Put the boot in
SUVs might be all the rage in Australia at the moment but look overseas and you will still find small sedans taking pride of place in many driveways.
Hyundai’s Elantra is the company’s No.1 seller worldwide and still manages healthy sales locally, as do the Corolla and Mazda four-door competitors.
Far from being just city cars, the current crop of small sedans are big and comfortable enough for commuting, country driving and even towing. They also offer a low purchase price and plenty of car for the money. You’ll pay less than $24 grand for any of them.
Carsguide pitted the new Elantra against the established best-selling Corolla and Mazda to see if it has reset the benchmark in the class.
TOYOTA COROLLA ASCENT
Corolla sedan has been available for a couple of years but has yet to benefit from the recent upgrade to Corolla hatch. The Thai-made sedan looks good and resembles a scaled down Camry in looks and even the way it drives.
It scores plenty of equipment including a reversing camera, cruise control, reverse parking sensors, an attractive information display, Bluetooth phone and audio and a 6.1-inch LCD touch screen controller.
More expensive models get a ToyotaLink multimedia feature that allows you to connect to maps and audio apps, but this one misses out.
The 1.8-litre engine has variable valve timing and is good for 103kW of power and 173Nm of torque, the least amount of power and torque for the three cars on test.
It weighs about the same at 1250kg, which translates into the least sporty drive. The seven-step CVT has an annoying tendency to rev the engine high when you accelerate hard but Toyota says it will achieve 6.6-L/ 100km on regular unleaded. We didn’t get that on test.
The ride and handling has local input which shows in how the car behaves; it feels composed and comfortable on the open road.
There’s plenty of room inside, too. The rear seat has enough leg room for a medium-sized adult on a shortish journey. The boot is a decent size too but like the other two cars, the lid opens up a small aperture that restricts the shape and size of stuff you can put in.
More load space is available from the 60/40 folding rear pew. The 15-inch steel wheels with plastic hubcaps look cheap but the capped price servicing is the cheapest of these three. Six services over three years will cost just $840.
It’s patently obvious why the Mazda3 is so popular. Good looking, the “right” size, adequate performance and impressive Japanese build quality all figure prominently in the equation.
But the base model Neo doesn’t get a reverse camera nor a centre infotainment screen, there’s no driver lumbar support and it only has a space saver spare.
It does get cruise control, trip computer, 16-inch alloys and push-button start, though. Unlike its rivals here, you can also option a $1230 safety pack that gives you automated emergency braking, rear cross