Which car should I buy? Used car bargains

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Our son’s seeking a replacement for his written-off Toyota Yaris sedan. His budget’s $16-18,000, he wants another auto sedan with reversing camera and affordable servicing and insurance. It’ll do low annual kilometres to the station and picking up his kids.

Roland Brain, Altona


Used prices have remained stubbornly high – especially “safe harbours” such as Toyotas – but your advantage is sedans are less in-demand than hatches and SUVs. Buying a city-sized sedan (such as the Yaris) is false economy. There’s more choice and better value with small sedans.

Favour one-owner cars from private sellers, and insist on a perfect service history. The older demographic enjoy sedans, so well-loved low-kilometre examples are out there.


2018/19 MAZDA 3 TOURING, ABOUT $17,000

The handsome current-shape Mazda3, released in mid-2019, is outside budget. But late examples of its predecessor still appeal: they’re well built, reliable, beautiful to drive and, in Touring grade, well appointed.

The 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine’s a bit sluggish and cabin noise suppression’s poor, but for short urban journeys this is less problematic. Economy’s 5.8L/100km, but my 2018 test returned 8L/100km.

The Touring has 16-inch alloys, black leather upholstery, dual-zone climate, shift paddles and keyless entry and start. There’s a 7-inch screen, but it’s $500 for Mazda to retrofit CarPlay/Android Auto. Safety’s strong: auto emergency braking front and rear, reversing camera and blind-spot monitor.

Rear seats are tight and the boot’s only 408L, but will still feel larger than the Yaris sedan. Reliability’s strong and services reasonable.

2018/19 KIA CERATO SPORT+ ABOUT $18,000

The Cerato’s trump card is a seven-year factory warranty. This Cerato launched in June 2018, so any you choose should have some warranty remaining, provided it’s been serviced by an approved mechanic. That gives great piece of mind.

Safety includes auto emergency braking, lane-keep assist, smart cruise control and a reversing camera, while a popular option pack added blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

The 112kW/192Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine’s sluggish and thirsty at 7.6L/100km but with your low mileage, that’s acceptable. The cabin’s roomy, the boot’s big and the comfort and cornering ability are perfectly adequate.

The Sport+ has leather appointed heated seats, dual-zone climate, keyless entry, auto tailgate, sat nav and an 8-inch screen with CarPlay and Android Auto. Negatively, service costs are higher than most rivals.


A criminally overlooked sedan, mainly due to the Golf hatchback getting the attention. It’s not sexy or cool, but the Jetta’s a lesser-spotted mature pick.

Trendline grades are cheaper but aim for fancier Comfortlines. There’s a grown-up, well-engineered cabin feel, featuring a 6.5-inch screen, sat nav, CarPlay/Android Auto, dual-zone climate, cruise control and wood trim dash and door inserts.

The sticking point is scant active safety, including no auto emergency braking, but there’s a reversing camera. Positively, the rear’s good for kids with stretch-out space, rear vents and an arm rest. The boot’s a fraction bigger than the Cerato.

There’s a peppy 118kW/240Nm turbo four-cylinder mated to a sometimes jerky 7-speed DSG auto, returning 6.2L/100km. It needs 95 fuel, and servicing is priciest of the lot here.


2019 SKODA OCTAVIA 110TSI, ABOUT $18,000

The Octavia looks like a sedan but the bootlid and rear window lift up as one, in a similar fashion to a hatchback.

The boot is giant and the kids will appreciate the generous rear space. Safety kit is lean, but there’s auto emergency braking, a rear camera and adaptive cruise control. Goodies include 17-inch alloys, 8-inch infotainment with CarPlay/Android Auto, dual-zone climate and an umbrella in the door.

There’s a zesty 110kW/250Nm four-cylinder turbo-petrol. Cornering and ride are generally great, and the dual-clutch auto gearbox is slick, albeit with some low-speed jerkiness. Fuel economy (premium) is an excellent 5.2L/100km.

The updated “quad headlight” Octavia is the one you want. A few at this price have some five-year factory warranty remaining – target these. The Octavia’s value and reliability are strong and service costs aren’t crippling through a specialist.


The Cerato’s a clear winner with remaining factory warranty, the best safety and luxurious spec. Its thirsty nature’s tolerable due to your low mileage.

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