QUESTION – GLENN (April 14, 2017)
I’m looking for a car, prioritising fuel economy and safety. I drive daily around 20km and 140km a week, mostly around the city, so I’m looking for a small car. The best I could fine was a Volkswagen Polo 81TSI but I want to be sure.
ANSWER – NATHAN PONCHARD:
There's a wealth of choice in the small-car market for less than $25K and you're correct in identifying the Volkswagen Polo 81TSI Comfortline DSG ($21,190 RRP, not including on-road costs) as one of the safest and most economical.
It's also roomy, gutsy, and confidence-inspiring to drive. However, you should be aware that the current shape has been on sale since 2010 and an all-new Polo generation will launch here in 2018.
Others we'd suggest looking at include the Polo's close cousin – the younger and funkier Skoda Fabia 81TSI – in two trim levels. The standard car is $19,490 RRP (with a range of cool, design-focused options available) while the more upmarket Monte Carlo is $23,490 RRP. You may be able to find a Fabia Monte Carlo for around $25K driveaway. There's also a Fabia wagon available (unique in this class).
As it stands, while there are fewer Skoda dealers around, they offer reasonably competitive fixed-price servicing, and given that the Fabia shares its entire mechanical and safety package with the Polo, you may like the fact that it's a little less common, a bit more cool, and can be individualised.
A third, extremely capable option is the Mazda 2 Genki ($22,690 RRP as an auto hatchback), which has just had a mild update, meaning you may be able to find the superseded model for a bit of a saving. The Mazda is a solid, fun, beautifully built hatch with the class-best reputation for reliability and resale value.
Finally, there's a terrific French pair – the Renault Clio Expression 120TCe ($21,500 RRP) and the Peugeot 208 Active ($22,490). The Clio is the more sophisticated of the pair, with a superb ride, lovely seats and funky design, while the 208 has a brilliant engine and transmission, and may be available with a discount seeing it's the least popular of the hatches mentioned here.
If you can find a 2016-build Peugeot 208 1.2 turbo auto for a discount, it could be a very persuasive buy.
I hope all this hasn't made you're choice more difficult! But these models mentioned here are the five best in the light-car class. And you can't really fail with any of them, especially the bulletproof Mazda 2.