We have two cars and just need one — what should we get?
MY WIFE and I are 73 and 66 respectively. I drive a Toyota 86 and herself has a Honda Jazz. We have agreed that maintaining two vehicles is hard to justify so we need a mutually agreeable single replacement. There seems to be a huge number of vehicles in our budget range ($30,000-$40,000 but could go above that for the right vehicle) and knowing where to start is quite a challenge. We do mainly metropolitan driving with three or four trips a year. The latest technology is not a big issue but we would like decent GPS together with some safety features. We are not all that fond of SUVs but would not discount one that ticked all the boxes.
There's a lot to play with in this price range, from the good to the great, depending on just what attributes you prioritise. Assuming your wife drives an auto and you - by nature of the car you're in now - still enjoy driving, these are three of the better cars in the segment. I haven't recommended the Toyota Corolla. The new model due later this year is an improvement worth waiting for. As good as the new Yaris is, it still won't match the competent drive of the cars below.
Mazda3 SP25 Astina $33,790 drive-away
A fully loaded Mazda3 is a well-kitted car. Satnav is standard, as are such active safety items as autonomous emergency braking, blind spot and lane keep assist. The 2.5-litre (138kW/250Nm) powers the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. It is a solid drive, if a touch noisy under decent throttle load. The three-year warranty is its Achilles' heel, compounded by 12 month/10,000km service intervals. The first four capped price visits to the dealership are $1288.
Hyundai i30 SR Premium $37,950-$38,550
There's a lot to like about the top-spec Hyundai. The price isn't one of them. It is packed with features but I'd aim to save $5000 and shop for the regular SR - you forgo the sunroof and some bling but not much else worth missing. The 150kW/265Nm engine is a treat; the dual-clutch auto transmission is good once under way. The five-year warranty is solid and servicing is at 12 months/15,000km, the first three capped at just $807.
VW Golf Highline $36,990 drive-away
The top-of-the-tree Golf looks the most refined of this trio yet has the ability to carve a corner should the situation arise. The least powerful of this trio, the 1.4-litre turbo (110kW/250Nm) is matched to a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. You need to spend another $1500 on a driver assistance pack to add lane-keep assist, blind-spot alert and adaptive cruise control to the default autonomous emergency braking. That pushes the price into serious territory. There's an average three-year warranty and servicing occurs every 12 months/15,000km, with the first three capped trips costing $1258.
Subaru XV 2.0i Premium $36,000-$36,650
Essentially a high-riding Impreza, the XV will be Subaru's biggest seller this year. The height helps with access but the Subie wagon is not too big to park or handle in carparks. Its modest 2.0-litre engine (115kW/195Nm) turns all four wheels via a continuously variable transmission. The drive is benign but safe and it works well as an all-rounder, though may not be ideally matched to your town-biased brief. It comes with satnav and a better-than-average suite of active safety aids.
Drive the Mazda Astina first. The Hyundai i30 has the better warranty and servicing costs but the dealer will need to come to the party on the initial price to get it over the line.
For advice on which car you should buy, write to motoring at PO Box 2808, GPO Sydney NSW 2001, or cars@newscomau