Best cars for short journeys

Short journeys needn't mean you should be short-changed on your next car. Here is a selection of affordable models perfect for briefer trips

James Wilson
May 18, 2022

Some drivers only ever do short journeys, whether that's because they take a different form of transport for longer trips or simply stay close to home. Whether you're after a second car to nip to the shops or collect the kids from school, short trips - particularly stop-start ones - can be demanding on a car, especially the engine and gearbox. This means that some cars are better suited to lots of short trips than others. Generally speaking, petrol models are better suited to lots of short journeys than diesel ones.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are even more suitable for short journeys. This is partly thanks to the fact that all mainstream EVs come with an automatic gearbox, so there is no need to change gear or worry about stalling when setting off. They are also very quiet with no engine noise and are typically at their most efficient around town.

Driving at relatively slow town speeds and in stop-start traffic helps an electric car get as close as possible to its official range figure. This means that you shouldn't need to worry about charging the car when out and about - especially if you're predominantly doing short trips. If you can charge at home, this means you'd never even need to think about topping up when away from home - as you would with a petrol or diesel car.

The reason EVs are particularly efficient in stop-start traffic is that electric cars use something called ‘regenerative braking’ to slow down the vehicle and recoup energy that would otherwise be wasted. If an electric car isn't practical for you - potentially because you can't charge at home or nearby - you may also want to consider hybrid models for short journeys.

Plug-in hybrids (often referred to as ‘PHEVs’) have the longest electric range of any hybrid and can typically travel between 25 and 40 miles on a full battery. PHEVs do need charging regularly to make financial sense though, as they are far less efficient once the battery is drained and the petrol or diesel engine is relied upon more heavily.

The other type of hybrids worth considering are referred to as ‘self-charging hybrids’. These do not need charging as the batteries are smaller and predominantly help out the petrol or diesel engine rather than powering the car for any distance themselves. Of the cars listed below, there are two electric cars, two plug-in hybrids, two traditional hybrids and two petrol options. Prices for the second-hand models here typically range from less than £7,000 to around £25,000 on BuyaCar.

Best cars for short journeys

1. Mini Electric

Our pick Mini Electric Level 2
Used deals Limited stock

The Mini Electric is the perfect urban car for many drivers thanks to its small proportions, fashionable image and whisper-quiet electric motor. The quality of the cabin is also very high and a lot of Mini drivers like the funky looks of the interior. At first, the Mini appears to have quite a low range - officially it's rated at 145 miles but you can expect to achieve closer to 100-120 miles with everyday journeys.

The main reason the Mini Electric has a shorter range is due to having a relatively small battery, which for those doing short trips can actually be a benefit. This is because the smaller a battery is, the less time it should take to charge and the cheaper and lighter a car can be, and the more efficient, too. Additionally, drivers doing low daily mileages could find that a 100-mile range could last most of the week, if not more, anyway.


2. Hyundai Kona Electric

Our pick Hyundai Kona Electric 39kWh Premium
Used deals Limited stock

The Hyundai Kona is classed as a crossover, as is it a cross between a larger SUV (such as the Nissan Qashqai) and a smaller hatchback (like the Ford Fiesta). This blend of big and small has become increasingly popular as many drivers like the slightly higher driving position but relatively low running costs. Having a higher driver’s seat can help with judging where the edges of the bodywork are - handy when parking - and also when getting in and out of a car.

What makes the Kona Electric so special is the combination of affordability and impressive battery range, which few electric cars can compete with. There are two battery options, one is rated at 39kWh, the other 64kWh - with kWh being the unit battery size is measured in. The 39kWh version has a range of up to 189 miles, the 64kWh up to 300 miles. The smaller battery should serve most town drivers very well - and models with this one should be cheaper - while those who want to do occasional long journeys may value the 64kWh option.


3. Renault Captur

Our pick Renault Captur 1.0 TCe Iconic
Used deals from £7,100

Ever since the first Renault Captur arrived in 2013 it has captured the hearts of many drivers. This is because this small SUV is compact but relatively practical, affordable and generally well equipped. The second-generation Captur scores particularly well for space and standard equipment, with features such as smartphone mirroring software like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available.

Although there are petrol and diesel Captur models, it is the plug-in hybrid version that is best suited for lots of short journeys - just make sure you charge regularly to get the maximum benefit of the electric motor and cut your fuel bills as much as possible. PHEV models are amongst the most expensive Captur variants and if your budget won’t quite stretch to one then a 0.9-litre or 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol model is the next best option.


