Buying a car can be a daunting task no matter what stage you are in your life. It’s never easy choosing something that will work for you over what your heart desires. But when you are about to be a father for the first time or you’ve just been blessed with a bundle of joy, what should you look for in your next car? Obviously a two door coupe is out of the question. What you’re going to need is a car that’s safe, spacious and practical. Here are some suggestions.
Budget: Under R300 000
The lower end of the market where the Polo Vivo, Hyundai I20, Renault Clio, Mazda 2 and Toyota Etios ply their trade is probably one of the most competitive categories in the motoring world. Most of the cars in this range are good value for money but we would suggest the more upmarket VW Golf 7. It is significantly more expensive than the smaller hatchbacks but ticks all the right boxes while also looking the part. The Golf 7 looks classy, has exceptional built quality, a stylish interior with features that will ensure your little one is as protected as can be. It also has class leading resale value for when you decide to trade it in for something even bigger. Unless rapid speed is a real requirement (and it shouldn’t be) then the 1.2 TSI base model with 81 kW or 1.4 TSI comfortline model with a punchy 92 kW for around R275 000 and R290 000 respectively will give you the best bang for your bucks.
Good alternatives include the Toyota Auris and Ford Focus.
Category: Small Sedan
Budget: Under R400 000
The number one choice in this segment has to be the Kia Cerato. Most people will be surprised by this but it really is that good. Pricing starts at around R270 000 for the 1.6 base model rising to a still modest R350 000 for the top of the range 2.0 litre automatic model. The 2.0 litre base model with manual transmission is probably the best choice. The only drawback is that while it has a raunchy 118 kW on tap, it is normally aspirated so performance up in the reef and fuel consumption could be bettered by some of its competitors The Kia boasts now- familiar-good-looks from the rest of the family and backs this up with impressive quality and industry leading warranty and service plans. For the brand snobs, the Hyundai Elantra is almost as good an alternative although its interior is not quite as appealing or and doesn’t feel as spacious. Other alternatives are the Toyota Corolla, a brand renowned for stellar quality and the Ford Fusion which although quite a looker, is untested in South Africa.
If your budget can stretch as far, the Audi A3 is a stunning option. It is one of the most beautiful sedans on our roads at the moment. For just under R400 000 you can get the 132 Kw 1.8TSI which will surely be an addictive drive. You could probably enjoy the 1.4 TSI with a more modest 92 kW engine almost as much.
Category: Compact Crossover / SUV
Budget: Under R500 000
A relatively new but hotly contested segment is the medium to large SUV market. The first names that will undoubtedly come to mind include the likes of the Nissan Qashqai (priced from R287 500), Ford Kuga (from R328 000), the new Honda CR-V (from R355 000), the Hyundai IX35 (from around R344 000) and its sibling the Kia Sportage (from around R350 000). These cars are popular for a reason and are all impeccable choices.
In the end it will boil down to brand preference and which design you like best but the three we suggest you definitely take a closer look at are the Toyota Rav 4 (priced from R312 000), the Qashqai and the Sportage. The Qashqai is probably the most attractive amongst the three in terms of both looks and pricing but its engine range is limited to a couple of small engines which we think are not powerful enough to entice a spirited driver. The Toyota’s design will polarise opinions but it is solidly built more reassuring engines and standard equipment. The most expensive of the trio, the Kia is a very good looking car, perhaps even having a feminine feel about it but it also very capable with features that rival even more expensive SUVs.
Category: Mid Executive Sedan
Budget: Under R600 000
We are tempted to immediately point to the Mercedes Benz C-Class but we can’t ignore the likes of the BMW 3-series, Audi A4, Lexus ES 250, the Infinity Q50 and yes the Honda Accord. The Honda Accord holds its own quite well amongst its more illustrious competition so represents incredible value but the latest incarnation just isn’t as beautiful as its predecessor. The C Class on the other hand is easy on the eye and features that tablet-like infotainment screen on the dash that’s sure to attract younger buyers that might have gone straight to BMW or Audi before. Take the right package and you have that a car has great presence even though it is one of the priciest. Pound for Pound, it is about R30 000 more expensive than the BMW equivalent before optional extras are thrown into the mix. The Audi A4 is surprising cheaper than the BMW but its age has started to show. Relatively new, the Infinity is something of a rarity in South Africa and is not quite up to the level of the Germans despite it being a brilliant offering. We can’t say the same about the new Lexus ES 250. It is quite expensive and although well-appointed in terms of luxury and comfort is nowhere near its rivals in terms of fuel consumption and dynamism on the road. This leaves us with the BMW which is the benchmark in this segment. Its looks, while distinctive are not as appealing as that of the C-Class but it is the best car to drive here. It is also a tad more practical, showing attention to detail in things like the angle that the boot opens at so that it provides easier access. It just beats the C-Class here because it is slightly cheaper, more fun to drive and that much more practical. It won’t retain its resale value quite as well though.
The one clear alternative to the 3-series and C-Class is the Jaguar XE which will cost you an arm and a leg with prices starting from R530 000. It is however breath-taking from every angle.
Writer: Katlego Modipane