BUD­GET BLING

Some of the sharpest suits have palat­able price tags

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - CRAIG DUFF

Buy­ing pres­tige needn’t mean pay­ing a pre­mium. En­try level cars from the lux­ury brands are com­pa­ra­bly priced to top-spec main­stream mod­els: about $45,000 gets you a shiny up­mar­ket badge to show the neigh­bours. Be warned, though; you may pick up that cov­eted badge, but there will be a pro­fu­sion of blank but­tons and miss­ing pages in the in­fo­tain­ment dis­play de­not­ing the ab­sence of the lat­est tech­nol­ogy.

Here’s what your cash will buy among the most pop­u­lar pres­tige brands.

VOLVO V40 T3 MO­MEN­TUM $35,888 DRIVE-AWAY

The hatch’s list price is $37,990, mak­ing this lim­ited-time deal — the car is in run-out mode — worth about $8000. The T3 is fit­ted with city-speed au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing but you’ll pay more for the likes of blind-spot and rear cross-traf­fic alerts and lane-keep as­sist. Smart­phone con­nec­tiv­ity isn’t an op­tion.

LEXUS CT 200H $44,500-$46,300 DRIVE-AWAY

Lexus has sold fewer than 400 ex­am­ples of its glo­ri­fied Prius this year, so the prices are down. An up­date last year added a 10.3-inch screen with sat­nav, adap­tive cruise con­trol and lane­keep as­sist across the range but the base Lux­ury ver­sion lacks dig­i­tal ra­dio, has cloth seats and rear pas­sen­gers miss out on drink hold­ers and USB ports.

INFINITI Q30 1.6 GT $42,900-$43,600 DRIVE-AWAY

If you need any proof Aus­tralians are badge snobs, look at the Q30. Es­sen­tially a cheaper, re­badged Mercedes A-Class, the Q30 has yet to hit triple fig­ures in sales so far this year, com­pared to al­most 2500 sales for Benz. Stan­dard gear in­cludes AEB, sin­gle-zone air­con and cloth seats. It doesn’t have a re­vers­ing cam­era or rear USB ports.

BMW 118I $43,400-$45,300 DRIVE-AWAY

The base Beemer is rea­son­ably equipped for the price by pres­tige stan­dards, with LED head­lamps, sat­nav, dig­i­tal au­dio, sup­port­ive sports seats, city-speed AEB and lanede­par­ture warn­ing. It also rides and han­dles like a BMW. The in­fo­tain­ment screen is small at 6.5 inches and those in the back miss out on stor­age ar­eas and USB ports.

AUDI A1 SPORT­BACK 1.4 TFSI $30,900 DRIVE-AWAY

The A1 is in runout mode and, un­der a spe­cial deal, the 1.4-litre mid-spec car is cheaper than the base 1.0-litre ver­sion. The dis­counted price goes some way to aton­ing for the ab­sence of fea­tures found on cars with $20,000 stick­ers. AEB can’t be had, there’s no re­vers­ing cam­era and the screen is 6.5 inches with­out sat­nav.

MERCEDES-BENZ A180 $43,000-$44,100 DRIVE-AWAY

The new A-Class is be­ing pro­gres­sively in­tro­duced in Aus­tralia but for now the base model is the “old” ver­sion. De­fault kit in­cludes a re­vers­ing cam­era, sat­nav, blind-spot alert, smart­phone mir­ror­ing and park as­sist. The good ac­tive safety gear is bun­dled in an op­tions pack. Hold out for the new one late this year or hag­gle hard.

MAIN­STREAM AL­TER­NA­TIVES

If you’re will­ing to forgo the street cred that comes with a lux­ury badge, you’ll be richly re­warded by the main­stream man­u­fac­tur­ers.

MAZDA3 SP25 ASTINA $33,790 DRIVE-AWAY

The Astina tops the Mazda3 range and comes with adap­tive cruise con­trol, LED head­lamps, head-up dis­play, city-speed AEB, blind-spot alert, leather seats, lane-keep as­sist, traf­fic sign recog­ni­tion and Bose au­dio. The war­ranty is now five years and if you buy be­fore the end of the month you get three years’ free ser­vic­ing.

VOLK­SWA­GEN GOLF GTI $38,490 DRIVE-AWAY

VW is work­ing hard to shift the GTI and the drive-away deal is $3500 off the list price. That ap­plies only to the six-speed man­ual, which suits the sporty na­ture of the car but may not suit city driv­ers. For the money you’ll get per­haps the most revered hot hatch in his­tory, a po­tent en­gine and crea­ture com­forts in­clud­ing an eight-inch screen with sat­nav, cloth seats, city-speed AEB and LED head­lamps.

HONDA CIVIC VTI-LX $36,700-$37,600 DRIVE-AWAY

A five-year war­ranty and de­cent drive makes the Civic worth buy­ing. In this guise it in­cludes AEB, lane-keep as­sist, seven-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen with sat­nav and smart­phone mir­ror­ing and a dig­i­tal in­stru­ment panel. The up­hol­stery is leather-ac­cented and the drive is a match for most of the pres­tige play­ers.

PRES­TIGE

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