Perfect for urban travel and cost-effective motoring, small cars offer great value at the same time as providing a fun-packed, comfortable driving experience. Here we take a look at seven of the best small cars to buy secondhand.

We've included the best years to buy and a reasonable price range, giving you all the information you need to track down a used small car that's exactly right for your needs.

1. Mazda 3

2020 World Car of the Year design winner, as well as the winner of several other awards over the years, the Mazda 3 has been a popular choice on the Australian market since its introduction way back in 2004.

Well-known for its winning combination of stylish good looks and impeccable performance, drivers get many of the trappings of a prestige vehicle for a highly affordable price.

Some years are better than others when it comes to buying a used Mazda 3. Experts concur that 2010 models are best avoided due to clutch problems. 2004 models are also prone to engine mount issues. We recommend 2013 onwards, or 2005-9 as the best years for a Mazda 3.

Prices vary, but you'll be able to pick up a decent used 3 for less than $10,000.

View The Best New Small Cars In Australia

2. Toyota Corolla

Dependable and fuel-efficient, the Toyota Corolla has been Australia's best-selling car for nine years in a row, as well as being a best seller at various points prior to its current run of popularity. Introduced to this country way back in 1966, it's a great choice for a versatile family run-around that won't let you down. As you would expect from Toyota, Corollas are extremely resilient and built to last.

Although they're not the cheapest used car on the market, their reliability means that even if you buy a model built prior to 2000, you're still likely to end up with a good option.

If you fancy a sportier Corolla, look out for the Sportivo - made between 2003 and 2006, its engine is a variation of the powerful Celica's 1.8l engine. A Toyota Ascent from around 2000 will set you back just $4-5,000.

3. Kia Cerato

Lauded for its roomy second row, fuel efficiency, exhilarating driving experience and advanced level of tech for the price, the Cerato has sold well in Australia since it was introduced back in 2004. This is a car that's predominantly designed for urban motoring, offering a good level of comfort and plenty of funky features.

For a Cerato that has a little more oomph, we suggest a 2009 version, when a remodelled, more powerful engine was introduced. Later Ceratos hold their value well, so the best bargains are likely to be found pre-2012. We recommend avoiding 2012 models, as a number of issues were identified with their reliability.

If you're planning for this to be a family car, remember to check the safety ratings - many Ceratos only have a 4-star rating, and some of the older models are sub-4-star.

Prices start at around $6K for a 2006 Cerato, up to around $24K for a 2019 model.

Have A Look At Our Complete Review Of The Kia Cerato

4. Honda Jazz

An archetypal "urban runabout", the Jazz has been zipping around on city streets here since 2002. Jazz owners benefit from Honda reliability and performance - although this is a small car, it's still got enough poke to move when it needs to.

Reviewers love its frugal fuel consumption, practical interior and good level of tech. On the downside, some drivers complain that it's a noisy car to drive. In addition, performance in excess of 112kph is limited.

We recommend the GE Jazz, which was manufactured between 2008/14. At that time, the Jazz had significantly more features than its competitors. A 2010 Jazz, for example, will set you back around $10K, depending on the trim.

Check Out Small Cars With Large Boot Space

5. VW Golf

The Golf was introduced back in 1976 to replace the iconic VW Beetle. It's a speedy little car that packs an awful lot of performance under its stylishly designed bonnet. This is a car that's great fun to drive and with a funky, cool vibe that's always appealing. Other advantages of the Golf include its excellent fuel economy, comfort and precise, responsive handling.

Golf commentators recommend avoiding the 2012-2014 models, as these have suffered terribly from reliability problems. Furthermore, the old-style DSG transmission (used on automatic Golfs pre-2013, has been plagued by performance issues. If you're buying an older Golf, we recommend opting for a manual option. A used 2004 Golf, for example, costs as little as $6K.

Read About The VW Golf GTI

Related: 2022 VW Polo Review

6. Fiat 500

Blending beautiful Italian styling with a rewarding driving experience, the Fiat 500 is a perfect city car. The 500 has a retro, nostalgic vibe that gives it a level of cheeky chic that's hard to beat. If you like quaint, stylish motoring, this little car is going to be perfect.

It's cheap to run and commentators are quick to praise the handling and comfort. This is never going to be a speedy car, but it's very responsive and has a tight turning circle - perfect for urban driving.

Avoid purchasing 2008 and 2009 models, as they are more likely to suffer from rear brake lock-up and issues with lighting. Check carefully what model you're investing in. Over the years the Fiat 500 has been released in a variety of special editions and limited runs, meaning there can be considerable variations in features, even in the same year.

A 2009 Fiat 500 Pop Auto, for example, is available for between $2 and $4K.

See Used Car Prices For 2023

7. Ford Fiesta

A sporty little hatchback that's been around since 2004, the Fiesta is on a par with cars such as the Honda Jazz or the Toyota Yaris. Drivers love the Fiesta because of its performance. Sports versions such as the XR4, introduced in 2007, provide some great options for exciting motoring.

We recommend the early models (2004-2008), or models from 2017 onwards. Drivers have reported a significant number of transmission problems in models from 2009-2016.

When it comes to price, a 2006 Fiesta will be between about 1.5K and 4K. In comparison, a 2017 model should be obtainable for about $15K.

For a great deal on financing your new purchase, contact Australia's best reviewed finance broker on 1300 Credit (1300 273 348) today or visit

Jordan Ballard

Jordan Ballard

Automotive Content Editor

Jordan is a car finance and automotive industry specialist at Only Cars. With over 20 years of experience with frontline and management roles in sales, finance and other areas, Jordan has an incredible understanding of the automotive industry. As Automotive Content Editor, Jordan loves sharing his passion for cars with the Only Cars audience.