WEIGH UP THE BABIES
Sub-$20k small-car comparison
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.