Mission: Affordable - The six cheapest new cars you can buy

With average prices soaring, here are the six most budget friendly ways of getting that ‘new car’ smell

Citroen Ami
A little like a fridge on wheels, Citroen's Ami just about merits being described as a 'car', though is legally classed as a 'quadricycle'. At less than £8k, it's the cheapest new 'car' on sale

As anyone who regularly reads the articles in the Irish News car section will know, the price of new cars has rocketed over the last few years.

In 2018, the average new car cost just over £27k. Today, it’s £40k. The cheapest and most Spartan versions of mainstream family cars - something like a Nissan Qashqai or Volkswagen Golf - won’t give you any change from £27k.

The popularity of SUVs and crossovers has allowed manufacturers to jack up prices - and profits - while increased complexity has driven up the cost of engineering and building cars. Electrification doesn’t come cheap, and electric cars’ batteries are still eye-wateringly expensive.

Few people are fortunate enough to have £40k sitting around to spend on a brand new car, so steeper list prices tend to steer customers towards finance schemes and loans.

If you still want to get that new car smell on a budget, there are a handful of models with stickers of £15k and under. They’re all compromised in some way compared to what you might get for £10k more - mainly because they are small or long-in-the-tooth - but each offers affordable motoring that can put a smile on your face.

Citroen Ami
Citroen Ami

1. Citroen Ami - £7,695

It might stretch most people’s definition of ‘car’ but there is nothing on four wheels with doors and a roof that can be had box-fresh from the factory for fewer pounds and pennies than Citroen’s quirky Ami.

It’s electric, has a top speed - though ‘speed’ is doing a lot of lifting here - of 28mph and is about half the size of a normal parking space.

Citroen Ami
Citroen Ami

Citroen says two adults measuring 6ft 5ins tall can sit side by side, and the goldfish bowl glazing means they’ll have a good view of the queue of traffic as it builds up behind them. Range is 46 miles. Citroen promises a “serene driving experience”, which sounds highly unlikely. The cheapest version is £7,695, or £99 a month.

Dacia Sandero
Dacia's Sandero is the cheapest new 'real' car you can buy. It's a highly credible offering

2. Dacia Sandero - £13,795

The most affordable real car you can buy is the Dacia Sandero. Indeed, the Sandero has been the cheapest new car on our roads for just over 10 years.

It’s a very credible offering, too. Even at this price you get Bluetooth for your phone and streaming, cruise control and air conditioning. The Sandero is a solid little hatchback with decent space in the back and a useful boot.

It can be had with an unusual ‘bi-fuel’ engine option, capable of running on petrol and LPG.

For another £1,000 you can move from that bargain basement ‘Essential’ trim to the slightly posher ‘Expression’, complete with parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers and an 8-inch infotainment system.

Dacia has built a loyal following for its no-nonsense cars, and it’s easy to see why.

Few people are fortunate enough to have £40k sitting around to spend on a brand new car, so steeper list prices tend to steer customers towards finance schemes and loans… but there are a handful of models with stickers of £15k and under

Citroen C3
If you aren't persuaded by an Ami, Citroen has another cheap car for you to consider in the form of the soft-cornered C3

3. Citroen C3 - £13,995

If you’re after a cheap car, Citroen really wants to be in the conversation. And if the Ami isn’t for you - and let’s face it, it probably won’t be - then the C3 hatchback may be more up your boulevard or rue.

It has been around for a while - the C3 arrived here in 2016 - but its individualistic styling means it hasn’t really dated.

That £13,995 buys a C3 in You! trim - Citroen insists on the exclamation mark, which makes it sound like the car is shouting. Maybe that’s because it’s so excited at being both affordable and loaded with exclamatory gadgets like LED headlights, air conditioning, DAB radio, Bluetooth and a touchscreen.

Its little 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine is smooth and characterful, though with just 80bhp on tap is hardly a ball of fire.

Nonetheless, it’s arguably got a sparkier personality than the more sober Sandero. There are more expensive versions of the C3 to be had, but the You! makes the most sense.

MG 3
The MG 3 is cheap, and never really lets you forget it

4. MG3 - £14,320

MG, in its latest iteration, is earning a deserved reputation for its electric cars, with the MG4 perhaps the best pound-for-pound EV on sale today.

It also makes the MG3 feel ancient. It’s been around forever and feels like a throwback of several generations. It’s tinny, noisy and the interior feels like its assembled from the cheapest materials the Chinese manufacturer could find.

Push past that, and the MG is actually good fun to drive, though not to the extent that you can overlook its shortcomings. A new MG3 arrives soon - if you must have an MG, wait for it, or go electric…

Fiat Panda
Cheap, cheerful and loaded with character, the Fiat Panda is small but practical. It's a favourite with nuns, especially now that Nissan has stopped selling the Micra (MAX SAROTTO)

5. Fiat Panda - £14,740

For less than £15k you can get yourself a brand new example of a genuine motoring icon. The Panda has always juggled utilitarianism with a sense of fun, and although this generation of the little car has been around for over a decade, its purity of purpose means it remains relevant.

There’s only one engine these days - a three-cylinder 1.0-litre unit with a mild-hybrid system - and because it makes only 70bhp, performance is what might be best described as leisurely. Still, this is an enjoyable car to drive.

And while it might be tiny, the Panda is thoroughly practical and well equipped, coming loaded with air conditioning, Bluetooth, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and roof bars.

Kia Picanto
A seven-year warranty is just one of the plus-points of Kia's dinky Picanto

6. Kia Picanto - £15,020

Breaching the £15k threshold by a mere £20 is the Kia Picanto. It’s a tiny car with a decent amount of big car tech on board, and is probably the most modern feeling of the cars on this list.

Kia’s seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty should catch your attention too. It’s solidly built and easy to operate, and gives you air conditioning, electric windows front and back and steering wheel mounted audio controls.

For this price you’re getting ‘2′ trim, which is hardly luxurious - you’ll need to go to £16,525 for ‘3′ specification to get more toys - but it still feels like a decent amount of car for not a lot of money.