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Sunday 2nd April
Top Gear Advice

10 used cars for £5k we’ve found this week

As much variety as Netflix, just with much more we’d actually recommend to a friend

10 used cars for £5k we’ve found this week
  1. Ford Focus ST

    Ford Focus ST

    The old five-cylinder Focus ST doesn’t have the world’s most sterling reputation. Not for reliability woes, terrible handling or an uninspiring powerplant – in fact, it’s pretty much the opposite – but for a rather unfair case of guilt by association.

    Picture your average Focus ST driver... it’s almost definitely a case of unfair malignment, but it’s also the one that stuck. But if you, like us, couldn't give less of a hoot about such things, then you’ll get a bizarrely comfortable hatchback with a characterful, torquey engine and typically brilliant Ford Europe handling. Just make sure you get one where the engine’s either been tuned by a professional or left alone entirely.

    Do you care what other people think?

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  2. Saab 9-5

    Saab 9-5

    Interestingly, the owner talks about having a ‘full top half and bottom half rebuild’, while mentioning it's been ‘remapped by a Saab specialist’.

    Then again, there can be no great reward without great risk. So, by extension, a risk as big as this must yield incredibly large rewards, no?

    Are you feeling lucky, punk?

  3. Smart Roadster

    Smart Roadster

    Well, it’s unique if nothing else.

    Even now, when one-offs and limited-run unobtainium seem to arrive overnight like Triffids, finding a rear-mid-engined roadster with a turbocharged, 698cc three-cylinder and the dimensions (and some would say face) of your average Australian spider.

    The Smart Roadster weighs less than 800kg, so the 80bhp from its motorcycle-sized engine yields 100bhp per tonne. Yeah, managed that one without a calculator and everything. And while that feels almost paltry these days, it is... well, still pretty paltry. Nought to 60mph is a 10-second affair and the top speed barely cracks triple digits. But neither speed, nor the pace at which you achieve it, delivers lasting fun. Throwing a tiny, lightweight rear-drive, mid-engined roadster around, under 62 miles of headroom and at speeds that mean even crashes take a minute or so, is everything we’re missing from modern cars.

    Gearbox is still rubbish, mind.

    Are you OK driving around in something this... unique?

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  4. Mitsubishi L200

    Mitsubishi L200

    This is a pick-up truck. You could even call it a ute and be understood, with only pedants correcting you on it. And we are exactly those pedants. A pick-up has a ladder-frame chassis onto which the body is bolted, which is all wrong. It also has more than two doors and there’s nothing car-like about the way it drives. So it can’t be a coupe utility. Get it right.

    But then in Australia, no one makes utes anymore. And, as a result, you can’t get them in all the places where people think they can do an Australian accent, either. Looking at you, Karl Urban.

    Which leaves, as we said at the beginning, a pick-up truck. It will do many things, generally in a worse, less-comfortable way than an actual car. But sometimes there’ll be a specific need (or at least a specific set of mental gymnastics) that will convince you that you need one. And we found an L200 in budget, so that’ll probably do the trick. Which then allows you to build yours up like Wookie did for Namibia, even if you never make it past Newbury.

    Do you wish you were at least 50 per cent more rugged than you are?

  5. Citroen Cactus

    Citroen Cactus

    Just why exactly Citroen decided to name such a quirky, useful little car after a hard, thorny plant that grows in some of the deathiest countryside the wide world can offer up is something to ponder at your own leisure. As is the fact that calling something ‘cactus’ in Australia is tantamount to ‘stuffed’ or ‘banjaxed’. Wow, things must really break pretty often down there.

    What’s much easier to figure out is what the Citroen Cactus offers – a small SUV, without the existential dread and ennui that envelops your average car person reaches a breakdown point and must use their means to buy a mode of transport that’d struggle to straddle a median. Statistics jokes, people. This is how hard we find it to talk about SUVs.

    Helpfully, the Cactus is an absolute outlier (OK, that joke apparently still has legs) – it’s lightweight, comfortable, perfect for all the things it’ll actually be used for and blissfully free of the pretence that they’ll be used to camp on the far side of a North Face catalogue.

    Do you want a slice of Citroen doing properly Citroen things?

  6. Peugeot 108

    Peugeot 108

    Well give us a pack-down rainproof jacket and some just-in-case band-aids, we’ve gone all sensible about things. The Peugeot is here not because it’s interesting, unique or even able to outrun your average Labrador – it’s here because it’s actually stunningly reliable. And not just ‘stunningly reliable for a post-504 Peugeot’, but actually reliable.

