QUESTION - LLOYD:
I am looking to buy a new car. I only use my current car to shop, go to bowls, church, doctor's, etc. My present car is a 2008 model and I've only done 30,000kms.
The new car won’t be used for long trips. I will always have it serviced each year, and it will not be a work horse.
Brands and models that I might try are Mazda 3 and Suzuki Baleno. What else should I consider?
ANSWER - SAMANTHA:
There are quite a few compact cars to choose from in this genre, but three we would recommend given your circumstances would be the Ford Focus Trend, the Mazda 3 Maxx, and the Toyota Corolla SX.
All three have good fuel economy, excellent safety, are affordable to keep long-term, and have great standard features.
The Ford Focus Trend trim at $24,390 is an excellent car; dynamic, sturdy, with super ride and handling characteristics, plus servicing is affordable. Its 1.5L turbo four is swift to respond but economical, and the gearbox is extremely smooth. You don’t pay any extra for a sedan bodystyle; same with the Mazda.
The Mazda 3 in Maxx trim at $24,890 offers a punchy little 2.0L engine with a six-speed automatic; it has the best fuel economy of the three (5.8L/100km), has a good level of standard equipment, and is affordable to keep in terms of servicing and parts.
The Toyota Corolla is an excellent vehicle, and offers the cheapest servicing of the three, and the best resale value. While it would be one of many on the road, they are built to last and are super-reliable. The SX is just a smidge over your budget at $26,000 (RRP), but it is worth stretching to as the lower-priced Ascent is a little bare-bones. The SX is more in line with the abovementioned Focus and Mazda (though it misses out on satellite navigation).
As for the Suzuki Baleno you mentioned; while it has the dimensions of a larger car and some nice features for a small car price, there are questions over its safety rating. It received four stars out of five in Euro NCAP crash testing, and is yet to be tested in Australian testing (ANCAP).
Ultimately, it will come down to your finances and your personal preferences. We recommend you test drive your shortlist back-to-back to truly feel comfortable with your choice.