Posted 13 June 2009 - 04:47 PM
Noting that you mentioned all "sub-compact" models (what we refer to them as here in the USA, unsure what you call them in the UK). I'm more inclined to the TDI VW's (Rabbit's and Jetta's here) 40+mpg and a descent amount of power and good ride. 1999 was a good year for the American Jetta TDI. also note these cars are very durable and the basic powerplant (the base engine, block, pistons, crankshaft, etc, which is very similar to the older 70s-80s model VW Diesel) has been known to go up to 1,000,000 miles before overhauling (not too shabby, most gasoline engines are doomed to be overhauled at 250,000 miles).
But price has more to do with buying a car than anything. Set a price range for what you want to pay and stick with it. And never pay more than Kelly Blue Book (or UK equivalent) value for a car (aftermarket parts actually bring the price down on used cars in most cases, spray-in truck bedliners are the exception to the rule)