Buying your first car
The thought of your own set of wheels, that new car smell, independence and the call of the open road make buying your first car a very exciting experience.
But a car is also one of the most expensive purchases you will ever make and probably something that you will drive for a couple of years, so care must be taken in choosing the right car.
Our suggestion is to rather opt for one of the mainstream, tried and trusted models as these will be cheaper to maintain. Established names will also be easier to sell when the time does come to upgrade and they will reward you with a better resale value.
The entry-level vehicle segment offers a wide variety to choose from. Here are the main options below R180 000.
Spark, which touts affordability as one of its most important attributes, remains a key product within the Chevrolet portfolio, which in its own right serves to introduce new, especially younger first-time buyers, to the Chevrolet brand.
In its segment the Spark offers features akin to an upmarket large car in a small car package. Even in its segment entry-level Spark Campus specification features include air-conditioning, ABS brakes with EBD, and front airbags for both driver and passenger, and key activated central locking. On a price versus features comparison with its competitors the Spark delivers an excellent value proposition with a high level of occupant protection. Add to this excellent operating economy, a 5 year 120 000 kilometre warranty with Roadside Assistance for the full warranty period, and the solid reputation of the Chevrolet brand for a top-of-the-class small car.
All Spark models are powered by a latest technology 4-cylinder engine that produces 60 kW and 108 Nm. Drive is via a 5-speed manual transmission to the front wheels. This performance is matched to exceptional economy with average combined cycle fuel usage just 5,4 l/100km.
An affordable little hatchback and Datsun have structured deals which can mean that one payment covers all costs includes maintenance and insurance. Under the bonnet is a peppy little engine. The interior is roomy with a bench seat upfront, we were however disappointed with the quality of the fit and finishes.
Furthermore the Go does lack some substantial safety equipment, and we believe that your money can be better spent elsewhere.
The little Fiat is a cute runaround that took inspiration from an Italian automotive icon of the 60’s and 70s. The funky exterior and interior design is unmistakably 500. It has not grown in size but it is packed with more technology, engine versions and customisation ideas than ever to ensure that it stands the test of time.
The engine line-up of the 500 includes a 0.9 TwinAir engine (65KW or 77KW), in particular, the two-cylinder engines boast record-breaking performance: 90 g/km for the 65 KW engine, 99 for the 77KW. In short, the latest arrival is even more focused on sustainable future mobility.
Offering trend-setting technologies, smart design and outstanding levels of space and comfort, the all-new Figo Hatch and Sedan raise the bar in the compact car class while retaining this popular model’s established reputation for exceptional value and efficiency.
The Figo is available with two responsive, reliable and economical engines, including a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol option. This unit generates 82kW of power, matched to 136Nm of torque. It delivers a combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.6l/100km.
The diesel models are powered by a 1.5-litre Duratorq TDCi engine that develops 74kW allied to an outstanding 215Nm. Tuned to provide peak torque at just 1750 r/min, this engine offers responsive performance matched to frugal consumption – as confirmed by the average fuel consumption rating of 4.1l/100km.
The manual derivatives features a five-speed gearbox, while Ford’s advanced 6-speed PowerShift Auto transmission is available on the 1.5 Titanium, in both hatchback and sedan guises.
Hyundai Grand i10
Hyundai’s all-new Grand i10 is a small, yet well-endowed hatchback that has all the potential to fill the shoes of the forerunner that helped to put the Korean car brand’s name on the map in South Africa.
This model was chosen to fit in between the smaller i10 and the i20. It fills that spot well – not only in terms of size, but also regarding price and standard features. The larger bodyshell of the Grand i10 yields one of the roomiest occupant cabins on the market, as well as an impressive 256 litres of trunk capacity.
The 1 248 cc engine delivers 64 kW and 120 Nm. The power is delivered in a spirited fashion and the small, yet perky engine never gives the impression that it is labouring.
Fuel consumption can be as low as a measured 5,9 l/100 km, with emissions of 130 g/m in the 1.25 Motion manual and 1.25 Fluid manual derivatives, and 6,9 litres/100 km with emissions of 147 g/km for the 1.25 Fluid with the four-speed automatic gearbox.
