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Five cars you should buy instead of a new Corolla
By Matthew Hansen • 27/12/2016
Thursday Five: five mature alternatives to a Toyota Corolla
Just about everyone in New Zealand has a Toyota Corolla story. Their first car was a Corolla, or their mum’s car was a Corolla, or they were consummated in a Corolla, and so on and so forth.
The nameplate is a Kiwi institution, and it’s no surprise that New Zealand’s car-buying public continue to purchase new Corollas like Americans purchase guns and bumper stickers. Over 700 Corollas were sold in January 2016 alone — over 100-cars more than any other new vehicle on the market.
But as well-rounded and dependable as the average Corolla is, with a starting price of $28,990 (for the GX wagon) there are plenty of other automotive fish in the sea — especially if you’re willing to undo your top button, let your hair down, and be a little weird about it. Today’s Thursday Five explores some of the potential candidates…
2007–’10 Subaru Impreza WRX STi
Photo / Subaru
If you’re buying the Corolla for its practicality, why not grab something that ticks all the same boxes — while capable of lobbing your body around any B-road in the country as excitedly and briskly as just about anything else?
Enter what some might suggest is the ugliest STi. When the third-generation Impreza was launched in 2007, it was seen to be a stomp on the toes of those who worshiped the marque.
In the eighties, Subarus were perceived as agricultural, cheapo transport — the reputation dusted off for the likes of Hyundai in the ’90s, and held by the likes of Great Wall today. But it was their starring role in the World Rally Championship (WRC) that helped turn the brand around. With some of rallying’s biggest contemporary stars like the gone-too-soon trio of Colin McRae, Richard Burns, and our own Possum Bourne fronting the campaign.
The STi was seen as the end result of these rally exploits, pumped full of technology and know-how from Prodrive’s world rally beasties. But with the third-gen car also representing Subaru’s departure from the WRC, prices are somewhat lower than you'd expect.
Finding one on certain online trading websites for less than 29 big ones is child’s play. Finding one that hasn’t been thrashed might be a little harder.
1996–’04 Porsche Boxster (986)
Photo / sourced
Are you male and aged between 40 and 65? Then a Boxster would fit into your life perfectly!
The Boxster’s reputation as a prime mode of transport for those caught in a mid-life crisis makes perfect sense. But not just because of the brand, the sublime agility, and the image. It’s also to do with the price.
A certain online trading website pitches pricing of first-generation Boxsters to start at less than 20 Gs — insane when you think about it. And if you’re paranoid about finding one with low kilometres, even those can squeeze into budget too.
Hell, if you look for long enough, you can find the 2005–’08 second generation Boxster in budget. Although there’s a slim chance of striking one that hasn’t driven to the moon at that price, and why bother when they all look exactly the same anyway.
2000–’05 BMW E46 M3
Photo / sourced
In a similar vein to the Boxter, the E46 M3 also represents an ideal mid-life crisis option for the astute consumer. It’s a car produced by a brand with image, coated in enough air-vents, fins, and louvres to let the world know that you’re someone with purpose.
But, it’s also one of the best of the breed, regarded by car journalists and BMW faithful alike as arguably the best M3 of them all. It was the last six-cylinder powered M3, something it would remind you of every time it encouraged you to creep closer and closer to the red line. The handling of course was the real hero, the E46 surpassing all of its rivals at a time where electronic nannies and assistants hadn’t quite blighted the scene with their presence.
It then became the halo car for BMW’s pre-Bangle era, only further adding to its allure as people became frustrated with the brand’s new design direction.
But despite the hero status, the E46 M3’s prices are mellowing around the $20‘–30,000 marker on a certain online trading website. But, like the WRX STi above, finding a ‘nice’ one in that bunch won’t be easy.
1984–’96 Chevrolet Corvette C4
Photo / Chevrolet
The C3 Corvette was renowned for its beautiful silhouette, and the C5 for being a serious challenger to the European sports car monopoly. The C4 in the middle was renowned for … nothing much at all.
It’s arguably the least collectible and least liked Corvette of the bunch. Compared to those either side of it, the C4 was more boring to look at — a big deal for a car built for people who want to shout about their accomplishments.
But its minimalist, superbly sleek styling has aged exceptionally well. There’s no big chrome tackiness hot-glued to its panels, or sharp angles to wow the neighbours. It just looks ... classy.
But the C4 represents the biggest jump in technology for the Corvette line. As noted by the ever weird but forever wonderful Regular Car Reviews YouTube channel, it’s the car in the Corvette genealogy that did the hard yards to ensure and cement what ‘America’s sports car’ would eventually become. This, over time, should help it become a bit of a classic.
But in the meantime, they’re dirt cheap. There’s a beautifully clean looking 1992 C4 LT1 on a certain online trading website priced at $16,900, with only 53,000km on the clock.
In fact, there’s a whopping 31 Corvette C4s on this certain site, and every single one of them in all their V8-propelled glory is cheaper than our base-model Corolla.
1997 Toyota Century
Photo / Toyota
This job is dangerous. I’ve found a 1997 Toyota Century advertised on a certain online trading website for $5,997 and I really really really want to buy it. I wonder what the black market would give me for a kidney or two. I’m sure I could trim a lung or something. All I know is that I need a Century in my life.
The Toyota Century is (I want to say ‘was’, but amazingly they still make them in 2016 like they did in 1997) the Japanese marque’s answer to Rolls Royce and Bentley’s range of super-duper mega luxury. They are so upmarket and prestigious that only Government officials, members of royalty, and those occupying the top percentage of earners in Japan can buy them.
Open the doors and inside you will find more leather and wood than an underground suburban BDSM meet and greet. The car is a treasure trove of features, sporting air suspension, self-shutting doors and trunk, massaging heated seats, in-car TV, and a plethora of other goodies made even more impressive when you consider it was made in 19-bloody-97.
But the lemon wedge on the cocktail is most definitely what lurks under the bonnet. It’s not a 4A-GE or a 2JZ, it’s a V12. A V12.
This one I’ve found sadly needs a light amount of work done to it to get back on the road, and you’d need to wait a while for it to surpass the LTSA’s 20-year rule, but if someone could kindly buy it for me that’d be excellent.