Best-kept secrets: the used cars that you should buy now

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There are great bargains in all categories, but which models are worth seeking out due to their relative rarity combined with superb value for money?

When judging what makes a good used car, one of the factors we often keep in mind is just how easy it is to get hold of a good example. If a particular model is ubiquitous, such as the Ford Fiesta or BMW 3-series, that’s in its favour; after all, if you can find three to choose from on your doorstep, that’s going to be far more appealing than driving 100 miles to the nearest example, only to find out it’s a bit of a duffer.

Having said that, there are some used cars out there that are worth rifling through the classifieds to find. Whole model ranges that might have been fabulous when they were new, but simply didn’t catch on with the buying public, maybe, or perhaps simply unpopular versions which are super-rare on the used market; cars, in short, that are worth seeking out despite their rarity.

Here are five of our favourites, presented in time-honoured reverse order.

5. Mazda CX-7 2.2d

So you’ve decided to give in to societal pressure and get yourself a big, spacious SUV in order to carry the kids and all their clobber. Trouble is, you don’t really want one. Well, here’s a solution. The Mazda CX-7 was first launched in 2007 with a 2.3-litre petrol engine, but as you might expect, was spurned by buyers thanks to its apocalyptic fuel consumption.

By 2009, Mazda had got the message, and the CX-7 received the 2.2-litre diesel engine it arguably should have had all along. Trouble was, by this time its reputation was sealed. That meant relatively few people bought one – and they missed out on the CX-7’s terrific handling, sleek styling and beautiful manual gearbox.

Diesel SUVs simply don’t come sportier than this – so if you need such a thing in your life, the CX-7 is a great place to start. If, that is, you can find one.

Buy because: You need an SUV, but don’t want one.

Don’t buy because: The ride’s a bit firm for some people.

Price from: £4,000

4. Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce

Sadly, relatively few new buyers are choosing the potent Veloce version of Alfa Romeo’s new Giulia saloon. That’s a pity, because it’s endowed with a terrific engine, a fabulous chassis and a rather lovely interior. The Giulia is also surprisingly practical, and if you buy one built after 1 July 2018, it’ll come with a five-year warranty, which should bring with it some peace of mind. 

If you’re in the market for a petrol-powered executive saloon with a bit of poke, of course, you could go for something with a BMW, Audi or Mercedes badge on it. But if you want such a thing, surely you also want something a little more characterful than your usual German three-box. The Giulia Veloce is it. 

Buy because: You want a fast, fun saloon that’s laden with character.

Don’t buy because: There still a fair bit of a depreciation hit left to take.

Price from: £24,000

3. Peugeot 308 GTi

It might have been subsumed by the hype surrounding the Ford Focus RS, Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf R – but don’t write off the Peugeot 308 GTi. This is a car which falls halfway between those hyper-hatch rivals and the more urbane Golf GTI, making it a perfect compromise for many buyers – most of whom, sadly, are barely aware of its existence. 

The 308 GTi has its faults, mind you. The sluggish infotainment system isn’t very good, the back seats are quite cramped and the odd high-mounted dials won’t be to everyone’s taste. However, as a driving experience the GTI is terrific, with quick, well-weighted steering, an agile chassis that lets you exploit all the grip on offer, and seriously punchy performance. It also happens to cut a more sophisticated dash than some of its wilder rivals.

Throw in the fact its obscurity has caused values to plummet, rendering terrific value second-hand, and you’ve a seriously tempting used buy.

Buy because: You want a restrained hot hatchback that’s different to the norm.

Don’t buy because: You want something with a bit more oomph.

Price from: £13,000

2. Honda CR-Z

Don’t bother with that Audi TT. The Honda CR-Z is by far a more interesting choice. It’s the only hybrid car we can think of that comes with a manual gearbox, for starters – and what a gearbox, too, as sweet as you’d expect from Honda’s performance machinery of old. 

It’s just one reason the CR-Z is more special than people gave it credit for when it was new. OK, the CR-Z might not look that quick on paper – but don’t be fooled by the performance figures. The CR-Z is an absolute hoot to drive, with a beautifully deft chassis that feels light on its feet. And because it’s a hybrid, it’s also way more economical than you might imagine, with a combined fuel consumption figure of 53.5mpg.

Not bad for a sport little coupé you can now pick up this cheaply!

Buy because: A fun, cute coupe that’s also reliable and cheap to buy and run? Why wouldn’t you?

Don’t buy because: You prefer scintillating straight-line performance, maybe?

Price from: £3,000

1. Kia Stinger

Our appreciation of the Kia Stinger has been well-documented – motoring editor Paul Hudson came away from his spell with a brand-new example overflowing with praise. But on the used market, the Stinger gets even more tempting. A couple of years of age will have taken the sting (sorry) out of the depreciation these big, swoopy four-door cars suffer, and at these prices the Stinger looks like fabulous value.

The 2.0-litre turbo petrol is probably a better buy than the 2.2-litre diesel, but it’s the range-topping GT-S that’s the best of the bunch, with a truly magnificent turbocharged 3.3-litre V6 engine that hurls it to 62mph in just 4.7 seconds, and with handling to match.

The best part, though, is that not only is the Stinger beautifully built, good to drive, comfortable and excellent value – but it also comes with the balance of a seven-year warranty. So if you buy a two-year-old Stinger, it’ll still have five years’ warranty left, rather than the one you’d have if you bought a rival. 

Buy one because: It’s a handsome four-door saloon that’s great to drive and long of warranty.

Don’t buy one because: You can’t get past the badge.

Price from: £25,000

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