WhichCar should I buy: I want a 'plain' car

Carol is looking for a new car with no bells and whistles. What should she go for?

WCSIB plain cars

Hi WhichCar, I’m looking for a new car to replace my 2008 Honda Accord Euro, which I really love. I find the Honda to be really simple and easy to use, but I am struggling to find anything similar in today’s market.

I’m not as young as I used to be, so I want to buy a car that’s easy to use and to live with, in every aspect. No bells and whistles, easy to park and easy to look after, please – I just want a plain old car!

I would like to stay with a similar shape car, but I can see that the SUV has taken over the world since I bought my Honda. I’m not married to the Honda brand, either. My budget is under $35,000.

With thanks, Carol, Edgeware, NSW

Hi Carol, The Accord Euro was a terrific little car, and quite ahead of its time. I hear what you’re saying around simplicity and ease of use, and there are still a few cars around that fit that bill.

I know you don’t want extra tech, but most cars on the market now will feature a great deal more active safety on board – and that can come with its own set of ‘bells and whistles’ that may take a little getting used to.

Let’s look at a few cars in your price bracket that hopefully fit the bill.

Mazda 3 G25 Evolve sedan ($29,490)

It’s not that far away in size from your old Accord, and it has a similar four-door, five-seat layout. The Mazda 3’s engine is about the same size, but it has more grunt and will use a bit less fuel.

2019 Mazda 3 sedan

In terms of ease of use, the Mazda has it in spades; it’s one of the main reasons that the brand is a best-seller here in Australia. The dash is simple and easy to read, the wiper stalk is on the same side as your Honda, the headlights and wipers are automatic, and you can leave the key in your pocket or bag to get in and out.

It does have a dial to operate its multimedia system, where a touchscreen may have been a more accessible way to use it, and it’s a bit hard to climb into the (surprisingly spacious) rear. Big tick for its big boot, too.

2019 Mazda 3 sedan

It’s also refreshingly free of things that go ‘bing!’ but it will have door chimes and the like that aren’t dissimilar from your Accord.

Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S sedan ($29,760)

It’s not quite as new as the Mazda, but the Subaru Impreza is an honest, simple and easy-to-drive little car.

It has a two-litre petrol engine that might not feel as spritely as your Honda – it weighs a bit more, and it also has all-wheel-drive – but it’s excellent around town and in adverse conditions.

The continuously variable transmission (CVT) will take getting used to; it does the same job as a regular auto, but it just goes about the job in a different way.

Again, the Impreza’s simple interior layout and minimum of buttons plays into its favour, as does its simple multimedia system. And while it might go against your ‘simple is best’ mantra, the Impreza’s EyeSight safety system is amongst the best on the market.

It has plenty of room for four people and five at a pinch, and the boot is well sized. 

Nissan Qashqai ST-L ($33,290)

I’ll throw you an SUV as well, Carol, just so you’ve got a snapshot of what’s out there at the moment. This is the ‘oldest’ of the group – it dates back to 2014 – but if it's simplicity of function you want, then you can’t go far wrong here.

The Nissan Qashqai (pronounced 'Cash-Kye') a front-wheel-drive like your Honda, and it has the advantage of having a bit more height – this can make it easier to slide in and out of, and it gives you an elevated driving position, as well.

The trade-off is minimal if you’re only tackling the cut-n-thrust of Sydney’s inner west, but SUVs are inherently less stable than a sedan, thanks to their higher centre of gravity.

Like the others, the Qashqai is simple and straightforward to use from behind the wheel. It has niceties like reversing beepers and cameras, as well as heated seats.

Its SUV body style also gives you a tailgate and more room in the back, but it’s not so big as to be cumbersome. It’s actually about 4cm shorter than your Accord Euro, and only 1.5cm higher.

2018 Nissan Qashqai ST-L

It has a few things that beep and whistle, like lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking, but unless you’re about to get involved in an accident, these systems will operate happily in the background. 

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Mazda 3 G25 Evolve sedan ($29,490)

On balance, though, the Mazda3 will surprise and delight you. It’s so easy to drive, lovely to look at and a doddle to care for, and it’ll also offer excellent resale or trade-in value.

2019 Mazda3 sedan


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