What Reliable City Car Should I Buy?
Catherine is looking to replace her Holden Astra with something that will get her from A to B economically and – most importantly – more reliably than her current car. She likes Mazda's 2 but wonders if its 1.5-litre engine has enough go for her needs. She wouldn't mind more boot space if she could get it either.
Less than $20,000
The 1.5-litre engine in the 2 doesn't have the reserves of the bigger engine in Catherine's Astra but it's not a deficit we'd find troubling for A-to-B, urban-biased duties. A more pertinent question is whether the Mazda is the best of the many light hatches for her needs. While its strong reliability/servicing prospects land it close to the target, it is no pace-setter when it comes to fuel economy or – as she's discovered – boot space. Ultimately, we wouldn't totally count it out – or the new one that arrives later this year – but there are a couple of alternatives that might just be better right now.
Honda Jazz, From $14,990 Plus On-Road Costs
Unlike the Mazda, this Honda is brand new. That's reflected inside, where instead of an old-school stereo you get a contemporary infotainment system with a seven-inch touch screen and features such as voice control, Bluetooth and a reversing camera. Already a practical leader in past generations, the new Jazz delivers more back seat and boot space (350 litres). With its versatile, user-friendly folding back seat setup, it's more practical than many much larger cars. The Honda's 1.5-litre engine can be optioned with a continuously variable automatic that helps it deliver flexible, unfussed performance and is more economical than the manual (5.8L/100km). It's competitively priced and service costs are capped for five years or 100,000km. Six-monthly/10,000km intervals, however, contribute to higher maintenance costs than its competitors (about $500 annually). Wobbly handling means it also has little in the way of driving flair.
Kia Rio, From $15,290 Plus On-Road Costs
This Kia starts from a higher price point than the Honda, even more so in five-door form (they start at $16,290). Yet it misses out on its rival's mandatory reversing camera and base S models don't have cruise control. The Rio also has a smaller boot (288 litres) and auto S models – with their 1.4-litre engine and old-school four-speeder – are peaky performers and not especially thrifty (6.3L/100km). But it is a more assured handler and, while not as spacious as the Honda, roomier than most light cars. Si models – which have a 1.6-litre engine and optional six-speed auto – are perkier and more economical (6.1L/100km) than their S siblings. The Kia's five-year/unlimited km warranty is another advantage over the Jazz. Its five-year/75,000km capped-price servicing regime also has longer intervals (yearly/15,000km) and lower annual costs (about $330).
Mazda 2, From $15,790 Plus On-Road Costs
This Mazda is replaced by a new model in November and struggles to hide its age. It's the only car here, for example, without Bluetooth and has the tightest back seat and smallest boot (250 litres). Its 1.5-litre engine is the thirstiest in auto form (6.4L/100km), partly because it's lumbered with an old-fashioned four-speeder. It also has the highest starting price. The Mazda's able and entertaining road manners, though, are an upside. It has a quality feel, is hardly thirsty in outright terms and we wouldn't expect to pay full retail with it in run-out mode either. Its lifetime capped-price servicing regime with yearly/10,000km intervals and the lowest prices here (about $280 annually) might invite more cost-conscious buyers to forgive its shortcomings, too.
The Honda has this group's sharpest pricing, most contemporary specification, best economy and roomiest, most versatile cabin. It drops to last place in the servicing field but even in an A-to-B scenario we'd sooner swallow an extra service and couple of hundred bucks rather than seek shelter in what are clearly inferior options.
If we couldn't? The Mazda's lifetime capped-price servicing is a plus relative to the Kia, as is having cruise control on the base model. Its across-the-range 1.5-litre drivetrain is probably preferable to the 1.4-litre engine in base versions of its Korean rival.
The Rio, however, gets to second place first with its more contemporary design, longer warranty, extra space and standard Bluetooth, which is likely to be appreciated by more buyers more of the time than cruise control. The stronger, more economical performance of 1.6-litre models is another bonus.
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