Top ten: Best autos for under £20,000

Top ten: Best autos for under £20,000
Top ten: Best autos for under £20,000

Do you need a big budget to get a smooth operator? Not if you read this guide

Time was when automatic transmissions were big and heavy and expensive, so they were usually only found on big, heavy and expensive cars. When they started to filter down to more mainstream cars they brought with them weight and consequently poor running costs. But that was then.

Now automatic transmissions are increasingly clever, to the extent that some cars can hit 62mph faster, and with lower emissions, with automatic gearboxes than with a manual box. So, bearing that in mind, which cars under £20k represent the best combination of engine and transmission?

10. Hyundai i10 1.2 Premium SE Auto

Hyundai i10

List price: £13,760
A small car with, in this company, a small price tag too, but you get a lot of interior space filled with lots of kit. It’s an award-winning city car with a 1.2-litre engine that is quite potent enough.

9. Skoda Yeti 1.2 TSI S DSG

Skoda Yeti

List price: £18,870
Still very good value, but bear in mind it is being replaced at the end of this year, so that will affect residuals. The Yeti is still on sale because it’s hugely popular. That’s down to a winning combination of a good driving experience, excellent cabin space, a quirky style to go with the name and, with this 1.2-litre turbo engine, a fair bit of performance too.

8. Suzuki Vitara 1.6 SZ-T auto

Suzuki Vitara

List price: £18,099
Suzuki has been making small SUVs for a long time and its knowledge shows in this latest Vitara. Despite its height, it handles and rides well, and there’s ample space in the cabin. However, we have to point out that actually it’s the manual version that is more efficient in this case.

7. Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost 100 Zetec Powershift 5dr

Ford Fiesta

List price: £16,905
The 1.0-litre turbocharged engine works really smoothly with the Powershift auto box in this ever-popular hatchback. With the desirable Zetec trim the price edges over £15k but Ford dealers are usually open to a haggle – particularly when there’s a new model arriving in July this year.

6. Renault Clio 1.5 dCi Dynamique Nav Auto

Renault Clio

List price: £18,075
If you fancy a fairly hot hatch and think the Fiesta lacks style, then the iconic French hatchback is worth a good look. The Clio we prefer has the auto box to go with the remarkably efficient 1.5-litre diesel engine. Combine that with this trim and you get sat nav too.

5. Seat Leon 1.4 EcoTSI FR Technology 5dr DSG

Seat Leon

Target price: £19,301
The list price of this Leon is over our £20k budget, but if you can’t get it below that limit then, frankly, you’re not trying. The handsome and stylish Leon is a great family hatch and works well with the VW Group’s DSG twin-clutch auto transmission.

4. Vauxhall Astra 1.4T 150 Tech Line auto

Vauxhall Astra

List price: £19,635
Horses for courses. If you want the 1.0-litre Astra then we’d suggest the manual gearbox as the best partner, but if you want the auto transmission then the 1.4-litre petrol engine is the preferred partner. Fairly quick, well kitted out, with decent handling and ride, the Tech Line adds in a bundle of extra kit as well.

3. VW Polo 1.2 TSI 90 Match DSG 5dr

VW Polo

List price: £16,555
This is like a Golf, distilled. It makes a decent city car as well as a runabout for those outside the city limits. The DSG transmission makes things easy in the city and adds to the car’s luxurious, easygoing character out of town.

2. Skoda Fabia 1.0 TSI 110 DSG

Skoda Fabia

List price: £15,925
The second Skoda on the list – will it be the last? View the Fabia as another version of the VW Group’s Polo, but this time as an even better all-rounder for even better money. Great engines, ride, cabin, infotainment, residual values – the list goes on.

1. Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI 115 DSG

Skoda Octavia

List price: £18,445
Third time lucky for Skoda in this top ten listing. The large hatchback may not be the last word in style with those strange headlights, but it has immense space in the cabin (even more in estate version). While the 1.0-litre turbo engine we’ve chosen may seem a bit small to pull not only such a big car but also power the DSG auto transmission, you’ll be surprised at how competently it manages. Try a test drive and see we’re right!

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