Steve and his wife are expecting their first child. Their current vehicle is a company-supplied Suzuki Swift which Steve has negotiated to hand back and look to purchase a bigger vehicle to accommodate the new arrival and the associated extra gear.
The Swift is the biggest car his wife has driven to date and as the main driver in the future, she is apprehensive about stepping up into anything too big.
Sedan or hatchback is the preferred option with safety, reliability, fuel consumption, interior space and resale value the key factors they are looking for.
Steve is trying to talk the better half into a Honda Accord Euro which he believes ticks most of those boxes. Another option he is considering is the 2010 Toyota Corolla hatch.
The budget: $15k to $20k
Your budget places you in a good position in the market with a number of top safety options such as side curtain airbags (on some makes/models) and stability control all within reach.
The lower end of the price bracket may however mean a higher odometer reading which is not always desirable, especially when it comes time to trade-in. I would suggest you look for a vehicle with the highest specification level and the lowest odometer reading, which may push the budget to the extremes but help protect resale values. After a company car, any fuel bill is bound to raise your eyebrows Steve, and don't for a second believe you will achieve a manufacturer's claimed fuel consumption figures. Mums with babies on board normally mean a lot of short trips on cold engines, which equals high fuel consumption. Hatch or sedan is something you need to think long and hard about also. A sedan may provide more room but the hatch can at times be more practical. As a spectator only these days when it comes to newborns, pushchairs seem to be getting bigger while the list of other must-haves is a lot longer than it used to be in my day.
Honda Accord Euro L Sport (2009)
This car is a real winner when it comes to styling and specification levels. A factory body kit enhances its looks while side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, leather trim, heated seats, rain sensing wipers, electric sunroof and parking sensors round out a great package. The 2.4 litre engine and overall size may be one step too far for the wife after the Swift however while claimed fuel consumption of 8.9l/100km is more likely to extend out to around 10l/100km plus in my view.
Toyota Corolla hatch (2010)
The 1.8l Corolla should fit the bill in terms of overall size and certainly a far easier progression from the Swift. Not as well specced as the Honda and pretty bland in looks but extremely reliable. Look for an example with electronic stability control fitted, but sadly don't expect to find curtain airbags. Claimed fuel consumption is 7.4l/100km but once again it should be used as a guide line figure only.
Hyundai Accent (2012)
The beauty of this car is you are buying a late model vehicle with a reasonably low odometer and still carrying some manufacturer's warranty. The 1.6l engine and 4-speed transmission is not going to overly excite you but with a claimed fuel consumption of 6.5l/100km it is a cheap car to run. Safety includes stability control and side curtain airbags.
The driver needs to feel confident behind the wheel but at the same time the car needs to be large enough to be fit for purpose. Maybe the first purchase is that pushchair and baby seat and then look for the car that comfortably fits it all in. Don't forget the shopping that's added on a regular basis. Make sure you're not having twins; that could change things considerably!