The $20K question
This price point marks the most popular choice of car — and there’s a wider choice than in any other segment
SOME of us remember when $20,000 wasn’t just a deposit for a house, it bought you a whole house. Now it gets you into the entry level of the most popular new-car segment. Unlike that distant time, today’s so-called “small car” is usually 4.3m long, 1.6m wide and 1.4m tall — or about the size of a big sedan of the ’80s. And we have a wider choice of these than just about any other country.
But just what does $20K or thereabouts buy you?
Most charge extra for auto transmission that more than 90 per cent of you demand. Most, if not all, have five crash safety stars with the full array of airbags and electronic accident prevention measures. Some prefer 95 RON premium unleaded or better to achieve the claimed performance and fuel economy figures.
None has leather-wrapped steering or transmission levers in base guise, nor is there climate control (only manual airconditioning). Capped-price servicing is common — which, along with fuel consumption, is a significant running cost.
CITROEN C4 ATTRACTION
Resale forecast 42 per cent* Price $20,990 Auto adds $2000 Six airbags, auto door locks, capped-price servicing, French chic, design rules, OK? Drinks 95 RON, no standard Bluetooth, four‒speed auto, no USB, no rear camera or sensors, 15-inch steel wheels
Not the oldest entrant in the segment but you’d really have to be yearning for a Citroen to justify the asking price. The 1.6 produces 88kW/160Nm but works hard to move just under 1300kg plus passengers. So a claimed thirst of 6.3L‒7L/100km is optimistic.
FORD FOCUS AMBIENTE
Resale forecast 49 per cent Price $20,290 Auto adds $2300 Auto lights, Bluetooth and USB, capped-price servicing, six airbags, six-speed auto, good road manners No rear sensors or reversing camera as standard, can be thirsty
The Blue Oval baby scores well for its optional six-speed dual-clutch auto and driving manners but the entry-level 1.6 (92kW/159Nm) is a toiler. Dearer versions with the 2.0‒litre direct-injection engine are a better bet. The 316L boot in the hatch — or 421L in the sedan — will swallow a fair load of family gear.
HOLDEN CRUZE EQUIPE 1.8
Resale forecast 50 per cent Price $19,490 Auto adds $2200 Locally engineered, six‒speed auto, 17-inch alloys, capped-price servicing, rear sensors, auto headlights, Bluetooth and USB, sedan and hatch priced the same Puncture repair kit instead of spare, dozy engine, no reversing camera
One of the better small cars for cabin space, but the 1.8 (104kW/176Nm) won’t pull the skin off a custard. Cargo space of 413L for the hatch and 445L for the sedan mean it will cart kids’ stuff well. MyLink infotainment system is a useful addition.
HONDA CIVIC VTi SEDAN
Resale forecast 50 per cent Price $19,490 Auto adds $2300 Quality build, cappedprice servicing, Bluetooth and USB, six airbags Five-speed auto, no standard rear sensors or camera
A willing powerplant in the sedan delivers 104kW/174Nm and claims sub-7.0L/100km fuel economy but an extra ratio wouldn’t go astray. Far from the segment leader. Steel rims are not pretty but the boot is useful at 440L.
HYUNDAI ELANTRA ACTIVE SEDAN
Resale forecast 50 per cent Price $20,590 Auto adds $2200 Six-speed transmissions, auto lights, capped-price servicing, full-size spare, Bluetooth phone and music, rear sensors, six airbags, auto door lock Mundane road manners, 15-inch steel wheels, no reverse camera
It has vitamin D deficiency from living in the shadow of the i30 stablemate. Pricing had gone against it but that’s been somewhat rectified.
HYUNDAI i30 ACTIVE
Resale forecast 46 per cent Price $20,990 Auto adds $2250 Full-size spare, rear sensors, capped-price servicing, auto locking, USB, Bluetooth phone and music, seven airbags No reversing camera, 16‒inch steel wheels Better looking than its sibling but the base engine (107kW/ 175Nm)is no sparkler. It has heated mirrors, touchscreen infotainment, multiple 12-volt outlets and rear vents, which few in the class can claim.
KIA CERATO S
Resale forecast 45 per cent
When it’s value you’re chasing (from left): Holden Cruze, Kia Cerato Si, Hyundai Elantra, Mitsubishi Lancer, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla Ascent sedan, Citroen C4, Ford Focus Ambiente, Mazda3 Neo hatch,