The term 'old banger' gets thrown around a little too liberally for our liking. We're not convinced that, by paying a relatively tiny amount for a car, you'll be destined to a life of misfires, depression, and standing in the rain awaiting the AA man.

So we thought we'd put our money where our mouths are and after much scouring of the classifieds, we've come up with five cars you'd be mad not to take a punt at for £500.


Alfa Romeo 156

Alfa Romeo aren't exactly renowned for reliability, but what they can do is produce something with soul. That's why the 156 gets a mention - it works perfectly well as a comfy 4-door saloon, but without subjecting you to the inherent feel of 'minicab' you'll receive from other manufacturer's offerings. Does it look like a £500 car to you? Thought not.

Citroen Xantia Activa

If you're wondering why on earth a dreary-looking Xantia has ended up in this list, do read on. This is the Activa, and that makes it rather special. This £500 lump of '90s France was the first production car ever to be fitted with active suspension - a system that actively counters body roll through electronics. So, as well as owning a decidedly under-appreciated classic, you'll also enjoy the benefits of eerily flat cornering even at even slightly silly speeds.

Ford Puma

We couldn't have possibly written this list and not included the Puma. With Fiesta underpinnings in a sharp new suit, the Puma was a huge success for Ford in the late 90s - and now it's paying off for used buyers. You'll be tripping over examples of the superb-to-drive coupe and its excellent 1.7-litre engine for this price.


Mazda MX-3

Mazda's popular MX-5 roadster might be a tad out of budget, but its less known MX-3 coupe manages to sneak into our budget quite easily. £500 should easily find you a 1.5 or 1.6 model, but aim for the 1.8 - back in the day this was the smallest V6 ever fitted to a production car, and we think that's worth a boast.


Peugeot 306 XSI

It's hard to remember a Britain without the Ford Focus, but before 1998 it was Peugeot's 306 that held the crown for best handling hatchback. The 165bhp GTI-6 version is slightly out of budget, but you can still grab yourself a perfectly tidy XSI with a not-at-all-shabby 134bhp. We're tempted.

Have you got any recommendations? Let us know what would be in your list by posting your comments below.