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Sunday 5th February
Top Gear Advice

10 used cars for £1k we’ve found this week

Somehow, we’ve found 10 cars for £1,000 apiece that manage to be worthwhile, interesting or fun. Notice we said ‘or’ there, not ‘and’

Notice we also didn't say ‘recommend’
  • MkV Ford Fiesta

    MkV Ford Fiesta

    A thousand pounds can be a lot. As a bar tab, for instance. Or in a wishing well for newlyweds. Or just trying to save up that much cash for when the days stop being blisteringly hot and go back to being rainy.

    Unfortunately, the same can’t really be said for the modern car market. After you’ve perused the car classifieds at the £1,000 mark, read ‘spares or repair’ for the hundredth time and ‘will pass MOT’ for the thousandth, you start to wonder if there’s any cheerful left in cheap at all.

    Luckily, we’ve had Ford Europe as the great balancer of that scale, building Pumas and Fiestas and Focuses that cost no more than they should, drove better than they needed to and lasted longer than you expected. And, of course, sold just as well as you can imagine a car that manages those feats.

    Here’s a Zetec S we found earlier...

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  • Mini One

    Mini One

    On the other hand, you could have something that was hardly a bargain, drove exactly as well as you’d expect from something with a Range Rover wheelbase and a tiny hatch on top, and lasted as long as your patience to keep replacing expensive bits.

    This last bit might go some way to explaining why the Mini also followed the same new-to-old depreciation curve as a pair of Calvin Klein boxer shorts. And why the entry-level Mini One – a comparative bargain at the time – is now available for £1,000 or less. Also more, of course, but that’s not the name of the game here.

    Here’s one we found earlier...

  • Fiat Panda

    Fiat Panda

    If the Fiesta drives better than it needs to and the Mini costs less than such a driver-focused car generally does, the Panda brings more happiness than you’d ever expect from a little city shopping trolley.

    And sure, Italy has quite a bit of form when it comes to making the most out of every day, be it cappuccino and cornetti for breakfast, the concept of il dolce far niente or that a little city car could a) fling past the Altare della Patria at near-autostrada speeds, and b) be such a happy place, even if you aren’t.

    Here’s one we found earlier...

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  • MG F / TF

    MG F / TF

    So far, as you probably expect, we’ve focused on the best of yesteryear’s small hatchbacks. Being generally democratically priced from new, demonstrably practical and decidedly popular means there’s many to choose from and few bad options to choose among them.

    But we can be a bit braver than that, surely.

    To give them their dues, the MG F and later TF were also democratically priced from new and genuinely popular. As the MX-5 (given a breather from this list given the amount of heavy lifting it tends to do) so ably proves, there’s a market for a small, fun, well-done roadster.

    So yes, we’re talking about a machine that’s the product of a deep dive in the Rover parts bin, built on a shoestring-for-a-belt budget, but also a proper rear-drive, mid-engined roadster with double-wishbone suspension front and rear. And, if you pick right, you’ll also get a 1.8-litre, DOHC four-cylinder with variable valve timing and a redline well beyond 7,000rpm. Fortune favours the bold, doesn’t it?

    Here’s one we found earlier...

  • Alfa Romeo 156

    Alfa Romeo 156

    And if fortune does indeed favour the bold, perhaps we can boldly tempt you with another compendium of top-shelf bits, bought and assembled for bottom dollar.

    Regardless, it’s clear to see that Alfa, saddled with a front-drive platform from Fiat, still went above and beyond with the 156. Like the recessed rear door handles, hand-stitched leather, or finding space in the budget to include Recaro, Momo and Brembo. And that’s before we even begin with the twin-spark, twin cam engines...

    Here’s one we found earlier...

  • Ford Focus

    Ford Focus

    But let’s bring it back down to earth a bit. Yes, you can buy old 156s on the cheap. Whether you should... well. It would be a brave decision. And while bravery is one of the most celebrated parts of the human condition, it does generally result in having many more holes in you than you had before you decided to be brave.

    But it’s not like the Focus is exactly stuck in the trenches – it’s every bit as front-wheel-drive as the 156 and likely just as renowned for how much more fun it is to drive than its body style would suggest. Does it have the badge cachet or spec sheet of the Alfa? No. Do you have to go into debt to run it? Also no.

    Here’s one we found earlier...

  • Renault Espace

    Renault Espace

    Choosing something fairly small, fairly quick and fairly likely to fall to bits is something of a theme for articles like these. But what if you need a bit of space for your £1,000? Or perhaps a staggering amount of space?

    Well, how about a car that is literally called the space?

    Yes, it’s the people mover that first moved the people, the first minivan for maxi-sized families. Yes, it’ll carry most of a cricket team while being about as interesting as a cricket podcast. And yes, Americans, we know the Dodge Caravan also debuted in 1984 – almost like car design doesn’t happen in a vacuum or something.

    Here’s one we found earlier...

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  • Mazda 2

    Mazda 2

    What is there to say about the Mazda 2? Or more to the point, what is there to say about the Mazda 2 that isn’t an immediate shot to the low-hanging fruit about the age of the people who drive it?

    Well slow down there – remember that the second-gen Mazda2 is based on the same platform as the sixth-gen Ford Fiesta, so that should give you some indication of the potential you’re dealing with here.

    The only difference from a practical perspective is the badge on the back and how the bland styling (and reputation) will keep you off plod’s mental radar long after you should have popped up on it.

    Here’s one we found earlier...

  • Jaguar XJ6

    Jaguar XJ6

    You can guess where this is going. Lots of luxury, dead cows, straight six, all the reliability of a junkie’s promise, blah bloo blee blah blay.

    But this generation of XJ6 was the first built under Ford ownership and the product of a factory that’d just been upgraded at a cost of £200 million. In just three years, Jaguar built some 90,000 XJs (such was their popularity), the vast majority of which powered by a heavily updated version of the proven AJ6 straight-six.

    This is the car that both Ford and Jag knew had to be good enough to hold its own despite its aging underpinnings, as well as hold the fort until the completely new XJ debuted in 2003. So, a car built to shore up Jag’s shaky foundations and establish Ford as a proper luxury player, and one that sold by the bucketload. That makes a decent cheap buy in our books.

    Here’s one we found earlier...

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  • MG ZR

    MG ZR

    Two late-stage MGs in a list of 10 cars... that certainly does mean a couple of things. No, not that we’re Elgar-pumping English apologists – it means a) we really are working with a small budget here, and b) clearly, MG’s haven’t shared in the ‘EVERYTHING IS WORTH LOTS OF MONEY NOW’ movement that we look on about as fondly as when our dog has its movement on the living room floor.

    As for the ZR? It’s an old-school hot hatch from long enough ago that hot has cooled to just this side of tepid, but it’s also a 16-valve, twin-cam, 100bhp pocket rocket for a grand or less with a bit of looking. Good times rarely get cheaper, and if they do, it’ll be much harder to look your parents in the eye afterwards.

    Here’s one we found earlier...

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