Best Japanese cars

Japanese cars have evolved over the years to offer competitive and reliable alternatives to the European makers. Thanks to affordability, they're also a hot favourite in the used-car market, where you can often find high-quality second-hand Japanese cars for sale. Read on to find out which cars top the charts.

White Honda Civic

1. Honda Civic

First made available in 1972, the Honda Civic, which is currently in its tenth generation, has garnered an incredible reputation for reliability and comfort. With stylish designs that keep up with market trends, this Japanese car brings efficient and economical engines with a smooth ride to charm the UK market. Superbly combining the best bits of a hatchback and coupe, the Civic remains a top-seller for Honda to this day.

Blue Nissan Qashqai

2. Nissan Qashqai

Among the best affordable Japanese cars, the Nissan Qashqai is a trailblazer in the crossover segment. Thanks to incredible practicality, great driving comfort and lots of standard equipment, it’s long been a favourite for family-car buyers in the UK. The later generations brought in sharper styling to keep up with competition, while plenty of trims and engine choices make it easy to customise. Great reliability and efficient engines clinch the deal for this popular model from Japan.

Blue nissan note

3. Nissan Note

The Note brings compact practicality to the city car segment. Although it’s not as fun to drive as other superminis, economical engines with an affordable price tag make it a strong contender. Trim choices are pragmatic, allowing you to enjoy maximum comfort without stretching the budget (especially as a used find). Easy to drive and park yet spacious and comfortable, the Nissan Note ticks all the right boxes for an urban runabout.

White Honda Jazz

4. Honda Jazz

Similar to the Nissan Note, the Honda Jazz also brings oodles of space and comfort to the supermini segment. The edgy style matches its nippy handling and performance. The most popular engine is the 1.4-litre i-VTEC petrol which delivers a decent 50 mpg. A hybrid model has also been added to the range. Although engine choice is minimal, incredible reliability and a range of trim options make the Jazz a top find in the city car market.

Red Toyota Yaris

5. Toyota Yaris

A global success from Japanese manufacturer Toyota, the Yaris was one of the first in the electric car segment. As a small hatchback, it’s great as a city car that you occasionally take out on the motorways. Even older models come fitted with a digital instrument cluster, making for a feature-packed interior with decent build quality. If you’re looking for an efficient automatic car, the Yaris is one of the top-performers, delivering 65-68 mpg.

Silver mazda2

6. Mazda2

A brilliant five-door supermini, the Mazda2 brings comfortable interiors and driving to a compact package. A choice of five trim levels and two mild-hybrid engines means its easy to personalise to your needs. With the Skyactiv-G engine, you also get a decent mileage of 53.3 mpg. Although it’s more expensive to buy than alternatives in the market, it’s cheap to run and insure and comes with lots of standard equipment even in base-level models. Well-equipped interiors and the good build quality mean you get a reliable car that can last you for years without feeling aged.

Red Lexus IS

7. Lexus IS

Looking for a luxury executive saloon that uses a unique formula to stand apart from German rivals? The IS from Japan’s Lexus hits the mark. It uses a variation of the tried-and-tested hybrid powertrain from the Prius to deliver efficient engines with low emissions. This means it’s not only competitively priced but also cheaper to run and insure. Sharp styling and plenty of kit with classy interiors make the IS a joy to own – no wonder it performs consistently well on driver satisfaction surveys.

Orange Suzuki Swift

8. Suzuki Swift

Bringing great performance and economic engines in a good-looking package, the Suzuki Swift is a solid choice in the supermini segment and is among the top-selling Suzukis in the UK. With five trims and two petrol units to choose from, there’s good room for personalisation too. There’s also a very well-received Sport variant with 4×4 for those who want a bit more punch. The Swift offers low running costs and an entertaining ride to stand tall against rivals like the Hyundai i10.

Brown toyota rav4

9. Toyota RAV4

Bringing hybrid power to the SUV segment, the RAV4 is a stunningly good-looking choice that scores well on practicality too. Expect a smooth ride, well-built interiors and plenty of space with this Toyota. Although not class leading, the hybrid engines deliver decent efficiency in the range of 48.7 mpg to 50.4 mpg. Clever tech and a choice of four trims make this an appealing and reliable alternative in the segment.

Red nissan leaf

10. Nissan Leaf

If there’s one example to show that Japan knows what it’s doing with electric cars, the all-electric Nissan leaf is it. Small, comfortable and easy to drive around town, the Leaf is tailor-made for the city streets. Its e-Pedal system allows you to drive with just the accelerator, meaning it’s even more user-friendly. If you’re sold on an electric but just want a bit more day-to-day comfort and distance, go with the e+, which offers a good range of 239 miles.

Be it practical superminis or luxury saloons, Japanese cars have a great reputation for affordable and reliable transportation. Head over to Gumtree’s listings page to find the right car near you.

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