Our five 15K

What to buy, a new city car or a slightly used fam­ily ve­hi­cle? Here are our top picks

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - COVER STORY - BILL MCKIN­NON

YOU can save a motza on a late-model used car, be­cause the first owner has al­ready taken the big­gest hit, usu­ally 30-50 per cent, in depreciati­on.

Ide­ally, you want to be the sec­ond owner and hang on to the car for a few years to max­imise the value you get from your mo­tor­ing dol­lar.

We’ve picked our top five used small cars un­der $15,000 based on re­li­a­bil­ity, qual­ity, safety, space and run­ning costs.

There are no Eu­ros on our list. The VW Golf, Peu­geot 307 and Holden As­tra are sweet drives but can also fall to bits and are hideously ex­pen­sive to fix and ser­vice.

Trust us. There is no such thing as a cheap, re­li­able, Euro­pean used car.

Harsh? Well, that’s what Aus­tralian con­di­tions are.

Cars made in coun­tries closer to us have it all over those from Europe, de­spite their nicer badges, for qual­ity and dura­bil­ity. Blue-chip Ja­panese en­gi­neer­ing doesn’t get any bet­ter than in the Mazda3. It’s also the pick of this con­test as a drive.

You’re look­ing at a 2008 Neo Sport hatch or sedan with the op­tional safety pack fit­ted. This in­cludes six airbags and sta­bil­ity con­trol. The 2008 model is a four-star ANCAP scorer.

The 2.0-litre four is strong, re­spon­sive and runs on reg­u­lar un­leaded. Han­dling is ag­ile and se­cure and on the road the car feels solid and pol­ished. The stylish, durable in­te­rior has am­ple space for four, com­ple­mented by use­ful boot vol­ume.

The stan­dard equip­ment list is stingy in Neo Sport spec. If you’re lucky, you may find a Maxx Sport, with cruise, 16-inch al­loys and classier trim. Among many good things go­ing for the i30 is the fact that if you pick up a 2008-09 model you’ll still have at least 12 months’ cov­er­age on the car’s stan­dard five years/un­lim­ited kilome­tre fac­tory war­ranty.

Chances are you won’t need it, be­cause the i30 is bul­let­proof, and cheap to run. Pick of the range for econ­omy and per­for­mance is the i30 1.6-litre turbo diesel, Cars­guide’s 2007 Car of the Year.

With the i30, Hyundai was the first maker to have full ipod con­nec­tiv­ity as stan­dard in an af­ford­able car. The hatch was joined in 2009 by the CW wagon, which has a fam­ily-size boot.go for base SX spec with the op­tional six airbags/ sta­bil­ity con­trol safety pack.

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