Sub-$20k small-car com­par­i­son

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDI­TOR joshua.dowl­ing@news.com.au

AS the most af­ford­able op­tion on show­room floors, city cars ap­peal to first-timers, old­timers and all in be­tween.

But it pays do your re­search this class of nearly two-dozen con­tenders. Some brands of­fer more than oth­ers, so de­ter­min­ing the best buy isn’t al­ways as sim­ple as look­ing at the rec­om­mended re­tail prices.

We’ve gath­ered the three lat­est ar­rivals in sub$20,000 seg­ment: re­cently up­dated Toy­ota Yaris and Holden Ba­rina new Kia Rio.


This should have been a com­pletely new Yaris but in­stead it’s the sec­ond facelift in six years, pe­riod which most cars would be re­placed with clean sheet de­signs.

Toy­ota has added lat­est safety fea­tures, namely au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing and lane wan­der warn­ing, to give the Yaris a new lease on its model life.

AEB is be­com­ing stan­dard on more ex­pen­sive cars; the

among first with tech­nol­ogy in this class. It’s a rel­a­tively cheap $650 op­tion on the ex­am­ple we’ve tested and stan­dard on dear­est Yaris.

To dis­tin­guish the new model, there’s a bend in front and rear bumpers tail-lights.

The smooth, re­fined and fru­gal driv­e­line — 1.3-litre four­cylin­der four-speed auto car­ries over.

Some in the seg­ment have grad­u­ated to a six-speed auto, which aids ac­cel­er­a­tion and fuel econ­omy, but the Yaris still gets job done, at its own pace. These aren’t meant to be race cars is slow­est of this trio 60km/h (6 sec­onds) and 100km/h (14 sec­onds).

The cabin start­ing to look dated (Ap­ple CarPlay An­droid Auto are con­spic­u­ously ab­sent) but it still oozes Made-In-Ja­pan qual­ity.

ma­te­ri­als of a high stan­dard and feel durable, while the seats the most sup­port­ive among this trio.

The door pock­ets are thin com­pared to oth­ers but there’s good odd­ment stor­age in other cub­bies.

Out­ward vi­sion is ex­cel­lent thanks to the large glass area, wide-view side mir­rors and rear cam­era (stan­dard on all three). Rear sen­sors are op­tional the Yaris but stan­dard both ri­vals.

On the road Yaris feels sure-footed but, on skin­nier tyres, it can’t quite match the oth­ers for grip in wet.

As a plus, is eas­i­est to park: has tight­est turn­ing cir­cle and short­est of this trio bumper to bumper.

It’s age­ing well but we’re not sure Toy­ota made enough changes hold off the com­pe­ti­tion for another three years — and that may ex­plain its dis­count price. The pre­vi­ous model was $17,990 drive-away with auto (about $3000 off the RRP).

lat­est it­er­a­tion has lim­boed to $17,490

auto. Metal­lic paint adds $450.


As with the Toy­ota, the Ba­rina is ap­proach­ing its sixth birth­day. To keep it go­ing another cou­ple of years, Holden has added a bold new nose, fresh wheels and Ap­ple CarPlay

An­droid Auto. Lit­tle changed un­der the skin. The 1.6-litre en­gine car­ries over with the six-speed auto,

which is poorly cal­i­brated and makes the baby Holden feel un­co­or­di­nated in stop-start traf­fic.

Floor throt­tle, though, and six-speed auto does well to dis­guise the Ba­rina’s weight.

De­spite be­ing al­most 100kg heav­ier than Rio and more

200kg Yaris, Ba­rina is brisk­est to 60km/h (5.3 sec­onds ver­sus 5.6 for the Rio) and, like the Kia, reaches 100km/h in 13 sec­onds.

Its big­ger en­gine and heav­ier body blunt fuel econ­omy it’s thirsti­est of trio.

On the plus side, the roomy cabin has mas­sive stor­age pock­ets. Less pleas­ing, plas­tics look cheap.

The large boot stows a full­size spare as no-cost op­tion — the de­fault fit­ment is an in­fla­tion kit.

Once on the move, the Ba­rina steers well and feels se­cure road.

Holden’s pric­ing is con­fus­ing. This month brand slashed

man­ual to $15,690 drive-away, so buy­ers might ex­pect a $2000-odd pre­mium for the auto.

But no. The ba­sic Ba­rina auto (which ac­counts for most sales) is an eye-wa­ter­ing $20,000-plus drive-away, or more than $4000 the auto up­grade. This time last year

was $16,190 drive-away with a five-year war­ranty.


The Rio is a gen­er­a­tion ahead in this con­test. As it’s the new­est car in its class, Kia has ad­dressed many of short­com­ings its pre­de­ces­sor and peers.

The 1.4-litre en­gine and four-speed auto carry over from the pre­vi­ous Rio; frankly, it’s not a li­a­bil­ity. sounds a lit­tle nois­ier harsher than

Toy­ota, not that most buy­ers would no­tice.

Its in­te­rior is the roomi­est and fresh­est look­ing of this trio

it in­cludes a tablet-style dis­play screen with Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto. In­stru­ments are crys­tal clear (in­clud­ing a digital speed dis­play) the ma­te­ri­als of high qual­ity.

The front seats wider than oth­ers and bet­ter fit for larger frames.

Its big­ger five-door body means it has a foot­print. It also the big­gest boot, which dis­ap­point­ingly packs a space-saver spare.

On road Rio feels plush com­pared to other two, although the sus­pen­sion can thud when it runs out of travel on big bumps and auto isn’t al­ways in­tu­itive.

Down­sides are few. It’s odd AEB is not avail­able as an op­tion such a new car (this will likely pull the Rio back to four-star safety rat­ing, even though it has full com­ple­ment of airbags, a rear cam­era and sen­sors).

The Rio is alone in this trio in lack­ing lack cruise con­trol but has aces up its sleeve — ad­di­tion to in­dus­try-lead­ing seven year, un­lim­ited kilo­me­tre war­ranty), it’s sport­ing the su­per sharp price of $17,490 drive-away with auto (about $3400 off full RRP). That’s vir­tu­ally a run-out on a brand-new car.


The Ba­rina is worth a test drive but not at this price. Wait un­til it re­turns to where it has been for most of the past two years: in $16,990 $17,990 drive­away range.

Toy­ota should be com­mended for be­ing among the first to bring AEB to the city car class and new Yaris still has edge when it comes qual­ity, re­li­a­bil­ity real world fuel econ­omy. But the Rio aces this test as best all-round pack­age of three. The hon­est price and gen­er­ous war­ranty sim­ply seal the deal.

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