    That’s because it’s basically a French Aygo, that manages to do without the Toyota’s ‘Can I be in the X-Men?’ face and immediate intimation that you take yearly eye tests to keep your licence. Not saying it won’t happen, just that it won’t be immediate.

    Immediacy is not a concept that applies overmuch to the 108’s acceleration, steering response or touchscreen, either. But that’s nothing compared to just how long you’ll go between visits to the petrol pump – or the mechanic.

    Do you just want something reliable?

  7. BMW 330d Touring

    BMW E91 330d Touring

    And here we have it: the dadmobile for any father young enough to know where the nappy bag is, which soft toy is your progeny’s favourite and how to fold the pram one-handed, while holding said bag, soft toy and progeny. All of which are covered in what you really hope is mashed banana that’s gone a bit brown.

    Also, possibly, to know exactly what we mean when we say that daycare is just a petri dish, and that gastroenteritis can go directly to the bowels of hell – because ours are completely spent. OK, that one might be a bit specific.

    In any case, owning an E91 330d Touring will be much like... well, most young fathers’ experiences with a family. Such as powering forwards much faster than he expected, being more worn out than anyone’s happy to admit to, immediately filled to the brim with things he never knew he needed and often mystifyingly expensive. And most of all, something he can’t imagine doing without. Dad loves you, champ.

    Do you want an absolute dad chariot?

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  8. Nissan 350Z

    Nissan 350Z

    Not sure why the 350Z gets looked down on so much.

    Perhaps it was because it was literally cheap enough for the young and bold to buy, kicking off an aftermarket scene that figuratively cheapened the car. Maybe it was the bangin’ stereo, complete with thumping subwoofer as standard. Perhaps the V6 was too dull, the ride too firm or maybe the 350Z was doomed from the start by the Nissan Z cars that came before it.

    Well, if speculation is a mug’s game, we probably have enough to fill a dishwasher. So let’s get to the practical effect of the 350Z being so cast aside: despite being proper rear-drive sports coupes, they’re still cheap.

    It’s the car we want to see today: a 280bhp, rear-drive coupe with a six-speed manual gearbox and a limited-slip diff. And it’s available for the kind of money we’re actually able to spend on cars these days. Y’know, if we sell a few things. And save for a while.

    Can you live with the image?

  9. Ford Fiesta diesel

    Ford Fiesta diesel

    We can almost hear it. ‘A little diesel hatchback?’, you ask. ‘If I wanted sensibility, I probably wouldn’t be asking around here – no offence.’

    And none taken, Mr Straw Man. We know it’s something of a departure from our usual ‘Buy a Jensen, old Land Rover and a Japanese Kei car – and don’t forget to send a Chimaera through a hedge at least once in your life’ kind of advice. But sometimes life is much better when it’s uninteresting.

    So yes, we know. Oh, we know. A small diesel hatchback – even one as happy and too-good-by-half at the whole ‘handling’ thing – is hardly what you’d use to lure the Stig out of hibernation. The Fiesta TDCi isn’t something you buy out of ravenous desire and then try to put its clattery engine note aside; it’s a car you buy because it snatches a bit of joy back from the absolute head-over-heart decision that put you in the market for a diesel hatchback.

    If we remember correctly (never guaranteed), the official bumf said the little diesel Fiesta could do something like 80 miles per gallon. The best we could manage was more like 60mpg. But then 60 miles per gallon is hardly anything to sneeze at, especially at the moment. Well, to be entirely straight with you, it’s probably best not to sneeze at anything or anyone these days. Do your bit and so on.

    Do you hate paying for fuel as much as we do?

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  10. Mercedes-Benz W126

    Mercedes W126

    Yes, it’s the saloon that’s only ever seemed to exist as someone else’s dad’s good car. The one that he’d never take down to the supermarket, the one he wouldn’t let anyone eat in, the one that somehow stayed miraculously clean, even in winter.

    It’s also chariot of the Bluth family – one you’d probably not try to emulate, admittedly – where even there, in the land of the astonishingly funny sitcom, the rules of the W126 S-Class applied. Well, for a while, anyway.

    Regardless of its connotations, it’s still an S-Class from when Benz was building broadly unimpeachable cars. It’s still designed by Mercedes leading light Bruno Sacco. And it’s packed with so many modern features – seat belt pretensioners, crumple zones, airbags, ABS, traction control, memory power seats, climate control and a fuel-injected V8 – that it’s easy to forget just how old the W126 is.

    So, the W126 is a classic car with modern features – but it’s not a restomod. And, as you might have already figured out, it doesn’t cost restomod money – we found one for the princely sum of £3,500. Should you not have £3,500 on you at the moment, just remember: there’s always money in the banana stand.

    What have we always said is the most important thing?

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