Top 5 Budget Hatchbacks
Sometime ago, I wrote about what's available within the budget SUV segment and reviewed the likes of the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 etc.
However, these cars can still be rather pricey for someone who's, let's say just begun driving or begun earning an income - or lets say a bit of both.
Say you're a university student still living with your parents or housemates in shared accommodation, work a part-time job to make ends meet and just need an eco box to take you from point A to point B.
Sure, there're people within this consumer base who'll spend minimum amount of their money to buy decent used sports cars or luxury cars but for someone who prefers a low maintenance but no compromise quality of their ride, a sub-compact small car is certainly the way to go.
Within the Australian and New Zealand markets, cars within this class usually don't cost over $20,000 - $25,000.00 AUD (or NZD) (and possibly anywhere between $9,000.00 to $16,000.00 in America) and these days, they can offer all the technological goodies which were previously available in their larger rivals or as expensive options.
The smallest and newest outing from Volkswagen, called the Up! is a cute little 3 door (or 5 door) hatchback which is aimed at competing against the likes of the Honda Jazz, Suzuki Alto, Nissan Micra and the Mazda 2 etc.
The car, which is economical in every way conceivable, comes mated to a 3 cylinder 1000 cc engine equipped with a 5 speed manual gearbox as standard - thereby ensuring you can go miles after miles before even thinking about refilling the fuel tank!
On first glances, the car looks rather boxy but the Germans have managed to squeeze in modern day technologies as standard - including a 'Hill Start Assist' and 'Daytime Driving Lamps', while optional technologies include a state of the art sun-roof, an onboard Navigation and Entertainment unit with a 5 inch crystal display screen and a styling package.
All in all, this car carries with it a lot of kit as a cheap new small car, backed by the German reliability and endurance of a Volkswagen.
Australian prices for this car cap out at roughly $18,000.00 AUD (Cheaper in North America).
Volkswagen Up! Review
The Mazda 2 has been the entry level cheap small car made by the Japanese car maker for a few years and unlike the brand new VW Up!, the car's certainly a lot better looking than its German rival which sadly, despite its technological refinements and driving assists, still looks a bit too boxy.
The Mazda 2 is available as a 3 or a 5 door sleek hatchback (with the 3 door version outselling the 5 door) and stands out on streets thanks to its brilliant colour combinations, including a bright green and aquatic blue.
The Mazda 2 is available in two variants - either the 'Neo' or the 'Maxx Sport' although apart from some cosmetic enhancements on the latter, both cars are mated to the same engine with the same output (a 1.5 liter 76 KW 5 speed manual) - giving the car more output and power as against the slow but cute looking VW Up!
Where the Mazda 2 loses out though is what is offered on the car (even as options) - while driving assistance packages including DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) is offered as standard, the car's entertainment unit and on board driver assists is no match for what's offered by the Germans (the VW Up! offering even an on-board Vehicle Information and Diagnostic display!).
Nevertheless, Mazdas are superbly built and would almost never break down - they're available in Australia for roughly $15,000-$16,000.00 to drive away and do offer a strong after-sales backing.
Mazda 2 review by CarBuyer UK
The Honda Jazz (also known as the Honda Fit in some countries) has been around for at least the past 10 years as one of the top selling small cars in key markets.
The current version of the Honda Jazz, while still retaining some of its 'feminine' looks and narrow-base tyres, sort of lies in between the VW Up! and Mazda 2 in terms of power and luxury.
The current version of the Jazz is probably the only car within the budget small car segment which is also available as a hybrid - the engines on offer being 1.3 liter on the base and the hybrid model while a 1.5 liter engine being offered on the sport-model.
Equipment-wise, the car offers very similar levels of trim as you'd find on the Mazda 2 but it is way more comfortable and ergonomic in terms of driver comfort and accessibility - with interior lighting levels and cockpit trims being simplistic yet covering the basics, including bluetooth connectivity and a USB compatible media player.
Honda Jazz review by CarBuyer UK
Often considered as the most versatile of all small cars, the Yaris has been in existence since at least 2006 when Toyota realized that they needed a budget small car to supplement the Corolla Hatch, which even in its basic variant at the time, cost upwards of $20,000.00 (in Australian markets)
The release of the Yaris was met with global acclaim and was considered as one of the most cleverly packed small cars available in many markets (where the even smaller Toyota IQ wasn't sold).thanks to its space and interior design.
While the car comes with a standard 1.5 liter engine (similar to the one offered on the Mazda 2), the Yaris develops 80 KW of power (more than the other 3 cars reviewed so far) and comes in at least 5 variants and 2 sedan-versions.
Few small cars match the trims and technology that the Yaris offers - with a Technological hub including SMS/Voice to text functionality, bluetooth, Ipod Connectivity, a state of art Sat Nav with Traffic sensors being available on the top-end ZR model, the Yaris packs enough kit which is comparable with that offered on larger sedans costing twice.
Overall, the Toyota Yaris is certainly the best new small car you can buy in its class and thanks to Toyota's build and massive after sales network, you'll never be stranded on the road.
Toyota Yaris review by CarBuyer UK
After a brief hiatus over recent years, Ford decided to re-launch the Fiesta (as the previous small Ford hatchback called the 'Festiva' was put out of production).
The Ford Fiesta in many ways looks very similar to the larger Focus and even comes with similar levels of trim and model-designation (with the top of the line model being called the 'ST', similar to what Ford call their top-end Focus).
The Fiesta comes in a total of 4 variants for the Australian market and with an option of 1.5 liter and 1.6 liter engines (The latter being available on the ST version).
The Fiesta can be compared closest with the Mazda 2 in terms of color combinations and on board technology - with Voice Assist, Emergency Service and hands-free music and phone calls being offered as standard via the central-multimedia interface.
While compact and reasonably economical, the Fiesta's no match for the Yaris and Up! in terms of what they offer in terms of technology, nevertheless, it is a car which has existed for many years and Ford's build quality and support is something nobody can really dispute.
Ford Fiesta review by CarBuyer UK
Hope you enjoyed reading my reviews regarding what I deem to be the 5 best cheap new cars available in the market today.
There're a few other cars within this segment which include the very new Mitsubishi Mirage, Suzuki Alto and the very girly and homosexual Nissan Micra (No pun intended :) but due to my lack of knowledge regarding those cars (and my lack of fascination with the models), I've chosen to not review them here.
Nevertheless, this article should summarize what cheap new small cars of today are like and what they offer to the consumer in terms of value for money, technology, comfort and driving pleasure.
If you like your hatchbacks with more grunt, please also read my article about hot hatches.