The $20K ques­tion

This price point marks the most pop­u­lar choice of car — and there’s a wider choice than in any other seg­ment

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story -

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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,

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