Car Advice

Car buying advice – Reader: which small car should I buy?

One of our readers asked for car buying advice… He was after something with room for three costing less than $40k.

Hi Practical Motoring, I am looking to buy a new small car and I am trying to see reviews. Particularly interested in higher spec’d cars safety and equipment wise. Would love your thoughts. Thanks…

This is a pretty standard request.  But we need to know a little bit more:

“Re your new car – what are your requirements? Space, cost, fun-factor…?”

Thanks for replying. Considerations are space. 2 adults and a 6′ teenage son. Cost $40k ish. Doesn’t need fun factor as much as enjoyment factor. By that I mean overall package rather than outright performance. Main uses will be short daily commute and highway runs Newcastle to Sydney.

One more question before we can answer:

“Ok. 3 doors all right or must be 4?”

4 or 5 please. Sedan or hatch. MB shooting brake would be brilliant but outside my budget.

Our team’s view

That 6-foot teenage son will severely cramp your style in most small cars (and in other ways, too, no doubt)! The good news is $40k gives you a wide choice. The Citroen DS4 5-door hatch is a sweet and stylish little car, but tight on rear seat room for a six-footer. The Ford Focus has better rear seat room (and your budget will get you into the top-of-the-line Titanium). Hyundai’s i30 is a great all-rounder, and one of the larger cars in the category. I’d highly recommend trying the new Peugeot 308 which has a generous rear seat – if you go for the wagon, there’s more headroom as well. The Volkswagen Golf is worth a look, but once again, rear seat legroom may be a deciding factor. You may be better off moving up a class (officially, “medium passenger”) as there are still plenty in your price range, and a little more of that all-important rear legroom and headroom.

Cars in this class that may suit are the Ford Mondeo, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata or i40, Mazda6 and Toyota Camry. Well worth looking at is the Skoda Octavia (once again, the wagon frees up a little more headroom) and the Subaru Liberty, both of which come highly recommended. Your regular motorway runs make diesel a viable option (in the models in which it is available), but consider the proportion of short commutes against longer freeway runs and the higher initial purchase cost and running costs.

The Forester diesel, is an interesting option. Comfy, practical and handles well. Heaps of room in the back seat too  But that may be more offroad capability than you need, and the diesel’s economy might not pay off.  A cheaper Subaru Liberty could work there’s plenty of safety gear, and it is a very spacious vehicle.


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8 years ago

Subaru liberty has never had great fuel economy.
At 40k price though its wide open.
Id wrangle a mitsy salesperson for a soon to be outdated model outlander PHEV. To sneak in under 40k. Cuddles the planet puts you and your wallet on a diet as it won’t have you at the servo gaining weight on chips and red frogs.

Maybe a ford fgx ecoboost. Plenty of boot cost not allot of loot make sure you get the spec with all the fruit.

Gav Danyel
Gav Danyel
8 years ago
Reply to  trackdaze

They want a small car – not a falcon.

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Thank you to your advice, it works

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper