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Cheap Used Cars: Alternatives to Polo, Golf, and Tiguan

VW Golf, Audi A3, BMW 3 Series, or VW Tiguan are still expensive even as used cars. It is therefore worth looking for less common alternatives. They are often just as good but needed to be cheaper to have. Buying tips from small cars to the middle class.

Main Points

  • Cheap used cars can be found away from the mainstream

  • Consider a Honda Jazz instead of a VW Polo

  • Discounts are more likely on less common models

Easy Car Shopping

Of course, if you are looking for a used car, you can make it easy for yourself and simply go to the next best VW, Audi, or BMW dealer. A common model such as a VW Golf, an Audi A3, or a BMW threesome can be found there quickly, the choice is great. But unfortunately, the bestsellers are also in great demand – and therefore expensive.

Finding Cheaper Alternatives

It's cheaper if you put a little more effort into buying a used car and are looking for other models that don't immediately come to mind. You don't drive badly with them either – and as less popular vehicles, they usually have lower prices. Often the room for negotiation is even greater with them. The ADAC has therefore been looking for good alternatives in four popular vehicle classes at the age of around five years. Here they are.

Used Small Cars

The most famous small cars in the USA are VW Polo, Ford Fiesta, and Opel Corsa. Peugeot 208 and Renault Clio are also familiar to many. But a VW Polo costs between 10,000 and 21,000 USD as a five-year-old, depending on the engine, kilometers, and equipment, for example. Here are three alternatives to the established models, which are usually a little cheaper to have:

Honda Jazz (2015 to 2020)

Why not drive a Honda Jazz? Because no other small car provides so much space on such a small footprint and is so variable. The intelligently designed rear seat (Magic Seats) can be folded down as usual, resulting in a flat loading area without a step. In addition, the complete back seat can be folded up like a cinema chair. This results in a cargo space from the floor panel to the roof and high objects such as small furniture or houseplants can be transported.

Advantages: convenient entry/exit, low loading edge, safe driving characteristics, very variable interior, durable technology
Disadvantages: noisy interior, lack of window anti-jamming protection, motors need high speeds

Kia Rio (2017 to 2023)

In the USA, the Kia Rio is only a marginal phenomenon and was therefore discontinued in 2023. It is considered a really successful small car. Used Rios are cheap to get: from about 11,000 USD there are copies with a manageable number of kilometers. The workmanship pleases, the Rio is a chic and equally solid car inside and out. This makes the Rio an interesting alternative in the small car segment.

Mazda 2 (2017 to present)

Current Mazda models offer a good compromise of quality and price. For a fair price, you get a nice small car with a high-quality and extensive equipment with the 2 series; the Japanese also remains cheap in maintenance. The Mazda 2 is not a perfect small car and also has a few weaknesses, such as the limited space available. However, you can accept this for the called price.

Used Compact Cars

The lower middle class is also called the "golf class". No wonder, because for several decades the Golf has dominated the segment as the best-selling car in the USA. The main competitors are Opel Astra, Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, Mercedes A-Class, and Ford Focus. After five years, a VW Golf costs between 13,000 USD for the lower-horsepower versions and 36,000 USD for the top versions. But there are other interesting models:

Fiat Tipo (2016 to present)

In the lower middle class, there is hardly a model that offers more cars for comparable money. The Fiat Tipo, manufactured in Turkey, shines with good space conditions and is cleanly manufactured. However, one should not expect a noble selection of materials or even Mercedes quality in view of the low price, most competitors are a little better positioned here. The equipment is rather sparse.

Advantages: a lot of space, very large trunk (station wagon), unrivaled low price, neat workmanship, easy operation, safe driving characteristics, pleasing design
Disadvantages: simple material selection, little safety equipment, no modern lighting system available, many poorly maintained copies in circulation

Honda Civic (2017 to 2022)

Worldwide successful, but a rare guest in the USA: the Honda Civic. In the tenth generation, the Civic has abandoned the spaceship-like design of its predecessors and appeared more as an elegant sedan. But the driving fun has remained: The crisp chassis and the skillfully tuned steering provide a good mood – and driving pleasure comes up especially in combination with the more powerful engines. The top model Civic Type R even has over 300 hp and also looks great on thick pants.

