There are so many new car awards, but the pre-owned market is dominant as buyers seek more value in secondhand vehicles. So we decided to pick out the best pre-owned options in 16 segments.
But we did not do it alone. We gathered the best motoring hacks in the Times Media Group and threw them all into a room for two days to thrash out the choices. At times things were heated, on other occasions the choices were obvious and the team managed to decide on the winners without even being distracted by a lack of biscuits.
We assessed each segment carefully, trawling through the TransUnion dealer books to look at the value of each and every vehicle. The combined knowledge ensured that decisions were based on superb market experience, backed up with essential almanacs such as the dealer books and parts pricing reports. We looked only at vehicles that are less than five years old, which means many will have some form of warranty still in place. Within that five-year period, each winner is based on a 2013 model.
We chose an outright winner in each segment, as well as a runner-up. Often this was a close fight. Then, because we know that everyone is different, we picked a left field choice, something for those who want to stand out from the crowd.
The results make for fascinating reading — and we hope our first Times Media Group Pre-Owned Awards will offer useful information
Winner: RENAULT SANDERO (900cc DYNAMIQUE)
Runner-up: FORD FIGO 1.4 TDCI AMBIENTE
Left field: FIAT PANDA
The Sandero has proved itself to be a modern budget offering with decent build quality, boasting a peppy yet economical engine and keen pricing.
Thanks to its slightly bigger dimensions it also offers buyers a bit more space than most vehicles in the segment, making it ideal for small families.
It might not have the cache of some of its competitors, while some interior appointments are decidedly of the hard variety, but there is no denying the fact that it offers an excellent value for money proposition for those looking at a pre-owned model.
Parts should be more readily available, thanks to the company having a well-stocked parts warehouse, which is said to have a turn-around time of 24 to 48 hours.
Residual values may not be the best, but that makes it ideal for those buying pre-owned. The last-generation Ford Figo comes in a close second while if you are looking for something a bit different then Fiat’s Panda has loads of character.
Winner: FORD FIESTA (1.6 AMBIENTE)
Runner-up: HONDA JAZZ
Left field: SUZUKI SWIFT
It might be long in the tooth now with the new model expected to arrive later in 2017, but the current Ford Fiesta remains a well-sorted, decently built small hatch that is also fun to drive. Residual values have been particularly good, so should resale time come, you should still get something decent from it.
There is a good level of standard equipment including the voice-prompted Sync system, while the styling is still relevant among its newer entrants. Honda’s previous-generation Jazz is a perennial favourite with great reliability and better build quality than the new one. Suzuki’s Swift might not seem that left-field but is often not on the list for buyers seeking brand names.
Winner: VOLKSWAGEN GOLF VI (1.4 TSI TRENDLINE)
Runner-up: FORD FOCUS (1.6 AMBIENTE)
Left field: ALFA ROMEO GIULIETTA (1.4 PROGRESSION)
The benchmark in the segment, the Golf is an evergreen model that gets better with every iteration. The previous-generation model remains a great package — comfortable, well specified with decent performance and economy.
Finishes remain the model’s strongest point while the rest of the package including space is exemplary and ideal for families. Residual values remain the best among its rivals and the dealer network is quite vast. Not surprising, then, that it remains the default choice among C-segment hatch buyers.
The Ford Focus lacks that German prestige factor but is a well-packaged vehicle with great engines. If you want to go left field the Alfa Romeo Giulietta is stylish and a good performer, but it’s an Alfa so be sure it has a decent warranty.
Winner: VOLKSWAGEN JETTA VI (1.4 TSI TRENDLINE)
Runner-up: HYUNDAI ELANTRA (1.6 GLS)
Left field: SUZUKI KIZASHI (2.4 SDLX)
Essentially a Golf VI with a bigger boot, the Jetta remains a good package for those looking for a quality compact sedan that is well packaged and reasonably equipped. Comfortable and good to drive, it might not have the residual values of its Golf sibling but that makes it an appealing pre-owned choice. Boot space has always been the model’s strong point.
If you are looking for a comfortable, compact, pre-owned family sedan then look no further than this. If you are looking for something a little cheaper, the Hyundai Elantra is a great option, while the Suzuki Kizashi is unique — if you can find one.
Winner: BMW 3-SERIES (320i auto)
Runner-up: AUDI A4 (2.0 TFSI)
Left field: VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT CC (2.0 TSI)
Arguably still the benchmark of the segment, at least as far as driving dynamics go, the 3 Series remains a default choice. The 2.0l turbo engine offers good performance and frugality, while the eight-speed automatic transmission is smooth.
