Seat’s Ateca has been named by experts as the best second-hand car you can buy this year.
The versatile SUV took the crown in the What Car? Used Car of the Year Awards, with it receiving a stamp of approval from road testers for its spacious and well-equipped interior, class-leading handling, large boot and value for money.
But a large family-size SUV isn’t for everyone. What if you’re in the market for a city car or even a sporty convertible number?
Fortunately, there’s a list of the best models in each of 18 categories – and a budget-friendly choice for those who don’t want to pay through the nose for a second-hand motor.
Second-hand star buy: What Car? says the Seat Ateca is the best used model on the market this year, offering great driving performance as well as practicality and reliability
The Ateca, which only launched to the UK market in 2016, is the outright winner this year, being highly commended by What Car? for its strong line-up of efficient engines and an excellent reliability record.
Its panel of experts made their selections based on all-round ability, reliability, value and the availability of desirable versions, then decided from a shortlist which models in each of the segments should be the winners.
Mark Pearson, used cars editor at What Car?, described the victorious Ateca as ‘an immensely likeable family SUV that can now be bought for less than half what you’d need to buy one new’.
The Ateca also won the top prize in the used family SUV of the year category.
Mr Pearson added: ‘None of the other category winners could match its combination of all-round desirability, practicality and affordability.
‘We’re delighted to award it the top gong. That it impressed us so much on its launch and it’s still doing so today just goes to show how exceptionally good it is. It’s a great used buy.’
Expert road testers endorsed the Seat SUVs range of strong and frugal petrol and diesel engines
Inside, the Seat feels modern, though does lack the high-quality interior of German rivals. While there are a lot of hard plastic materials, it does mean the cabin is durable and should stand the test of time
The Ateca was given a big thumbs up by What Car? for its practicality, including a capacious boot
While the Ateca received a glowing report form the consumer title, it isn’t for all car buyers.
Some drivers will be looking for vehicles of different sizes and budgets. And for these buyers it has suggested top performers across the market.
Luxury brand Audi topped four of the categories – more so than any other manufacturer – with the A4 winning used executive car of the year, and the A8 (luxury car), Q7 (luxury SUV) and TT (coupé) also picking up second-hand awards.
BMW, Hyundai and Skoda joined Seat in winning two categories each.
Despite the impact of Covid-19 bludgeoning the automotive sector with significantly shrunken demand for new models, appetite for used cars has remained stable – and the desire for electric and hybrid vehicles is rising.
What Car? named the current and previous-generation Nissan Leafs as the battery cars to have, while Hyundai’s Ioniq took the hybrid crown.
In addition, DS won the award for best used car scheme for the second year running for its ‘outstanding’ 24-month warranty on cars up to four years old, which eclipses rival offerings.
What Car? Used Car of the Year winners by category
Used Value Car of the Year
Winner: Hyundai i10 (2014-2019) – less than £6,000
Budget option: Suzuki Celerio (2015–2019) – less than £4,000
If you want a great city car on the used market, look no further than the Hyundai i10 (left) or Suzuki Celerio (right)
Used Small Car of the Year
Winner: Skoda Fabia (2015–present) – less than £8,000
Budget option: Ford Fiesta (2008–2017) – less than £5,000
Skoda’s Fabia (left) took the title as best used small car, with the previous-generation Ford Fiesta (right) the choice budget option
Used Family Car of the Year
Winner: Skoda Octavia (2013–2020) – less than £15,000
Budget option: Vauxhall Astra (2015–present) – less than £8,000
The Skoda Octavia (left) has been named the best second-hand family car, though the Vauxhall Astra (right) is also recommended by What Car?’s road test team
Used Executive Car of the Year
Winner (& budget option): Audi A4 (2015–present) – less than £14,000
The Audi A4 is the standout second-hand executive model, according to the car magazine
Used Luxury Car of the Year
Winner: Audi A8 (2017–present) – less than £40,000
Budget option: Volvo S90 (2016–present) – less than £20,000
