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by Matt Campbell

Jas is on a tight budget, looking for a new or ex-demonstrator car with practicality and a compact footprint.

Doing what we do, CarAdvice writers are often asked by friends and family, and through our contact pageWhich car is best for me?

Most buyers can identify the top three non-negotiable factors that will guide their purchase decision. But… where to from there?

In this series, we look at these cases and single out three cars that fit the brief. If there are more than three, we’ll highlight the three models that have scored well in past CarAdvice reviews.


There are plenty of benefits when it comes to buying a brand new car, and ownership peace of mind is one of the most critical – especially if you’re on a tight budget.

That’s the situation for Jas, who wrote in to us to help find the right car for her.

She is on a budget, wants a new or demo car, and has a fair idea of the sort of practicality she expects from the vehicle.

Further, this won’t just be a city run-around – Jas has told us that she will be doing plenty of kilometres across urban and country roads.

As a result, we’ve come up with the three main criteria for Jas’s version of the Shortlist:

  • New or demo car with four doors or more
  • Must be four-cylinder automatic
  • A budget of $15,000

That price-tag puts a lot of options on the table – surprising, perhaps, that there are so many options available out there for $15,000 or less. But we’re looking beyond list pricing this time around – drive-away deals are rife for micro and light cars, and there are plenty of new and demo models to choose from.

For instance, Jas could look at a demo version of a Toyota Yaris – which is exactly what a friend of mine did recently, when shopping for exactly the same sort of car. My friend got a ripper deal on the demo Yaris off the showroom floor – $15,000 on the road for a base model auto.

There are other deals to be had from fellow big-name brands: a Honda Jazz VTi auto could be sourced for about the $15,000 mark, and if Jas has a big need for cabin space or practicality, she could do worse than that car.

Another option could be a Suzuki Celerio, though it has a three-cylinder engine, not a four-pot: but with pricing from as low as $12,000 with an automatic, perhaps it’s worth noting. There’s also the Mitsubishi Mirage … but, nahhhhh.

In the end, we’ve narrowed it down to three options that we think could be just what Jas is looking for, and because we’re safety-conscious, all three have airbag coverage for those in the front and the back seats. Here is the Shortlist.


Holden Spark

It ticks all the boxes.

The Holden Spark has a 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic, with easily enough grunt (73kW of power and 128Nm of torque) for adventures around town or out and about.

And it has the four-door (or five-door, in traditional hatchback terminology) layout that Jas wants. In fact, the five-seat layout of the cabin is roomy, but the boot is a bit tight, at just 185 litres.

An added bonus of the Spark is its 7.0-inch touchscreen media system with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity.

But if Jas ends up going for the entry-level LS model, she’ll want to be sure the ‘driver assistance pack’ is included: it adds cruise control, a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors.

The big benefit of the Spark is that it has been tailored to suit local conditions by the same guys and girls that worked on the Commodore and other big country nameplates – so if road trips outside the city limits are a regular thing, the surety and assuredness of the smallest Holden model’s handling should stand it in good stead.

You can easily find 2016-plate examples, with the automatic transmission, for well under the $15,000 mark – in some cases, below $11,000 with demo kilometres on the clock.

There’s a great range of colours available to choose from, but the long-term ownership cred of the Spark is a bit lower than its rivals, with a short three-year/100,000km warranty. It also has up to three years’ roadside assist (if you service it with Holden, otherwise it’s just one year) and lifetime capped-price servicing.

MORE: Spark news, reviews, comparisons and videos
MORE: Everything Holden


Kia Picanto – old and new

This is another one that ticks all the boxes – and Jas has the choice of two generations of car with the smallest Kia on sale.

She could look at the 2016 version of the Picanto, which only stayed on sale for a bit over a year, and can be had for as little as $11,000 with low kilometres or $14,000 with no kilometres.

Or she could choose the updated and revamped 2017 model, which can also be found for about $15,000 drive-away for the automatic, but this version gets a better media system including a touchscreen with smartphone mirroring tech, a rear-view camera.

The boot of the Kia is bigger than the Spark, if that’s a priority, at 255L in the newest guise and 200L in the previous version.

The Kia – in both generations – saw a comprehensive local suspension and steering tune to make the tiny little hatch deal with our big Aussie road conditions. And it does exactly that.

We will say, though, that the manual version of the Picanto is better than the auto, because the latter can feel a little sluggish, while the stick-shift model is far more involving to drive, as it makes the most of the 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine’s slim 63kW of power and 120Nm of torque (almost the same outputs as the 2017 version, which runs the same engine but has 62kW and 122Nm).

The best bit about the Kia is that it is covered by the most comprehensive new-car warranty on the market: seven years/unlimited kilometres of cover, plus the same cover for roadside assistance and it has a capped-price servicing program that spans the same period.

The benefits are two-fold: it’s great peace of mind for the first person who buys it, and the ownership cover can be passed on to the next owner – so if Jas kept the Kia for four years, she’d be able to sell it on with, essentially, the industry-standard warranty.

MORE: Picanto news, reviews, comparisons and videos
MORE: Everything Kia


Hyundai Accent

Now, this one is a bit of a wildcard, but if Jas really wants to prioritise space over anything else, she really should have a look at the Hyundai Accent.

The Korean brand has streamlined its offering in the light car class recently, leading to the Active and SR models being axed in favour of the single Sport version.

That means, though, you might still find deals on old stock of the 1.4-litre Active (which was going for $14,990 with an auto) or 1.6-litre SR (at times seen for $16,990 with auto). There’s a fair gulf in terms of power – the SR 90kW and 156Nm, where the Active has 74kW/133Nm.

The new $17,490 (auto) Accent Sport makes use of the bigger engine, and ups its outputs to 103kW and 167Nm, which will most certainly assist it on those open-road trips, and the new spec model has a 5.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay. But, contrarily, it lacks the city-friendly rear-view camera, even as an option.

And, like I mentioned, this is a bigger car than the Picanto and Spark, with a boot that is huge by light car standards at 370 litres (that’s bigger than some cars in the class above) and it has more back seat space.

The Accent benefits from a lifetime service plan with capped-price maintenance for life if you service it with Hyundai, not to mention 10 years of roadside assist. It also has a handy five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

MORE: Accent news, reviews, comparisons and videos
MORE: Everything Hyundai

Want more of The Shortlist? Catch the growing series here. 

What are you looking for? Get our help here.




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