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Small Cars under $35K: Gold Star Value Awards 2015

By James Whitbourn, 16 Sep 2015 Best Value Cars

Small Cars under $35K: Gold Star Value Awards 2015

Mazda3 stars with more grunt

Mazda3 stars with more grunt.

Mazda 3 SP25

Mazda -3-SP25STREWTH, it’s been a Mazda-fest so far! Aussie roads are full of them, and for good reason. It also goes to show exactly how switched-on Australian car buyers are.

It helps to be well below the $35K ceiling in this category, which every finalist is because, while the purchase price isn’t scored, a more expensive initial outlay equates to more lost to depreciation, regardless of a good retained value. But the $25,190 asked for Mazda’s SP25 mid-ranger gets you a small car with an appealing level of equipment, a bigger, gruntier 2.5-litre engine than under the bonnet of lesser versions, and enough style to draw in the punters.

The 3’s excellent 66 percent retained value is largely responsible for its win, helped by a best-practice 12-month service interval. The 6.5L/100km fuel economy isn’t quite as impressive as that of 2.0-litre 3s, or the truly frugal players in the class such as the Golf and Peugeot 308, but is nonetheless good enough to contain annual fuel cost (on 91 RON) to a level most small-car buyers will easily wear.

Hyundai i30 Active diesel

Hyundai -i 30-Active -DieselHYUNDAI’S i30 holds a pair of aces: a turbo-diesel engine option and a five-year warranty. An oiler option is something rivals either don’t offer or price at a higher premium, while few can top the Korean's generous cover. It’s on these strengths that the i30 snags the silver despite a depreciation figure that’s only average.

Volkswagen Golf 92TSI wagon

Volkswagen -Golf -92TSI-WagonWHY the wagon rather than the hatch? The $25,540 92TSI wagon slips into the $25K-$35K category, while the 92TSI hatch is a sub-$25K player, and the wagon is a fraction more economical than the 92TSI Comfortline hatch, which carries extra equipment for similar money. But there’s little in it (the hatch finished fifth) so either is a fine pick.

Small Cars under $35K Mazda 3 SP25 auto Hyundai i30 Active auto Volkswagen Golf 92TSI Wagon auto
Purchase Price $25,190 $25,890 $25,840
Combined cycle fuel (L/100km) 6.5 4.9 5.3
Fuel RON (min. rec.) 91 D 95
Three-year fuel cost $3710 $2961 $3221
Redbook resale (%) 65.9 57.4 59.8
Three-year depreciation $8590 $11,029 $10,388
AAMI insurance premium $848 $837 $851
Service interval (months) 12 12 12
Warranty (years) 3 5 3