Luxury cars depreciate at a rapid rate from new, meaning you can get a lot of car for your money on the used market. The best option – if you have £40k to spend – is the Audi A8 (left), or for half that you should consider the Volvo S90 (right)
Used Small SUV of the Year
Winner: Seat Arona (2018–present) – less than £12,000
Budget option: Renault Captur (2013–2019) – less than £8,000
The smallest Seat SUV in the range, the Arona (left), was deemed the best second-hand small SUV, while the recently replaced Renault Captur (right) was the best option if you want to spend less than £8,000
Used Family SUV of the Year & Overall Used Car of the Year
Winner (& budget option): Seat Ateca (2016–present) – less than £13,000
The Ateca won this segment but also took the overall Best Used Car of 2019 crown in the What Car? Awards
Used Large SUV of the Year
Winner: Volvo XC60 (2017–present) – less than £25,000
Budget option: Skoda Kodiaq (2016–present) – less than £19,000
There are plenty of models to choose from in the large SUV sector. On the second-hand market, buyers should consider the Skoda Kodiaq (left) and Volvo XC60 (right)
Used Luxury SUV of the Year
Winner: Audi Q7 (2015–present) – less than £35,000
Budget option: Volvo XC90 (2015–present) – less than £25,000
The big and pricey Audi Q7 (left) is the best luxury SUV option second hand, though the Volvo XC90 (right) is a strong option for a smaller outlay
Used MPV of the Year
Winner: Citroen Grand C4 Spacetourer (2018–present) – less than £15,000
Budget option: Citroën C4 Picasso (2014–2018) – less than £10,000
If you want a large MPV, then look no further than French brand Citroen. The current Grand C4 Spacetourer is the top choice, though the C4 Picasso it replaced is also a good choice if you have a smaller budget
Used Estate Car of the Year
Winner: BMW 5 Series Touring (2017–present) – less than £25,000
Budget option: Skoda Octavia Estate (2013–2020) – less than £10,000
If you want a capable used estate car, look no further than the BMW 5 Series Touring (left) and – on a tighter budget – the just-replaced Skoda Octavia (right)
Used Hot Hatch of the Year
Winner: BMW M140i (2016–2019) – less than £18,000
Budget option: Ford Fiesta ST (2013–2017) – less than £12,000
If you want cheap(ish) thrills, then these are the best second-hand hot hatches – the BMW M140i (left) and Ford Fiesta ST (right)
Used Coupé of the Year
Winner (& budget option): Audi TT (2015 –present) – less than £15,000
What Car? said the best used coupe option is the latest Audi TT, with examples available for less than £15,000 on the second-hand market
Used Convertible of the Year
Winner: Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2017–present) – less than £30,000
Budget option: BMW 2 Series (2014–present) – less than £15,000
If you want a second-hand car that allows you to feel the breeze in your hair, the best choices are the Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet (left) or the less expensive BMW 2 Series Convertible (right)
Used Sports Car of the Year
Winner: Porsche Cayman (2013–2016) – less than £35,000
Budget option: Mazda MX-5 (2015–present) – less than £20,000
If you’re willing to fork out a still relatively high price on the second-hand market, a Porsche Cayman (left) is the best used sports car you can purchase. If you want to spend less, the current Mazda MX-5 (right) is another option
Used Performance Car of the Year
Winner: Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (2016–present) – less than £45,000
Budget option: Mercedes C43 AMG (2016–present) – less than £25,000
Alfa’s Giulia Quadrifoglio (left) is a seriously good performance car, though you will need to pay quite a large sum to get one, even on the used market. If you want to spend a little less, the Mercedes C43 AMG (right) is an excellent alternative
Used Hybrid Car of the Year
Winner (& budget option): Hyundai Ioniq (2017–present) – less than £15,000
Hyundai’s Ioniq hybrid is the top choice model if you want a used car with a battery and electric motor to supplement a combustion engine
Used Electric Car of the Year
Winner: Nissan Leaf (2018–present) – less than £25,000
Budget option: Nissan Leaf (2011–2018) – less than £13,000
The Nissan Leaf, both new (left) and old (right), are the top used choices if you’re in the market for a second-hand electric vehicle
Used Approved car scheme
Winner: DS Certified
Special mention: Kia Approved Used, BMW/Mini Approved Used
DS won the award for best used car scheme for the second year running for its ‘outstanding’ 24-month warranty on cars up to four years old
Source: What Car? Used Car of the Year 2021 Awards