So let’s reiterate the brief for another three: $6000 car bargained down to $5000 on the nose, fun to drive, less than 20 years old, and with fewer than 250,000km. Let’s go…
#1 Sports sedan: Early-2000s Holden VT Commodore SS
Disclaimer: this tester purchased a (hashtag hero colour) Tiger Mica-coloured 5.7-litre V8-engined six-speed manual VT Commodore SS sedan with 250,000km on the clock and in mint condition (second owner since 6000km) for under $5000.
Sure, the steering is a bit loose and the manual shift makes a Scania truck’s seem slick, but the Gen III – originally criticised for being too soft compared with the Aussie 5.0-litre it replaced – actually now appears silky and toey, and more in harmony with its mid-6.0-sec 0-100km/h than if it was simply shoutier. And the ride and handling has actually stood up pretty well, backed by a standard limited-slip differential (LSD).
They still look great and are unlikely to fall further.
#2 Hot hatch: 2005 Renault Clio II RS 182
Last of the line and still one of the best hot hatches to this day. At just 1035kg and with a 131kW 2.0-litre four, there is good reason the Clio RS 182 has not been brutally bludgeoned by the resale axe – and for at least three years these have been sitting in the $5000 to $8000 bracket with 150,000km or less.
Although a couple of years older than a Ford Fiesta XR4, these are faster, lower and ultimately more fun.
Surprisingly, too, Renault decided on a sports-luxury personality for this Clio RS 182, so stuff like auto on/off Xenon headlights, leather/Alcantara sports seats, climate control and vanity mirror lights give it a bit of Partner Appeal as well. Check the timing belt has been changed, though.
Top 5: Driver's car bargains
#3 Sports wagon: Skoda Octavia RS 147TSI
It is difficult to believe that Skoda has been in Australia for more than a decade, having first lobbed locally in 2007.
And indeed the Octavia RS launched that year as a poor man’s Mark 5 Golf GTI both in looks and trimmings.
Thankfully, we’re also talking a poor-man used car budget here, and these 147kW 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder liftbacks (and, crucially, wagons) are now going for around $6000 – or $1000 less post bargaining.
They didn’t steer as well as a GTI, but they’re also roomier and more practical, yet still fun to drive. A 7.3-second 0-100km/h isn’t too shabby and the six-speed manual was slick to row.
Three pedals also came with wagon space, like a Subaru Liberty GT wagon – a close second for us here.