the 4WS Prelude was a product of the first wave of four-wheel-steer cars we remember, even if there was a foggy, ‘Hey, didn’t the 928 have some version of that?’ floating around in our young and entirely misspent minds. 

    In any case, we still don’t know why the Prelude isn’t at least Radwood famous, if not more – an angular two-door coupe with a (can we just say rorty this once?) 16-valve four-cylinder engine, pop-up headlights on the earlier cars and the kind of handling that kept Nineties exotica honest. And, of course, the famed 4WS system. How these are still available for our budget is a mystery for us to solve another day...

    Is this just one of those ‘front-drive is for the feeble’ things or what?

  6. Alfa Romeo Brera

    Alfa Romeo Brera

    This car is gorgeous and in budget. You should already be sold. 

    No? OK, this car is gorgeous, in budget, modern enough, in working order and actually spacious enough to have been introduced to the concept of practicality. 

    Still not enough? Hm. This car is gorgeous, in budget, modern enough, in working order, actually spacious... ish, with a free-revving, 180bhp four-cylinder and six-speed manual gearbox. We don’t even need to play the Alfa card; if this came with a Buick badge on the front, we’d still be up for it. 

    And yes, we mention petrol specifically. Buying an Alfa Romeo with a diesel engine is like checking into the Ritz and demanding to sleep in the bin room – you were so close to a good thing, but ruined it by insisting on something noisy, smelly and unpleasant.

    Would it be weird to do a Busso swap into a Brera?

  7. Renaultsport Clio... or Twingo?

    Renaultsport Clio... or Twingo?

    It’s all well and good to afford the purchase price of one of these cars, but it rather comes to nought if you can’t afford to insure, maintain or fuel it. That’s why we’re offering a choice for this one – a Renaultsport Clio or a regular Renault Twingo. 

    The Clio is a sublime combination of small car and big engine, filtered through the lens of being a French hot hatch from a company with more motorsport experience than Jacky Ickx. The Twingo, on the other hand, is pure rental car.

    But that’s actually a good thing in a lot of ways – a rental car that’s not reliable and cheap to run is about as useful to a company like Hertz or Avis as an insurance policy that only covers crashes with flamingos. 

    Presented with the choice between an old Clio Sport and a Twingo, we’d personally find a way to free up the extra cash – making coffee at home, unsubscribing from a few streaming services, skipping most meals; y’know, the usual stuff – and go for the proper hot hatch.

    Or you could always buy a cheap one with no gear and no service history... because that’s not a gamble at all

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  8. Mazda CX-7

    Mazda CX-7

    No, wait. Seriously. OK, no but just hear us out on this one. The CX-7 might not be the best-looking car in the world, nor ugly enough to give it one characteristic that’d at least make it memorable. We don’t exactly have photographic memories or anything, but we’d plumb forgotten about the CX-7 for a sizeable period of time before we came across the old bus again.

    But there is a real selling point here – 2.3 litres, 256bhp and 280lb ft of turbocharged four-cylinder, fed through a six-speed manual to all four wheels. Well, not in the Lancia Delta Integrale way or anything, but still.

    And while dragging around the CX-7’s Horton-sized heft, it still means eight seconds to 62mph and a top speed of 130mph, imagine the pace if you put that drivetrain in something a bit more Whovian...

    Why yes, we do have small children and more Dr Seuss books than you could poke an album of alliterative axioms at

  9. Audi A6 Allroad

    Audi A6 Allroad

    When it comes to ideals – or opinions, tastes or the ability to endure a Red Hot Chili Peppers album – it’s safe to say that people vary. For some, the ultimate family car is a VW van; for others, it’ll be an Alpina B5 Touring. And for quite a few, it’ll be, ‘Oh that thing that replaced the RAV; I think it’s called a Kwashkwai’. 

    For us, though, given our particular prerequisites and prejudices, there are few better family haulers than an A6 Allroad. Extra style points abound for the old 4.2-litre V8 version, but that’s a) hardly easy to come across and b) heroically difficult to come across for the kind of money we’re talking about. But any functional A6 Allroad will still have the same basic features and principles that make it a genuinely great choice – the space and practicality of a big estate, the plushness and forgiving ground clearance of a soft-roader – and the joy that you bought the former, not the latter.

    OK, some one needs to talk us out of actually doing this, then fitting portal axles and oh god please stop us

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  10. Volkswagen Phaeton

    Volkswagen Phaeton

    We champion buying second-hand cars quite a bit. You save money, save a car from the scrapheap and... well, honestly, we just don’t feel like having the argument about which is the better way to save the environment – holding on to old cars or buying an electric one – and exactly when the EV offsets the energy and materials it took to create. 

    In fact, we’re not even going to think about the idea of selling it on afterwards, keeping the virtuous cycle of second-hand going into the future. That’s because if you buy an old VW Phaeton, you will almost certainly be the last owner. This is total loss car ownership, a complete gamble where you pay your money, take the ride and then walk away with empty pockets when it’s over. You might not know what’ll break, or how long it’ll be until it does, but you can basically guarantee that fixing it will cost more than the car’s worth – especially at the purchase prices we’re talking about. 

    Or, y’know, just get a Fiat 500 or something

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