You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get a fantastic car these days.
To prove that point, we’ve teamed up with What Car? to bring you a selection of cars it rated with a maximum five stars that you can pick up from dealers.
The best part is that you don’t have to win the lottery to buy any of them – all nine of these top-scoring motors can be bought new for less than £20,000 – and sometimes a lot less than that.
Price from: £18,995 (after the Government’s £4,500 electric vehicle grant)
Our pick: Dynamique Nav
• One of the best electric cars on the market today. In fact, it’s so good that it picked up What Car’s 2017 Electric Car of the Year.
• Easy to drive and it’s supremely quiet thanks to the electric powertrain.
• Of all the pure-electric models on sale, it has one of the most impressive full-charge ranges of up to 250 miles.
• Of course, being electric, the running costs are low, especially if you charge the vehicle during off-peak hours.
The Mazda MX-5 offers the most driving thrills of any car for less than £20,000
Price from: £18,795
Our pick: 2.0 SE-L Nav
• You won’t find anything else on the new market that offers so much driving fun for such an affordable price.
• Two-seat sportscars, especially convertibles, tend to come at a premium – this one undercuts them all.
• Interior quality is usually a trait of European brands, especially Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but Mazda has done well to make the MX-5 feel upmarket.
• Fun and cheap to run: the petrol engines are reasonably economical.
Easy and cheap to run – no wonder the Hyundai i10 was What Car?’s City Car of the Year 2017
Price from: £8,995
Our pick: 1.2 Premium SE 5dr
• What Car? selected the Hyundai i10 as its 2017 City Car of the Year.
• For less than £10,000, it’s the cheapest car in this selection. It’s also the most affordable to run with low fuel, tax and insurance costs.
• Being nimble is key to town driving, and Hyundai has mastered it – it feels light and manoeuvrable when nipping though urban areas.
• While some low-cost city cars can be accused of scrimping on luxury, even mid-spec i10 models are relatively well equipped.
HOW THIS IS MONEY CAN HELP
The Skoda Fabia is a fantastic all-rounder, which helped it rate highly with the road testers
What will fuel the next car you buy?
Now share your opinion
Price from: £11,295
Our pick: 1.2 TSI 90 SE 5dr
• The Skoda Fabia was given the honour of What Car?’s overall Car of the Year in 2015 – that’s no mean feat, especially as it was recommended over the nation’s favourite Ford Fiesta.
• Don’t be put off by the ‘supermini’ tag, this is a great all-rounder offering compact dimension but an immensely practical cabin with plenty of space for a small family.
• The old-age theory that Skodas are terrible to drive are long gone – the Fabia proves this by being more than capable in the twisty stuff.
• Running costs are competitive by supermini standards and the SE spec offers good value.
Want a VW Golf but you’ve got a big family? The Skoda Octavia might be the answer
Price from: £17,195
Our pick: 1.4 TSI SE 5dr
• Yes, another Skoda with a five-star rating. What Car? described the Octavia as a ‘brilliant family car’.
• Despite being based on the same platform as a VW Golf, the Octavia has masses of interior space, both for passengers and luggage. It looks like a saloon, but is actually an old-fashioned saloon-shaped hatchback with a huge opening and boot.
• One benefit of sharing parts with the Golf is that the Skoda gets a similar quota of accomplished engines, both petrol and diesel.
• Even for under £20,000, there’s no shortage of standard equipment on offer, especially against rivals from Europe and the Far East.
The Ford Fiesta ST blends blistering performance with oodles of practicality
Ford Fiesta ST
Price from: £18,215
Our pick: ST-2
• What Car? has voted this as its favourite hot hatch, and for some years. That’s an achievement considering it’s just about to be replaced by a new, improved, version.
• Buyers shouldn’t be put off by the sporty ST with fears of it losing the standard Fiesta’s high level of practicality – it’s still a usable daily driver.
• There isn’t a car on the planet you can buy new for this price with five seats and a fairly big boot that has the same level of handling and performance.
• All that extra oomph won’t cost you too much either – there’s no major penalty on fuel costs
The Seat Ateca is the newest model to enter the five-star club, and for good reason
Price from: £18,150
Our pick: 1.4 TSI 150 SE
• The newest kid on the block to receive a five-star award. What Car? even voted it as the small SUV of the Year 2017.
• SUVs are the big thing at the moment, but most demand a fairly substantial price hike over a traditional hatchback. The Seat, however, is relatively well priced,
• The extra body height makes the interior feel far roomier than an equivalent Seat Leon, and it doesn’t fall too short on handling despite the bulky proportions.
• If you want the best value of good spec and an affordable price, the SE trim is the suggested option.
Class is permanent, it would seem, as the Audi A3 has picked up awards since it was released in 2013
Price from: £19,965
Our pick: 1.4 TFSI SE 3dr
• Being five star cars, most of the selection are award winners. The A3 is no different, picking up What Car?’s favourite family car in 2017.
• Class is clearly permanent too – What Car? also voted it as the overall Car of the Year in 2013 when it first arrived on the market in this generation.
• Finding a family-sized Audi for less than £20,000 certainly has its benefits – the interior quality is almost unmatched and the cabin is technology rich.
• Arguably the biggest benefit of buying a new Audi is that it will hold its value well – the A3 follows that trend with very good resale values.
Big, practical, powerful and efficient. The Skoda Superb lives up to its name adequately
Price from: £19,945
Our pick: 1.4 TFSI 150 SE
• That’s right, another Skoda is a five-star rated car. Much of this is down to the huge amount of space it offers. For a smidgen under £20,000, it’s got heaps of room.
• The cheapest 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine is the recommended choice, with more than enough grunt to supply decent levels of thrust to this family wagon.
• Even the most basic sub-£20k S model comes with Bluetooth and DAB radio.
• Jump a bit higher in the price range to SE trim and you get dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise and an 8-inch touchscreen.