Which small sedan should I buy?
My wife wants to replace her 2003 Toyota Corolla with a new small or medium sedan, petrol or hybrid. We're after comfortable seats, reasonable running costs, reliability and good outward vision. The option of manual transmission would be good. We'll be buying early next year, so which current or coming models would you suggest?
Sedans and manual gearboxes are decidedly out of fashion these days, as swathes of buyers insist on automatic SUVs. There are still numerous small sedans around, most look terrific value compared to SUVs and any of them will be a huge leap over your 15-year-old Corolla in terms of kit, safety and driveability.
Kia Cerato S with Safety Pack, $21,490 drive-away
Let's start with the bargain. The Kia trumps all with seven-year warranty, while this model's packed with safety including autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert and parking sensors all around. Its old-school 2.0-litre engine with six-speed manual returns an acceptable - but not great - 7.6L/100km. It's roomy and comfortable inside, less so for rear passengers, and the boot's substantial. Attractive, well screwed together and reliable, it includes such bonus goodies as eight-inch screen with smartphone connectivity but wheels are steel not alloy. Incredible value.
Mazda3 G20 Pure, $28,400 drive-away
Fresh to market, with high specification, excellent drive and brilliantly-thought out cabin - the Mazda3, whether hatch or sedan, totally won me over on test drives. They're expensive and service intervals are short but the style, finish, kit and drive serenity justify the price. The 2.0-litre engine lacks verve but returns a decent 6.3L/100km. You'll love the space and comfy seating position up front, the boot is 444L but rear seats aren't generous. The Mazda3 has strong reliability and five-year warranty, with a long list of active safety list and such excellent inclusions as Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, radar cruise control, 8.8-inch widescreen display, satnav, head-up display and alloy wheels.
Skoda Octavia 110TSI, $25,490 drive-away
For something bigger, try the Skoda. I reckon these look better as wagons than sedans but the latter still have excellent cabin space - front, rear and boot - for not much money. Its liftback design makes the cargo opening incredibly practical. You'll appreciate good vision, intelligent cabin features and kit including 17-inch alloys, eight-inch screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, AEB and adaptive cruise control. You need to pay extra for more extensive safety kit. It uses a 1.4-litre turbo, a brilliant engine returning 5.4L/100km with six-speed manual. An all-new Octavia launches in early 2021, so haggle on these current ones.
2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid, $29,000 drive-away (est)
To stay Corolla loyal, a new sedan arrives by the middle of 2020 to join the hatch (current model shown). If a hybrid tempts you, Toyota is the way to go. These will be CVT only - no manuals - but you'll return a brilliant 4.2L/100km. Five-year warranty and cheap-as-chips servicing are wins, there's a long active safety list and you can count on it being an impressive drive. Hopefully rear and boot space will be far better than the hatch's woeful efforts. A 2.0-litre manual will be about $3000 cheaper.
No wrong choices here. If you're on a budget get the Kia, if you love driving and can afford one go the Mazda and the Skoda's the king for space. The new Corolla sedan may not arrive in time for you. Me? I'd save up and get the beaut Mazda3 sedan.