Doing what we do, CarAdvice writers are often asked by friends and family, and through our contact page: which 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
Alfred needs a new commuter car for his young family, and he's got a pretty modest budget in order to secure his new ride.
He, his wife and his young child need a car that will be suited to the daily drive to work, the stop-and-drop at daycare, and the occasional longer road trip. There's a budget of just $18,000 for the car.
Alfred has a pretty specific list of criteria he needs the new runabout to satisfy, as well:
- Must have a relatively spacious storage area
- Must have a rear-view camera and parking sensors at the back
- It needs to be fuel efficient
Hmmmm, at first glance I thought this would be nigh-on impossible to hit, particularly the one about space. But there are options out there that meet Alfred's needs, if he's willing to compromise a bit on roominess.
He'll probably have to shop around, too, based on the budget. But there's nothing wrong with knowing your limits, and with the light and micro car segments struggling, there are plenty of dealers with excess stock that are ready to do deals.
I mean, he could easily go and get himself a Holden Spark LS with the automatic transmission at $15,990 drive-away, option up the Driver Assist pack (with camera, rear sensors and cruise control) for $550, and under budget he would meet two of the three criteria. But the Spark is tight on space, with a boot that is just 185 litres - that's tiny, even by tiny car standards.
Another choice we'd readily recommend would be the Honda Jazz VTi auto, which he could easily get below $18,000 despite the company listing the auto model at more than $19K on the road. He'd have to get rear parking sensors added at the dealership, but that wouldn't be too high a cost - in fact, if he looks around at different dealers, some cars in stock may already have that option box ticked. We thoroughly recommend a Jazz as a practical city hatchback, but we've chosen a sibling Honda model as one of our top three choices.
The 2017 Hyundai Accent Sport hatchback would tick the box for space and affordability ($17,490 plus on-roads for the auto), but it doesn't have a camera or sensors fitted, nor available, for that matter.
Then there's the option of a demonstrator car, maybe a late 2015 or 2016 model that's been sitting on grass or the edge of the dealership lot for months on end. We know, for instance, there are great cars like the Ford Focus Ambiente with an automatic transmission out there for close to what Alfred is looking to spend.
But, we wanted to keep it to new cars - because nothing beats that new-car feeling, not to mention the ownership benefits of being the first person to register the car - warranty, servicing plans and whatnot.
Without further ado, here is Alfred's instalment of The Shortlist.
Kia Rio S
While we've been critical of the new-generation Rio for its higher pricing and lacklustre drivetrain, for buyers like Alfred who need equipment and space as a priority over driving enjoyment, this could be perfect.
The base model Rio S automatic comes with a 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (with 74kW of power and 134Nm of torque) and a four-speed automatic, which doesn't endow it with a lot of punch, but it does have a good fuel consumption claim, of just 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres.
The Kia light car offering is one of the larger light cars in the class, with a back seat that is certainly large enough for a youngster in a child-seat or an adult, if need be. The boot, too, is big, at 321 litres, which is among the best in the class.
The list price for a Rio S auto is $19,090 plus on-road costs, but a cautionary glance at some dealer ads suggests a more realistic price-tag of $17K drive-away can be expected, which is pretty sharp considering the Rio S has a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors, not to mention a touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
We seem to mention it all the time, but for buyers who know they're going to spend a lot of time in their car, Kia's terrific ownership plan cannot be beaten. The Korean brand offers a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with seven years' capped-price servicing, and a seven-year roadside assist plan if you maintain your car at a Kia dealer (servicing due every 12 months or 15,000km). It's clearly enough to get people to consider the brand, as it is selling new cars at a record pace this year.
MORE: Everything Kia
Honda City VTi
Because we wanted to offer an alternative to a hatchback, we've gone with Honda's compact sedan, the City. No, it doesn't have the Jazz's brilliant Magic Seats, but it does offer immense practicality for such a little car.
We're talking a boot that has 536 litres of cargo capacity, which is more than most sedans in the next segment up, not to mention SUVs that cost three times as much as this thing does. On that topic, you can get a City VTi auto for $17,990 plus on-road costs (that's the official price, but you'll get one at that price, drive-away, if you haggle at the dealer). Like the Jazz, though, Alfred will need to get rear parking sensors fitted at the dealer, at a nominal cost.
The VTi model has a perkier 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine than the Rio (88kW of power and 145Nm of torque), and while the continuously variable transmission (CVT) auto mightn't be to all tastes, the fuel consumption claim is excellent at 5.8L/100km.
Honda has just introduced a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, so that's some good peace of mind for Alfred and his family, though depending on his commute, he may have to swing by his Honda dealer a bit more often, as maintenance is due every six months or 10,000km.
Still. It's on budget, and betters anything else out there for boot space.
MORE: City news and reviews
MORE: Everything Honda
Kia Picanto S
Our third option is yet another Kia, and it's a bit of a wildcard. The Picanto is about the same size as the Holden Spark we rubbed off the list earlier on, but the Picanto has more practicality on its side.
That's because its boot capacity is a sizeable - well, kind of tiny, but good for the dimensions of the car - 255L, so it will very much require some Tetris master packing skills for those longer trips away for Alfred and his family.
But it is welllllll under budget, with a Picanto S auto costing as little as $15,690 drive-away, and it comes well equipped for that cost, too. Like the Rio it has a touchscreen media system with the latest smartphone smarts, not to mention autonomous emergency braking, a rear-view camera and standard-fit rear parking sensors. Bonus!
Yep, the same wallet-friendly ownership experience is promised, and the Picanto's little 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine offers up relatively lively response given its unassuming outputs of 62kW of power and 122Nm of torque, and it has a four-speed automatic, just like the base Rio.
It's not that much less powerful than the Rio, so Alfred will really need to decide if space is more important than punch if he chooses to take a Kia home from a showroom.
MORE: Everything Kia
Want more of The Shortlist? Catch the growing series here.