Top 10: The What Car? used hot list

With used car sales outstripping new car sales year after year in the UK, it’s no wonder the used car section of is so popular.

Here’s our round-up of the used reviews you’ve been reading.

1st Ford Focus (04 – 11)

The second-generation Ford Focus is a family car that’s comfortable, refined and genuinely good to drive. It offers a fantastic blend of sharp handling, a smooth ride and decent refinement at motorway speeds. It’s also got plenty of room for four adults and a generous boot.

Ford’s Focus sits near the top of the bestseller list in the UK which means there are lots of examples to choose from.

What to look for: Look for damage from water leaks into the cabin and listen out for grumbling engines.

2nd Volkswagen Golf (09 – 12)

Volkswagen’s ever popular Golf is more than enough car for most people. This is the sixth-generation model which was replaced in 2012.

The Golf is comfortable, practical and good to drive. It also has one of the best interiors in the class, and it genuinely feels like something from the class above. There are lots of models to choose from – everything from super-efficient Bluemotion models up to the popular GTI hot hatch – so there should be something for everyone in the Golf range.

What to look for: Some owners have reported misaligned doors that needed to be refitted. Electrical and engine problems have also been noted, so check for warning lights on the dashboard before buying.

3rd Nissan Qashqai (07 – 14)

The first-generation Qashqai was the small SUV that really made the category popular. It’s a similar size to a Ford Focus or a Volkswagen Golf but with a raised ride height. There’s lots of room in the cabin, a big boot and a good view of the road ahead.

Also, there are lots of good examples on the used market so you can afford to be picky.

What to look for: The biggest complaint from owners is a knocking noise from the rear of the car. The culprit is usually the rear shock absorbers, which may need to be replaced.

4th Ford Fiesta (08 – )

Ford’s Fiesta, the perennial best seller, makes a great used buy. It’s fun to drive, refined and pretty spacious – although the rear seats are best suited for children.

There are plenty of Fiestas to choose from on the used market, with car supermarkets, franchised dealers and larger independent dealers a good place to shop.

What to look for: The plastics used for the dashboard and door cards mark easily. Some owners have complained about the quality of the materials used in the cabin. The stereo also has a habit of failing and the heating and ventilation system can develop a mind of its own.

5th Vauxhall Corsa (06 – 14)

This version of the Vauxhall Corsa has only recently gone off sale. In its time on the market it won the What Car? Car of the Year Award and Supermini of the Year category twice, which is a great showing.

It’s a small car that feels like something bigger. With plenty around, the Vauxhall Corsa is one of the best value small cars available.

What to look for: Grinding and squeaky brakes can afflict some cars so listen out for this on a test drive.

6th Nissan X-Trail (01 – 07)

This generation of Nissan X-Trail went off sale in 2007, but it’s still proving popular with What Car? readers.

It might not be the most stylish of 4x4s, but it’s certainly built well enough to withstand the worst a family can throw at it. That’s just as well, because the X-Trail makes a genuine alternative to a conventional family car. There will certainly be no complaints from the driver, thanks to a fine driving position and good visibility. There’s also enough space for three abreast across the back seat, as well as a decent boot.

What to look for: The timing chains can rattle and need replacing.

7th BMW 3 Series (05 – 14)

The BMW 3 Series is the benchmark for how a compact executive car should handle. It grips well, it’s poised at all times, and it steers accurately. It’s also a quiet cruiser.

All drivers should be able to get comfortable behind the wheel because there’s loads of adjustment in the front seats and steering wheel. All but the tallest passengers will find the back seats comfortable. The boot is a generous size but is a slightly unusual shape.

What to look for: Door handles have been known to stick and the interior trim can work itself loose.

8th Land Rover Freelander (06-14)

As you’d expect from a Land Rover, the Freelander is as capable off-road as it is on it. It’s a refined compact SUV that’s popular on the used market.

The cabin looks good and there’s plenty of room up front. It’s not quite as spacious in the back and the boot is smaller than most rivals’.

What to look for: Electrical problems are the cause of most complaints.

9th Mercedes-Benz C-Class (00-08)

Most buyers of compact executive saloons will head straight for the BMW 3 Series, but you shouldn’t overlook the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It offers strong performance, decent refinement and plenty of room for four adults. We’d recommend choosing an automatic version; the foot-operated parking brake doesn’t lend itself to smooth hill starts.

What to look for: Electrical faults are the key thing to look out for, check all the components work as they should.

10th Honda Civic (06-12)

The Honda Civic makes a decent used buy thanks to a large boot, economical engines and reputation for reliability.

We’d choose the 138bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine which achieves between 44.1 and 42.8mpg with group nine or 10 insurance to boot. Although handling isn’t up there with the Focus, used prices undercut rivals.

Rear headroom can be tight, but legroom is ample, front and back.

What to look for: Watch for rattles and squeaks from the interior and be sure to check for condensation in the light clusters.

You can find all our used top 10 round-ups here

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