Whether you're looking your first new car, or a new family car. These ten vehicles should fit the bill. They tick all the major boxes, with strong safety credentials, up-to-date connectivity options, low running costs and easy everyday driving.
Toyota Corolla Ascent
It only just misses out on the $20k mark, but being over by only $190 we couldn’t forget about the trusty Corolla here. You get a 1.8-litre petrol four, which sips 91-octane regular unleaded and returns 6.7L/100km in the combined-cycle fuel test. It’s a big small car, too, at 4.33 metres long. A six-speaker stereo with standard Bluetooth for phone and music plus a trip computer, cruise control and multi-function steering wheel are standard, along with a touch-screen interface.
The entire Hyundai Accent range in Australia starts from under $20k. You can go for a six-speed manual or a new CVT auto, with either a 1.4 or 1.6 engine. It’s slightly bigger than the Corolla hatch at 4.37 metres in length. The Accent comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, it is rated five stars for safety by ANCAP.
It’s the sister car to the old Hyundai i20 (no longer available in Australia), only it’s dressed in a much neater and better-proportioned body design. With a low and wide stance with the trademark ‘tiger nose’ grille, the latest Rio is certainly one of the nicer-looking small hatches in the class. Passengers are treated to a pleasant cabin, too, with loads of standard features and good space to move about. Meanwhile the driver is left with a great driving feel, with communicative steering and excellent body control through the corners. Visibility is also a positive trait to this car.
The Mazda2 offers affordable Japanese build quality and spirited driving dynamics. It isn’t quite the most popular in its class, but it is up there. The Mazda2 is small but big on safety, rewarding its owners with five stars for ANCAP safety. For the latest model Mazda has added a number of advanced technologies, including autonomous emergency braking for all variants, and Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control which provides optimum stability and balance on the road.
Kia Cerato S
The base-model Kia Cerato S start from $19,990. It exceeds the base Toyota Corolla on specifications, using a 2.0-litre engine with 112kW, drinking 91-octane regular unleaded and returning 7.3L/100km on the combined cycle. It can be had in hatch and sedan form. As a base model it’s fairly devoid of upmarket equipment, but you do get five-star safety, and the automotive rudiments such as central locking, a full-sized spare, an alarm, six-way adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, six-speaker audio and Bluetooth.
Priced from $17,990, the Fiat 500 is definitely one of the funkiest hatches here. It weighs under 1000kg and returns an fuel consumption average of just 4.9L/100km when powered by the 1.2-liter in the base model Pop. Five-star safety, 15-inch alloys, Bluetooth, a trip computer and six-speaker stereo are all standard, but seating capacity is limited to just four.
The new Suzuki Swift has landed, taking practical and fun motoring to a new benchmark. For the latest model Suzuki has jammed the package full of standard equipment across the board. A touch-screen with a rear-view camera and even sat-nav is standard on all except the base GL. But with the GL Navigator Safety pack variant kicking off from $18,990, this is one of the best value-for-money vehicles on the market. It’s also lots of fun to drive, and the latest design gives the Swift a grown-up and modern attire.
Another Suzuki joins this top 10 simply because it is too interesting to pass up. The latest Ignis has been extremely well received by the public and press, with its quirky styling and fun, go-anywhere attitude garnering it plenty of brownie points. Like the Swift above, Suzuki has packaged everything into the compact crossover to make it one of the best value-for-money cars in its class. It’s also very easy to drive with outstanding visibility thanks to that must-have raised-up driving position, while touch-screen entertainment with a rear-view camera and sat-nav is standard across the board.
Volkswagen prides itself on user-friendliness and fuel efficiency. And despite the diesel emissions scandal all of its cars do offer excellent real-world fuel economy. Stepping into the brand from the entry level gets you the mature new Polo. In base Trendline and Comfortline trim the Polo is powered by a 1.2-litre turbo-petrol engine that consumes just 4.8L/100km on the average cycle. Like all Volkswagen models, the Polo’s cabin is neat and tidy, with a clean and understandable arrangement of controls, and a touch-screen interface for all on-board media and smartphone pairing. It also offers a decent 280L boot and respectable rear seat space for the class.