The Picanto was born from a simple idea: an affordable car should make no compromises on styling, features or technology. The Picanto remains one of the most striking and comprehensively equipped vehicles in its segment.
The efficient four-cylinder, 1,2-litre Kappa MPI engine produces 65 kW of power at 6 000 r/min and 120 Nm of torque at 4 000 r/min.
A driver’s airbag and ISOFIX child seat anchors are fitted as standard.
The Picanto’s high quality interior has reflected the range’s newfound maturity since its debut in 2011, and this remains one of the Picanto’s major selling points.
The 1.0 LX and 1.2 EX boast driver and passenger airbags. ABS is standard on the 1.2 EX, as is an ESS (Emergency Stop Signal) system.
The Mahindra KUV100, is a compact SUV that targets buyers of conventional small hatchbacks, but adds the rugged personality, taller stance and all-round versatility more usually associated with SUVs.
The KUV100 is offered with a choice of petrol and turbodiesel drivetrains. Petrol models are equipped with Mahindra’s own, all-new mFalcon G80 three-cylinder engine, featuring multipoint fuel injection and dual variable valve timing.
The 1 198 cc unit offers 61 kW of power at 5 500 r/min, and 115 Nm. Drive is to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox.
For diesel fans, the KUV100 can also be ordered with the new mFalcon D75 intercooled turbodiesel engine. The three-cylinder mill features common-rail direct-injection, an electronic waste gate and variable vane turbocharger technology. It produces 57 kW and 190 Nm between for brisk acceleration and overtaking.
Styling is a love it or hate it affair and equipment is slightly sparse, but the KUV100 is a unique option in this segment.
As the populations of South African cities continue to climb, drivers are demanding a city car boasting dynamic performance with suspension tuned to be both responsive and comfortable to take the strain out of the regular commute.
The Micra was conceived, from its design, engineering, powertrain and equipment levels, to deliver the ideal solution to these needs while still remaining accessible to the widest possible range of the car buying market.
The Micra utilises a three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol engines that produces 56kW and 104Nm. This engine uses just 5.2 l/100km in the combined cycle.
An innovative and affordable vehicle, the new Renault Kwid is positioned as the entry-point into Renault’s product line-up. It overturns established entry segment design cues thanks to its robust, stylish exterior plus a modern and welcoming interior equipped with generous cabin.
The Kwid is powered by a new 999cc Smart Control efficiency engine mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. With its distinctive SUV-like design and high ground clearance (at 180mm, more than any of its competitors) Kwid offers a high driving position and greater visibility making it ideal for zipping around in urban traffic or cruising down the open highway.
Under the skin it is essentially a Datsun Go and therefore also shares that models lack of safety features, the absence of ABS being the biggest worry.
The Sandero offers fresh and refined styling with the adoption of Renault’s new design identity.
It is fitted with a 66kW Turbo petrol engine that ensures nippy performance. A great side effect of the turbocharging is a fuel consumption figure of just 5.2l/100 km on the combined cycle.
Outstanding safety features include multiple airbags, emergency brake assist (coupled with ABS), ESP and Hill Start Assist.
Suzuki’s all-new Celerio, which was introduced to replace the popular Alto mini hatchback in South Africa provides buyers of small cars with a generous and enjoyable motoring experience. The Celerio proves that compact doesn’t need to be cramped, and that space and style don’t have to cost a fortune.
Measuring just 3,6 metres long and 1,6 metres wide, the new Celerio is unmistakably a member of the mini hatchback clan, making it the perfect choice for zipping through city traffic or squeezing into tight parking spaces.
The Swift epitomises Suzuki’s acknowledged expertise in the design, development and production of compact cars. The Swift’s combination of youthful, distinctive styling, palpable quality, engaging dynamics and efficiency has been at the core of its success.
The interior has a fresh, spacious ambience that has become synonymous with the Swift range. The four-door layout allows convenient access to front and rear seats, while the ergonomic design favours intuitive interaction with the car’s controls and switchgear.