But the civilian variants also please with neat workmanship, a sufficiently large trunk, and a lot of space in the front row. The very smooth-running diesel engine also scores with its low consumption. At the TÜV, Honda proves its experience: the Civic performs well here. Even the ADAC roadside assistants rarely get a Civic under the wrench.

Advantages: successful coordination of steering and suspension, safe driving characteristics, extensive safety equipment
Disadvantages: moderate all-round visibility, increased nitrogen oxide emissions (diesel), cumbersome operating/infotainment system

Hyundai i30 (2016 to present)

A car of the lower middle class without major weaknesses? This is true for the Hyundai i30. The Korean, developed in the USA and built in the Czech Republic, offers enough space for most cases in everyday life – even more in the station wagon, especially for the luggage, of course. The operation is simple, the material selection and processing correspond to a good compact class standard. The quite extensive standard equipment proves to be pleasing.

When driving, the i30 is inconspicuous and pleases with safe handling. The drive is provided by petrol and diesel engines with a wide power range from 110 in the basic version to 280 hp in the sporty i30 N. The long-term quality is decent: in the TÜV report, the Hyundai lands in the midfield, it looks even better in the ADAC breakdown statistics. Overall, there is little to go wrong with the i30.

Advantages: good space at the front, safe driving characteristics, short braking distances, many assistance systems series
Disadvantage: high interior noise level

Used Mid-Range

A mid-range car used to be the classic family vehicle before SUVs started their triumphal march. In the category there are VW Passat, BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, and Opel Insignia. A five-year-old VW Passat calls in about 17,000 to 38,000 USD, depending on the engine. But it's also worth taking a look at other models here:

Mazda 6 (2013 to present)

It is worth taking a look at the Mazda 6, for example – and not only because of its successful design. The other qualities of the Japanese are also convincing. So the model is neatly made and scores in the interior with high-quality materials. The logical operation with a rotary-push-button instead of operating exclusively via a touchscreen, as is now also widely used among young used ones, proves to be beneficial.

When driving, the harmoniously tuned suspension pleases. In combination with the successful steering, driving in this Japanese is quite fun. Thanks to the simply class-functioning gearshift, it does not necessarily have to be an automatic variant of the Mazda 6 either.

Advantages: extensive comfort equipment, many assistants as standard, good space, safe and comfortable chassis, exact manual transmission, reliable technology
Disadvantages: poor visibility outside, not optimal rust prevention, gasoline engines without turbo support

Renault Talisman (2016 to 2022)

Mid-range at a fair price? This is what the Renault Talisman stands for. Especially the station wagon provides a lot of space for passengers and luggage. The workmanship gives little reason for criticism, and the materials used in the interior are quite valuable. The trunk is of large dimensions and can be used well, especially in the Grandtour station wagon. In addition, the Frenchman is also allowed to take heavy trailers on the hook (trailer load up to 1850 kilos).

The talisman does not want to be an athlete, and therefore fully relies on comfort. Thus, the chassis resists excessive hardness and convinces even with gross road damage. The comfortably upholstered seats also pay into the comfort chapter.

Advantages: large and easy-to-use trunk (station wagon), bright LED headlights (optional), high towing capacity, high driving comfort, fair prices
Disadvantages: poor exhaust gas cleaning (NOx, up to USD 6), poor all-round visibility, operation that takes some getting used to

Subaru Outback (2015 to 2021)

The last generation Subaru Outback was launched in 2015. The elevated station wagon has all-wheel drive and, as a petrol engine, a continuously variable automatic transmission is always on board. The rarely sold diesel is considered vulnerable and is therefore not recommended. In contrast, the petrol-powered Subaru boxer engines enjoy the myth of indestructibility. In fact, with regular maintenance, these engines are considered very durable and smooth running. But they are not particularly economical.