Residual values are fairly good since the model has just been facelifted, so a pre-owned 2013 model should still command a good price. Granted, the capital outlay will be relatively high, but flogging one should not be hard. Also try and find one with a balance of the Motorplan still in place.
Audi’s A4 is a strong runner-up with great engines and a superb interior. Left field, you could opt for the Volkswagen Passat CC (VW just calls it the CC for Comfort Coupe) that offers individuality, four doors and loads of boot space.
Winner: AUDI A6 (2.0 TFSI)
Runner-up: BMW 5 SERIES
Left field: LEXUS ES250
One of the least popular models in the segment makes this one a particularly good pre-owned offering. The front-wheel drive variant makes for a bargain buy as you get a decently specified model that is relatively lighter and in turn thriftier than its quattro sibling. Interior space and finishes are exemplary, while boot space is generous.
Running costs could be a touch high for models out of a maintenance plan, but the relatively low capital outlay more than makes up for it.
With a new BMW 5 Series on the way, there will be bargains to be had with the outgoing 5 Series, which is one of the reasons why it is a strong contender and is the runner-up.
Lexus might not want to be regarded as left field, but the ES250 brings a vast amount of standard equipment to the pre-owned market at an even more affordable price.
Winner: AUDI A8 (3.0 TDI)
Runner-up: BMW 7 SERIES (730D)
Left field: PORSCHE PANAMERA
Thanks to the aluminium space frame construction and thrifty yet powerful turbodiesel engines, the A8 feels considerably lighter than its rivals from the era.
The cabin, like much the rest of the stable’s models, is a cut above and has a host of standard equipment to boot. With little in the way of demand in this segment, you can easily find a 2013 model at an appealing price.
Residual values are not the model’s strong point, but there is no denying you are getting a great deal of car at the price.
A secondhand 7 Series is also a good buy, with the new owner dealing with the massive depreciation and forking out for all those options.
Our left-field choice is not technically a sedan, but in this market the Porsche Panamera is a four-door executive with great driving dynamics and, of course, a Porsche badge.
Winner: VOLKSWAGEN TOURAN (2.0 TDI)
Runner-up: MAZDA 5
Left field: OPEL MERIVA
It might not be the most inspiring of designs, but the Touran is built for purpose more than anything else. It is practical with up to seven seats in some models. The engines are tried and trusted, particularly the turbodiesel, which offers good economy.
Being an MPV, residual values are not the best due to the low demand, but they present good value for those shopping in the pre-owned market. Running costs should be fairly low as it shares most of its drivetrain with the Golf.
The Mazda 5 was a favourite with some of our team, but in the end it was beaten by the VW. However, the 5 offers loads of interior space, a great drive and decent reliability.
The Opel Meriva sits in the left-field position with those quirky suicide doors making it a bit different.
Winner: NISSAN QASHQAI (1.5 DCI)
Runner-up: RENAULT DUSTER (1.5 DCI)
Left field: SUZUKI JIMNY
The previous-generation Qashqai is a great package in the segment, and the turbodiesel engine offers exemplary fuel economy. The cabin is a bit cramped though and the seating position up front is quite high for taller drivers. Nonetheless, having pioneered this segment, the Qashqai remains a great pre-owned package for those looking for a compact and economical crossover.
Runner-up keeps things in the Renault-Alliance stable, with the Renault Duster scoring highly. Its low price, now combined with decent mechanicals, loads of space and the same diesel motor as the Qashqai, makes it a good choice.
Suzuki comes in at left field again, this time for the Jimny. It might not be the most-feature-packed model in the segment, but it has incredible character and its off-road ability will put many an expensive 4×4 to shame.
Winner: TOYOTA FORTUNER (3.0 D-4D)
Runner-up: VOLKSWAGEN TOUAREG (3.0 TDI)
Left-field: TOYOTA FJ CRUISER
One of the best-selling SUVs in the market, the Fortuner remains a default and safe choice in the segment. The D-4D engines are economical if a little agricultural. Care is to be taken when going off-road, though, as some models have been known to topple over. Insurance, too, is likely to be high, due to the model being prone to theft.
That aside, though, the model is still a versatile and capable package with good after-sales backup and parts availability.
The VW Touareg takes the runner-up place with its great styling, excellent engines and well-equipped and luxurious interior.
You don’t get much more left-field than the Toyota FJ Cruiser with its retro looks and suicide doors. The V6 sounds awesome and combined with the Prado underpinnings makes it a great vehicle off-road.
Winner: RANGE ROVER SPORT (TDV6)
Runner-up: MERCEDES-BENZ GL-CLASS (GL350)
Left field: LEXUS LX 570
The more economical version of the Range Rover Sport, the previous-generation TDV6 remains a good pre-owned buy. However, the air suspension could prove a costly exercise should it fail, so ensure that a factory warranty is in place.
Luxury remains the model’s highlight so expect high specification levels. It remains at home in the urban areas and is sublime off-road.
Running costs are not likely to be cheap, so ensure the balance of the maintenance plan is still in place. The new generation Sport arrived at the end of 2013 so you might get a decent price on it too.
Runner-up spot goes to the Merc GL-Class, which is basically a S-Class SUV with loads of luxury and equipment. It’s surprisingly good off-road too.
Lexus comes in from left-field with its LX570. With many buying the Toyota Land Cruiser 200, the Lexus offers more luxury and something different.
Winner: VOLKSWAGEN GOLF VI GTI
Runner-up: FORD FIESTA ST
Left field: RENAULT MEGANE RS CUP
Still a capable model, the Golf VI GTI blends everyday usability with hot hatch performance. Insurance is likely to be slightly higher than rivals due to the model being prone to theft.
That said, residual values are very good, while maintenance should be reasonably affordable. DSG models are more popular and offer the practicality of an automatic gearbox, particularly in traffic.
If you are looking for a performance hot hatch with good build quality and everyday usability, few come close to a Golf GTI.
Our runner-up is the Ford Fiesta ST, a proper little pocket rocket for the price. Great performance and superb handling make it a brilliant package.
Our left-field choice is one many of the team would like to own, but not drive every day, and that is the Renault Megane RS Cup. It is blindingly quick and grips in the corners like a proper racing machine, but the suspension is too hard for daily use.
Winner: PORSCHE CAYMAN
Runner-up: TOYOTA 86/SUBARU BRZ
Left field: PEUGEOT RC-Z
The benchmark in this segment, the previous generation mid-engined Cayman has proven its mettle as the model for others to follow. The Cayman S in particular is sublime, thanks to a flat-six engine that thrives on revs.
Quality is of the highest standard while residual values mean it will retain its value in the pre-owned market better than most rivals. Ensure the model still has a maintenance plan in place.
Runner-up spot goes to the pairing of the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ. The pair offer rear-wheel drive grip and antics for hot-hatch money although performance is not electrifying.
Left-field goes to the Peugeot RC-Z, which not only looks cool but goes rather well too.
Winner: MAZDA MX-5
Runner-up: BMW 135i
Left field: FIAT 500 ABARTH
The best-selling roadster in the world, the previous-generation MX-5 remains an icon among two-seat models. The fairly simple recipe of a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive setup, combined with lightweight construction, makes for a rewarding driving experience.
In addition, you can revel in the open air during a sunset or on a Sunday drive.
Pricing remains keen, so accessibility is good, the only issue perhaps is finding one, as most owners tend to hold on to their models — a good reason why you should own one.
Runner-up spot goes to the BMW 135i, which is easily one of the best bang-for-your-buck performance convertibles.
Left-field goes to the extremely fun Fiat 500 Abarth.
Winner: TOYOTA PRIUS
Runner-up: HONDA JAZZ HYBRID
Left field: HONDA CR-Z
One of the best-selling hybrids on the market, the Prius was one of the first hybrid models to hit the market on a mass scale.
While its green credentials are good, it is not the most exciting vehicle to drive. With a low market demand, residual values are not the best, but this makes it an accessible hybrid in the pre-owned market.
The Honda Jazz hybrid combines that Jazz practicality and reliability with a green drivetrain making it a decent runner-up.
Honda also takes the left-field spot with the CR-Z. Combining green motoring with performance, dynamics and sporty looks, the CR-Z makes going green cool.
Winner: FORD RANGER (3.2 XLT 4X4)
Runner-up: VOLKSWAGEN AMAROK (2.0 BiTDi 4 MOTION)
Left field: ISUZU KB (250 DTEQ 4X4)
No surprises that there was heated debate when it came to this category.
However, the Ford Ranger is a great package and beat its rivals in the vote. Thanks to the brawny 3.2 engine and 4×4 traction, it is as capable off-road as it is on road. Residual values are fairly good so selling one on should not be an issue.
While there are other alternatives in the pre-owned market, few offer such capability, comfort and overall driving experience. It is, in our books, the one to have in this segment.
Runner-up spot goes to the VW Amarok, which while it might lack the power of some other rivals, is a good performer with an excellent interior and driving character.
The Isuzu KB takes is left field because the model has been left behind by most of its rivals, but it remains a sturdy offering. – Mark Smyth & TMG Motoring Staff