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The five best cars you can buy for $5,000
By Matthew Hansen • 09/06/2016
Thursday Five: taking a walk on the beige side
A war raged on Wednesday afternoon at Driven headquarters, and naturally it was based around the construction of the week’s Thursday Five article.
The topic? The best car one could buy with a budget of Five Large. In the red corner was Driven's main photographer, who insisted that the construction of ‘best’ be based around prestige and history. In the blue corner meanwhile was driven.co.nz managing editor Tony, who pushed that we instead focus around real cars (beige mobiles) that offer what buyers in that pricing bracket are most focused on; reliability.
In the middle of it all was me, welded to the fence until I eventually sided with Tony. It's all well and good to recommend a flamboyant list of old Alfas and Mercs to people, but the reality of course is that most of those cars cost a fortune to keep on the road.
So, in a somewhat rare showing of sensibility, here's a selection of sound, solid selections from the Thursday Five desk.
2001–2008 Nissan Primera
This generation of Primera has the odd title of having a design that’s both ugly and timeless. Park one next to an equivalent 626, Camry, or Accord and you’ll see how ahead of the times it still looks today — as well as how bizarre. The same can be said of the Micra of a similar vintage.
But, these are renowned for their work-horse qualities — as evidenced by the amount that still reside on the roads today. And you'll definitely struggle to find something more modern for this money ...
1997–2002 Honda Accord SiR Wagon
Speaking of Accords though, I still consider these to be a very handsome thing from certain angles.
Japanese imports of the wagon are a frequent sight on Kiwi streets. They're smooth and refined, as well as great on gas mileage.
While the sedan variant is one of the most stolen cars in New Zealand, the wagon avoids the same negative attention — and in trade gives you a whopping great big space in the rear.
Consider also raiding the couch for a few extra coins to afford an Accord CL7. Excellent cars.
1988–1998 Suzuki Vitara / Escudo
While some in off-roading circles think of the Vitara as one of the more ‘feminine’ entrants into the game, they still remain a popular and common platform all over the country.
These are the best bang-for-buck 4x4 in the country, and can quite easily be had for less than $5,000. If you feel so inclined, the newer Grand Vitara is also in budget — even in its five-door guise.
2000–2006 Nissan Pulsar
At the dawn of the century, The Herald’s company car fleet had several characters. Among them was the Pulsar, and over time it became a staff favourite for its reliability and space. Even its design has aged well relative to its rivals from the same period.
It might not be a glamorous option, but if you’re after a reliable compact hatch (that isn’t a Corolla), then it’s more than worth looking at.
Alternatively, if you’re one of those backwards hat types who only wants things cool and sporty, the VZ-R from the previous generation is an underrated piece of kit.
1989–1997 Mazda MX-5
The first generation MX-5 is a classic — what’s more, a five-grand classic.
It brought back the English sports car, but in a low-price Japanese package that anyone could’ve bought into in the early 90s. The price is now even lower, and sadly many of these will be scooped up by modifiers keen to make them look ‘fully sik’ and ‘hellaflush’ and ‘dank’. Eww.
Although, I guess that's just part of the allure. The MX-5 transcends all kinds; from those who want a classic to those who want to rip one apart.
… anyway. Great handling, an iconic nameplate, and flipping headlights; what more could you want?