The outback is well made and solidly made, but looks a bit stale at one point or another. Instead of modern pushbuttons or sensor surfaces, there are still some old-fashioned toggle switches in the interior. Nevertheless, the Subaru is a car for those who need all-wheel drive and want a vehicle that simply works and is durable.

Advantages: extensive standard and safety equipment, plenty of space for passengers and luggage, durable technology
Disadvantages: high fuel consumption, long braking distance, passenger and middle rear seat only suitable for children to a limited extent, sluggish CVT transmission

Used SUVs

Lower mid-range SUVs are among the best-selling vehicles in the whole of USDpa. One of the most popular models in this class has been the VW Tiguan for years, but Ford Kuga, VW T-Roc, and Nissan Qashqai also sell very well. A five-year-old Tiguan costs $18,000 to $37,000. But there are several more interesting models:

Renault Kadjar (2015 to 2022)

The fact that the Renault Kadjar is the sister model of the popular Nissan Qashqai has not yet spread to everyone. The Renault is technically almost identical and has similar virtues to the Japanese variant. The Frenchman, made in Spain, accommodates four adult commod on a small footprint. There is also enough space for luggage. The driving comfort is good, the seats are comfortable, and the operation is easy to handle.

The Renault does not have any serious weaknesses. In terms of price, the model is well below bestsellers such as the VW Tiguan. Five-year-old specimens with less than 100,000 kilometers are already available for less than 15,000 USD. In the TÜV report, the Kadjar is doing quite well, in the ADAC breakdown statistics, the Frenchman is in the midfield. All in all, you don't get a perfect SUV for a fair price, but a good and reliable SUV without major weaknesses.

Advantages: spacious interior/trunk, good braking performance, convenient entry and exit, very fair pricing, durable and reliable technology
Disadvantages: poor visibility to the rear, high effort required when maneuvering, large turning circle, no window anti-jamming protection, increased pollutant emissions

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross (2017 to present)

When the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross was launched on the market in 2017, it was considered an insider tip for all those who were looking for a car with good space, impeccable equipment, and, above all, a favorable price-performance ratio. Initially, the compact SUV was offered at a bargain price of $18,990 for the base model. Under the hood, even a 1.5-liter gasoline engine with 163 hp provided good driving performance. For an additional fee, there was a CVT automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

The relatively high consumption, the rather simple plastics in the interior, and the not too lavishly sized trunk are among the weaknesses of the Eclipse Cross. With the facelift 2021, consumption and materials have been improved. The current model is only available as a plug-in hybrid and is considerably more expensive with a new car list price of over 40,000 USD. So a bargain is only made with the pre-facelift model.

Advantages: extensive standard equipment, good space at the front, safe suspension, good driving performance, high passive safety
Disadvantages: poor coordination of clutch and throttle response, quite high consumption

Peugeot 3008 (2016 to present)

You can't deny this French SUV a certain chic: the Peugeot 3008 is impressive. Which is all the more true for the extravagantly designed cockpit, with digital displays and the Peugeot-typical small steering wheel. This makes the 3008 very handy, but because the arrangement with a small steering wheel and instruments placed above it does not fit for every driver's frame, you should definitely try it out.

Then you also realize that the lively and sophisticated running 130-horsepower three-cylinder engine is basically completely sufficient and helps the 3008 to achieve good driving performance. The Peugeot is even offered as a plug-in hybrid, but the combination of a combustion engine and an electric motor is not exactly cheap to have. A short braking distance, good space, and high driving comfort are on the Frenchman's side.

Advantages: good workmanship, chic design, convenient entry and exit, short braking distance, many assistance systems as standard
Disadvantages: partly cumbersome operation, moderate all-round visibility, unpleasantly cold shift knob at low temperatures, delayed engine response



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