The Toyota Yaris offers an ANCAP five-star safety rating. It’s made in Japan, making it the only real Japanese car here. At $14,990rrp the Yaris just scrapes in under our $15k RRP threshhold by $10 - and you need to forego five doors and an auto transmission. Still, it’s a Toyota - and you get five seats. Another Yaris advantage: it runs on regular unleaded petrol. You get a four-cylinder 1.3-litre engine with - count ‘em - 63kW and low fuel consumption of 5.7 litres per 100km. Warranty is three years. Read more about the Toyota Yarris here.
Notionally, at $15,290rrp, the Kia Rio blows our $15k RRP price cap - but we’ve given it a free pass here because it’s just about always on sale for $13,490 drive-away. The Rio you get for $13,490 is a three-door with five seats and a five-star ANCAP safety rating. It’s a manual - with six speeds. This Rio is neck-and-neck with the Yaris on fuel at 5.7 litres per 100km (combined cycle) and is made in South Korea. You get a 1.4-litre four with 79kW - 25 per cent more powerful than the Yaris 1.3. Warranty is five years. Read more about the Kia Rio here.
The RRP here for the base-model i20 is $15,590, but Hyundai regularly offers the i20 Active manual for $14,990 drive away - with a bonnet protector, four tailored mats, a cargo liner, headlight protectors and mudflaps. The i20 shares the same basic powertrain with the Kia Rio (above) but isn’t quite as polished overall as the Rio. It’s made in India, and beats the Rio and Yaris on fuel consumption (5.3L/100km versus the Rio’s 5.7). It features essentially the same 1.4-litre four with six-speed manual, and the safety rating is again five-star. Warranty is five years. Read more about the Hyundai i20 here.
The Fiat 500 is the coolest car on offer under $15,0000rrp. The Fiat 500 Pop 150 has five stars for safety and sips a meagre 5.1 litres per 100km in the official combined cycle fuel test. Unfortunately it requires 95-octane premium unleaded petrol. Seating capacity is just four, and the 1.2-litre four delivers just 51kW, through a five-speed manual. As for authentic Italian flair: the style offers that in spades, but the construction actually happens in Poland. Warranty is three years - with roadside assistance. Read more about the Fiat 500 here.
The $14,990rrp base model Nissan Micra is the first of the three-cylinder cars, and the first automatic, in our list - a 1.2-litre petrol engine with a four-speed auto. It delivers 56kW but returns an uninspiring 6.5 litres per 100km on the combined cycle fuel test. At least it runs on standard unleaded petrol. Seating capacity is five. The Nissan Micra is built in India. Warranty is three years - with roadside assistance. Read more about the Nissan Micra here.
If the $14,990rrp base model Mirage has a singular strength, it’s fuel efficiency: 4.8 litres per 100km in the combined cycle fuel test. Like the Micra it seats five, but if your limit is $15k you’ll be swapping its five gears manually. The three-cylinder 1.3-litre petrol engine runs on standard unleaded petrol and delivers 57kW. Safety is five-star, as rated by ANCAP, and although the brand is Japanese the construction takes place in Thailand. Warranty is five years - with roadside assistance.
The $13,290rrp top-spec Suzuki Alto offers just four stars for safety, but at least you’ll be treated to an automatic transmission (with four speeds). The auto Alto delivers 5.3 litres per 100km in the official combined cycle fuel test. Unfortunately the Alto demands 95-octane premium unleaded petrol. It’s the first vehicle in our list with a sub-one-litre engine capacity: 996cc, with peak power of just 50kW. The Suzuki Alto seats only four people, and it’s made in India. Warranty is three years. Read more about the Suzuki Alto here.
The base model Holden Barina scrapes in at $14,990rrp with five doors and a 1.6-litre four with 85kW of peak power. It delivers five stars on safety and seats five. At this price it’s a five speed manual that consumes 6.8 litres per 100km on the combined cycle fuel test - but at least it drinks standard unleaded. The Barina is made in South Korea. Warranty is three years, the first of which comes with roadside assistance. Read more about the Holden Barina here.
Holden Barina Spark
The Holden Barina Spark is a $14,690rrp four-speed auto. Seating capacity is five. Combined cycle economy is 5.8 litres per 100km. The Barina Spark is a 1.2-litre four with 63kW and a small thirst for standard unleaded petrol. It’s made in South Korea, and the warranty is three years, the first of which comes with roadside assistance. Unfortunately, the ANCAP safety rating is only four stars.
Buying a Chinese car is still - for many - a bridge too far. But the base model Cery J3 with five-speed manual is the most powerful car here: a 1.6-litre petrol four with 93kW and 160Nm. The Chery J3 is also the biggest car here, and the thirstiest at 8.3 litres per 100km on the combined cycle fuel consumption test. It drinks 95 octane premium unleaded, unfortunately, but it seats five and comes with a three-year warranty inclusive of roadside assistance. It’s made in China.