Sweet six­teens

The small-car seg­ment has plenty of op­tions — the play­ers are fru­gal yet safe and wellap­pointed. Here are the best buys un­der $16K

Herald Sun - Motoring - - COVER STORY - JOSHUA DOWLING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR joshua.dowling@news.com.au

THE sub-$16,000 seg­ment of the car mar­ket is the car in­dus­try’s equiv­a­lent of the 30c ice-cream cone.

Low start­ing prices are de­signed to woo you into the show­room in the hope you’ll buy some­thing big­ger and more ex­pen­sive next time.

In re­al­ity, bud­get priced cars mean all things to all peo­ple, from first time car buy­ers to re­tirees, and ev­ery­one in be­tween. They are sec­ond big­gest slice of the car mar­ket, the most fru­gal cars to run (other than a hy­brid) and, thanks to new tech­nol­ogy, they are no longer bare-bones ba­sic.

Most of th­ese bud­get­mo­biles are rated five stars for safety and come with six or seven airbags.

They also have the slimmest profit mar­gins in the business, which is why dis­counts come and go, and you need to get your tim­ing right to land the best deal.

Here are the best buys be­low $16,000 ahead of the 2014 clear­ance sea­son.

As ever, buy­ers need to be aware the price of metal­lic paint varies from brand to brand and can add as much as $550 to the cost, even though there may only be one or two non­metal­lic colours avail­able.

Capped price ser­vic­ing and ser­vice in­ter­vals also vary. We’ve com­pared the cost over three years as a guide — and, as we dis­cov­ered, that varies from $717 to $1578 so it pays to check.

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HOLDEN BA­RINA SPARK

The baby of the Holden range is back in dis­count mode, with the Spark avail­able for $13,990 drive-away. Add $2000 for au­to­matic.

Ser­vic­ing is among the cheap­est ($740 over three years) but watch out for metal­lic paint: $550. This South Kore­an­built but US-de­signed small car comes with six airbags. How­ever it has only a four-star safety rat­ing.

If the bud­get stretches, and you want to stay in the fam­ily, con­sider the next model up ...

HONDA JAZZ

No dis­counts yet on the brand­new Jazz. It launched last month at $14,990 plus on-road costs for the base model man­ual. Full re­tail is nearer $18,000 in the traf­fic. If you’re pa­tient enough to wait for an or­der, and happy to drive a white one, ask nicely and see if the dealer will let one go for $16,000 drive-away.

This Ja­panese-de­signed but Thai­land-made hatch has a roomy in­te­rior with six airbags and a five-star safety rat­ing. It is also of­fi­cially the cheap­est car on sale in Aus­tralia with a rearview cam­era.

Auto adds $2000 and metal­lic paint is $495. What you re­ally need to watch out for, though, is the cost of rou­tine ser­vic­ing: an astro­nom­i­cal $1578 makes the Jazz the dear­est of the cars as­sem­bled here and more than dou­ble the cheap­est (Hyundai).

KIA RIO

Kia has a new boss in Aus­tralia, hav­ing poached the man who helped drive much of Hyundai’s suc­cess over the past decade.

So ex­pect big changes,

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