ANSWER – SAMANTHA STEVENS:
The three you have chosen are all fantastic cars, and all have some pros over the other – and not many cons.
Our favourite of the three from a driver’s perspective would be the Mazda3. We like the Maxx mid-level specification for value and goodies, but would highly recommend stepping up to the Maxx Safety ($23,890) which gets some attractive features such as keyless start, parking sensors and sat-nav, plus some extra active and passive safety features which add only $1000 to the price and are well worth the spend. Note the servicing intervals are just one year/10,000km and not one year/15,000 like some others, so you will have to factor that into the budget if you do higher kilometres.
The Kia Cerato S (AV) 5D Hatchback can be picked up for $22,790, and its seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty and seven-year capped price servicing, plus three year roadside assistance is unbeatable. The AV adds a reversing camera, auto headlights and better-looking wheels for $500, and its safety rating is excellent. It is the best value for your dollar.
However, of the two Koreans we prefer the Hyundai i30; roomy, well specced, safe, quiet and economical, and very affordable to own. The i30 petrol is within your budget, and Hyundai’s five-year warranty will see you covered for as long or longer than some other new vehicles, but that said, the petrol engine is not as economical as some, with an official fuel use of 7.3L/100km for the automatic. If you are looking at used vehicles, the 1.6-litre CRDi diesel claims 4.6L/100km. One thing to note: the i30 is being replaced by a newer model later this year, so residuals and prices of this current bodystyle are likely to drop once it is released. Look for runout deals.
We would highly recommend you and your son thoroughly test drive each model and variant to assess which works best for you.