I recently began a new job in Brisbane and due to its location getting to work involves either a 15 min drive each way from home or multiple modes of public transport taking well over an hour (if timed correctly). Until now I have always worked in the city so I have caught public transport to work which has negated the need for a second car. We have three kids aged four and under and our family car is a 2011 Mazda6 Diesel Wagon which we love.
So I decided for the first time that we would need a second car that I would use to get to work and back (and the occasional weekend errand). Since the drive is fairly short, I estimated I would do 5,000km a year.
I created a quick list of things I wanted in a second car:
* Very reliable - won’t break down or need constant repair
* Economical to buy - I would be paying cash and my budget would be about $15,000 in total
* Economical to run - fuel, servicing and insurance
I didn’t have any real requirements about size, power, or features, although I do have to fit in it considering I am 6’5” (195cm) tall. Whilst our Mazda6 has some nice things like rain sensing wipers, auto headlights and dual-zone climate control, I still consider these things luxury so don’t require these in a second car. The only thing I don’t think I could live without after having it in our Mazda6 wagon is Bluetooth phone/audio. Not only is it convenient to stream songs from our iPhones, it’s safe to take calls, and also I have bought a TomTom app on our iPhones which I can use via Bluetooth audio in both cars.
I initially had a look at second-hand cars but I wanted something with low kms so it would still be reliable. I found that most of the second hand cars with low kms (under 40,000) wanted only a few thousand dollars less than the new list price. I could probably bargain these people down (depending on the car), but they probably overpaid in the first place so I don’t think it would be easy. Since I consider myself to have strong bargaining skills I began to look at new cars which I can bargain for more easily.
August 2014 was a good time to be buying a new light car. Most manufacturers were bringing out model refreshes or entirely new models, and my shortlist looked something like this (in no particular order):
* Volkswagen Polo - updated 66TSI model out August 2014
* Honda Jazz - updated model out July 2014
* Mazda2 - all new model out November 2014
* Toyota Yaris - updated model out late 2014
* Hyundai i20 - updated model possibly coming soon
I firstly test drove the two models that had recently released updated models (the Polo and Jazz)
I first drove the 2015 66TSI Polo which was enjoyable to drive with its sweet little turbocharged engine. The base 66TSI model did seem to cut some corners to get it to the $15,990 driveway price including fairly ugly steel wheels and no steering wheel controls etc. Plus any color besides white was an additional $500 and it did require at least 95 premium unleaded to run. But researching the Polo revealed my greatest cause of concern: there were numerous reports raised of its reliability and the South African build quality. Plus servicing costs, whilst only every 12 months or 15,000km, the capped price services are quite expensive for a small car. The first three cost $1330 (averaging $443 per service) but over six years this is $2938 (average $489.67 per service). Whilst I really liked the way the Polo drove, the questionable reliability (which could easily be solved by VW Australia offering 5 or 6 year unlimited warranty to improve customer confidence) and high servicing costs were too much of a turn off.
After this I gave the 2015 Honda Jazz VTi a test drive. I didn’t enjoy the drive as much as the Polo, but some of the standard equipment was better including a reversing camera standard. I found the interior overly busy for my liking (I preferred the Polo) and the servicing was even more than the Polo by requiring six month intervals at $1524 over three years or $2540 over 5 years (which is when Honda Capped Price servicing stops). But the deal-breaker with the Honda was the overly pushy/borderline aggressive salesman who would only tell me his best price if I committed to buying the car then/there on the spot. I said no thank you and politely left.
So I was back to square one. By now I was so keen to get a car so I could dramatically reduce my transit time but the remaining cars on the list (Mazda2, Yaris and i20) didn’t have new models coming till at least November and there were a lot of questions remaining about new pricing. At this time I saw run-out Mazda2 models advertised for $15,990 driveway with free Bluetooth. I saw a 2014 demonstrator Mazda2 Neo Sport on CarSales for $14,488 driveway in black with Bluetooth so I organized a test drive of this particular car.
The Mazda2 test drive went well. I still preferred the drive of the VW Polo, but the Mazda2 had a lot more going for it: 15” alloys over 15” steel wheels, made in Japan over South Africa, standard unleaded over premium unleaded and steering wheel controls. Both cars had Bluetooth although the touch screen on the VW Polo was nicer.
But the biggest things for me about the Mazda2 were the reliability and servicing. Since the Mazda2 had been out for about seven years it had proven to be a very reliable car. Plus, with capped price servicing for life at 10,000 or 12 month intervals this for me meant $814 over three years (average $271 per service) or $1668 over six years (average $278) - which is a lot less than the VW polo at $2938 over the same time period. Whilst the VW polo used less fuel than the Mazda2 (4.8 l/100km vs 6.4 l/100km), it did require premium unleaded which makes it a little less attractive.
Having owned two Mazdas over the last 7 years and never having a single issue with them I must admit I am a little Mazda biased, so I decided I wanted a Mazda2. The biggest question then was to buy the Mazda2 Neo Sport now or wait until (at least) November for the new model (and bear the public transport commute).
Whilst the all new Mazda2 costs were still unknown, I did have a feeling they would be more than the run-out model costs, or things recently standard on the entry level Neo Sport (like alloys) won’t be standard on the new Mazda2 entry level model (much like the new Mazda3 Neo only has steel wheels). And I know that since there will be greater demand (at least initially) for the all new model my bargaining power would be less so I would more likely go over my $15,000 budget. There was also the fact that the all new Mazda2 is Thai built versus the Japanese built models currently sold.
So I decided to buy the run-out 2014 Mazda2 Neo Sport model. Since the dealer advertised the demonstrator (with 80km) at $14,488, I tried to get them to include genuine Mazda floor mats and do it for $14,000 drive-away. Unfortunately they had a lot of trouble budging on that price, but we ended up coming to a deal of $15,000 (or $12 more than the demonstrator price) for a brand new (not demonstrator) Mazda2 Neo Sport (2014 built) in any choice of colour (including metallic) with genuine floor mats for $14,500 drive-away with 12 month rego and a full tank of fuel. I was happy with that price as it was under my original budget of $15,000 and it had everything that I needed.
Insurance was very reasonable also for the Mazda2. I got NRMA comprehensive insurance for a very reasonable $230 per year and even got a free $100 gift card for applying online (the Polo was about $60 more per year to insure).
I decided on Aluminium (silver) colour metallic paint (no extra cost) and politely declined the protection packs they inevitably try to up-sell at the dealership.
It took a week to arrive, and since I have got it I have been enjoying driving it. The 76kw engine is adequate for commuting and the manual transmission is easy to drive. It’s higher revving than our turbo-diesel in our Mazda6 wagon which takes a bit of getting used to.
The cabin is basic yet well laid out. The speakers are punchier than I expected from four speakers. The Bluetooth works well except that it doesn’t auto-resume playing songs like it does in our Mazda6 wagon. The back seats are a little tight but we did manage as an experiment to put two child seats and a booster in the back (with a squeeze) so you could use it for 2 adults and 3 children (even though we won’t regularly).
I didn’t realize the second key is a basic kind without the remote or retracting key, but since I will be using it to get to work it won’t be common for my wife to use this key anyway.
Overall I am very happy with the car and the purchase of it considering how much I paid for a Japanese built car with everything that I need to comfortably get to and from work. I imagine this is the type of car I can keep running reliably for many years to come.