Hatchbacks under $20k
It’s possible to get that new car smell for well under $20,000. Whether you’re shopping in the micro or light hatch class, manufacturers are driving as much space and technology as possible into a small body, resulting in a package that delivers beyond the sum of its parts. Price is the ultimate factor in the sub-$20k category so while you mightn’t receive all the fancy accoutrements or quality materials everywhere, what you do get is a versatile and efficient vehicle that represents good value.
The cheapest Polo offers great value for under $20k. It looks crisp, clean and elegant, inside and out, and its three-litre turbocharged engine supplies great everyday performance without using much petrol. It’s roomy inside but fits into small parking spots while feeling like a bigger car on the road, with a smooth ride and reassuring roadholding.
The Mazda 2 Neo and Maxx, which sit at the lower end of the range, provide great value for under $20K and are more fun to drive than most other city cars. The Mazda 2’s 1.5-litre engine is very easy on fuel and delivers plenty of power through either the quick-shifting manual or automatic transmission. There’s also a sedan version that offers a bigger boot.
The Picanto is an eye-catching micro hatch with a comfortable ride and great steering. The tiniest Kia comes with cruise control, a reversing camera, and a big touchscreen that syncs to your phone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Broadly effective auto-braking is also standard. The Picanto range now includes a sporty turbocharged GT version.
The Honda Jazz shows that cheap can be both cheerful and practical, with its clever flip-folding seats and a box-shape body that swallows luggage. It also has a very good infotainment interface that includes Apple CarPlay, a surprising turn of speed and a frugal engine. All variants except the range-topping VTi-L are priced from under $20k. Honda also has a sedan version called the City.
The Clio Life is the most affordable version of Renault’s slick looking little hatchback. As well as oozing French flair, it offers two lively three-cylinder turbo petrol engine, rides and handles with comfort and polish, is easy to park, and is covered by a five-year warranty.
The latest-generation Suzuki Swift packs a lot of driver appeal into a short, lightweight hatchback, bringing some fun to your commute and handling country drives capably. Optional autonomous emergency braking can be added to the entry-level GL spec without breaking your $20k budget.
Nicely weighted steering and sporty handling help you feel good behind the wheel of the Rio light hatch. The roomy Rio has an inviting cabin and excellent infotainment that includes support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Rio’s only let-down is its lacklustre powertrain.
The diminutive Toyota Yaris hatch is easy to drive and park in an urban environment, holds its value well, and has an enviable reputation for reliability. All but the range-topping Yaris ZR attract sub-$20k retail pricing.
The Fiat 500 is all about style over substance, with cute-as-can-be looks and a cool and trendy interior. It’s all wrapped around a little engine but fun to drive, thanks to diminutive dimensions and, especially as a manual, a willing gearbox.
The least costly Hyundai is among the strongest of city cars, and is only slightly smaller than the Hyundai i30 and Elantra. The Accent is backed by a five-year warranty, and can be had as a five-door hatch or a four-door sedan, with a choice of manual and automatic transmissions.
With pricing starting at less than $15,000, the Mirage is all about getting your motoring dollar further while being easy to drive and park. The baby Mitsubishi is bigger inside than it looks, performance is plenty for driving around town, and the tiny engine does not need much fuel.