The Swift enjoys an enviable reputation for agile and responsive handling, thanks to a stiff and lightweight body structure, linked to an optimised suspension set-up.
The Swift offers choices of 1.2, 1.4 or 1.6 litre engines.
Buyers of small city cars have come to expect more from their vehicles; stylish design, great fuel efficiency and a number of standard features – the Aygo delivers on this front offering customers the total package.
The Aygo is targeted to appeal to a more expressive customer, seeking a vehicle that is an extension of their personality versus the more rational and practical approach of sub B-segment alternatives such as the Etios.
Under the bonnet lurks a characterful 51 kW and 95Nm 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. It’s good for a sub-15-second 0-100km/h sprint time and offers incredible fuel economy of just 4.4 L/100km over the combined cycle.
A smooth shifting 5-speed manual transmission is offered, which transmits the power to the front wheels. The feather light clutch action further contributes to a pleasant drive.
The inclusion of a touch-screen display audio system is certain to resonate with tech savvy customers. Other standard features include Bluetooth functionality, remote central locking, front power windows, electrically adjustable side mirrors and air conditioning.
A full safety suite comprising of front and front side airbags, ABS and Brake Assist (BA) is fitted to all models. Isofix attachment points add to the already comprehensive list. These features create peace of mind for both first time drivers, as well as those downsizing to a compact city run-around.
Consistently charting on the bestseller list, Toyota’s ubiquitous Etios has become a stalwart for first time car buyers just like the Toyota Tazz was a couple of years ago. The styling is not cutting edge but it will remain fresh for years to come. The Etios offers good value for money and legendary Toyota reliability and will reward you well in terms of resale value.
Beneath the finery is the same punchy 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder mill (coupled to a 5-speed manual transmission) whacking out a laudable 66 kW and 132 Nm of torque, endowing the light-weight Etios with a class-leading sub-11-second sprint time to 100 km/h. Fuel economy is pegged at 5,9 l/100 km for the sedan and 6 l/100 km for the hatch in the combined cycle.
The VW Up is a well-judged city runabout – safe, spacious and nippy in traffic. The boot is larger than that of many competitors and the hatchback design, combined with folding rear seats, adds a level of practicality.
A perky three-cylinder, 1,0-litre, normally aspirated mill produces 55kW and 95Nm. The unit is impressive, with 90% of maximum torque available between 2 000 rpm and 6 000 rpm, ensuring agile performance. Volkswagen claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 4,6 litres per 100km.
At 3 600mm in length, the Up is one of the smallest four seater cars available in South Africa, yet clever packaging and a long wheelbase mean the cabin is roomy enough for four adults without feeling cramped. A turning circle of just 9,8 metres makes manoeuvring and parking in suburbia a breeze.
All derivatives are equipped with features such as ABS, four airbags and Electronic Stability Control, which goes to show that affordable cars no longer need to lack the safety equipment that motorists expect.
Volkswagen Polo Vivo
Volkswagen Polo Vivo has been the best-selling passenger model in South Africa for the past seven years and remains a dominant brand in this entry-level segment in spite of the new models being launched on regular basis. Polo Vivo’s key product attributes such as affordability, German build quality, safety, space and comfort have a set an unparalleled benchmark in the segment. These attributes continue to re-affirm Polo Vivo’s unique offering of affordable and accessible mobility to the South African customers.
Polo Vivo offers excellent value for money without compromising on core product essentials that customers expect from Volkswagen. In a Polo Vivo, customers are getting an A class car for the price of an A0 car, a difficult proposition to ignore in this heavily contested segment of the market.
Polo Vivo has the class-leading residual value in its segment in the used car market. The cost of ownership over a 3-year cycle makes Polo Vivo one of the cheapest cars to own in the South Africa market.
Polo Vivo is offered in two body versions, namely hatch and sedan. The Vivo is available with a range of tried an tested 1.4 and 1.6 litre engines with output ranging from 55 to 77kW.
By Reuben van Niekerk