4. Hyundai Ioniq PHEV

Our pick Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDi PHEV Premium SE
Used deals from £16,350

With an official range of 39 miles using battery power alone, the Hyundai Ioniq PHEV should offer enough range to handle most commutes without the petrol engine having to burn a drop of fuel - provided you leave home with a full battery. Like with all mainstream plug-in hybrids, every Ioniq PHEV comes with an automatic gearbox, which helps make town driving less demanding. The Ioniq also includes plenty of standard equipment.

Another perk to driving a Hyundai is that every model comes with an unlimited mileage, five-year warranty, which is longer than the standard cover offered by premium brands such as Mercedes and Audi and means that even if you choose a two-year-old car, you'll still have the same length of manufacturer warranty as many much more expensive cars. When it comes to batteries, there is an even longer warranty that lasts for eight years or 125,000 miles, although this level of cover for batteries is common with most car makers.


5. Toyota Corolla

Our pick Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid Design
Used deals from £14,650

Toyota makes the Corolla in hatchback and estate form; the estate offers a bigger boot, while the hatchback is cheaper. If you regularly carry a large dog, or load the boot up with luggage, the estate - known as the 'Touring Sports' may be a wise choice, though even the standard car is more than practical enough for many drivers.

One weaker area of the Corolla is its media system, as this is not as slick as some of those in rival models. There is a way around this, though, and that is using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to mirror your phone, removing the need to use Toyota’s own software. Meanwhile, one area where Toyota is leading the pack is warranty cover; as long as you get your car serviced at an official Toyota garage every year, the warranty can last for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles.


6. Renault Clio

Renault Clio front view

Our pick Renault Clio 1.0 TCe Iconic
Used deals from £6,000

Small cars like the Renault Clio and Ford Fiesta are incredibly popular in the UK and the Clio hybrid is a cracking car, being smooth, comfortable and refined and almost as economical as a small diesel car. Being that petrol fuel is currently cheaper than diesel in the first place, this should contribute to rock-bottom running costs for the Clio hybrid.

Putting the Clio’s hybrid system to one side, it looks appealing inside and out. In addition, the Clio is a comfortable car for its size and there is plenty of standard equipment. Iconic trim, which is actually one of the more affordable options, comes with upmarket equipment such as a digital driver display. This replaces dials for information such as speed and is normally only standard on more expensive cars or as an optional extra.


7. Skoda Citigo

Our pick Skoda Citigo 1.0 MPI SE
Used deals from £6,000

Even though the Skoda Citigo is the most affordable model on this list, it is by no means the short straw. The Citigo is one of the easiest cars to drive thanks to its small, boxy shape and large windows making it very easy to judge where the extremities of the bodywork are. It's also stylish, simple but appealing on the inside and should be very cheap to run.

Most models are petrol-powered with a manual gearbox, although the clutch pedal and gear change are light, so stop-start driving is no chore. For a brief period of time, Skoda offered an electric Citigo, called the Citigo-e iV, which was claimed to be capable of up to 161 miles of range from a full charge. These are nippy little electric cars but relatively rare.

Inside the Citigo there is space for four people, which is common for a car of this size. If you are looking for a vehicle to learn to drive in, then the Citigo in SE trim is a great option as these qualify for group 1 insurance. Insurance groups are used by companies to calculate annual premiums and the lower the group the lower the premium should be - making this one of the cheapest cars to cover.


8. Vauxhall Corsa

Vauxhall Corsa front three quarters view

Our pick Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 SE
Used deals from £5,249

Depending on your budget there are two options with the Vauxhall Corsa. The previous-generation model, which was made from 2014 to 2020 and the current version, which arrived when the older model ceased production. Both models promise to be cost-effective to run, well equipped and practical. For short journeys we recommend one of the smaller petrol engines (look for a 1.0-litre model if pre-2020 and a 1.2-litre model if post-2020), as these are economical but powerful enough for nippy acceleration in town.

The Corsa has long been used by driving schools, so like the Citigo it's very easy to drive and well suited to urban trips. The standard safety equipment on the Corsa is impressive, with newer models including autonomous emergency braking, which will automatically apply the brakes if the onboard computers think that a crash is imminent. There is also traffic sign recognition, which is useful for sticking to the speed limit when driving on unfamiliar roads.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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