Ten undeniably cool used cars that you can buy for less than $15,000
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Every week DRIVEN publishes a story series titled Expert Car Picks, where we choose an automotive theme and decide what we’d actually spend our own money on in the new-vehicle market.
We had a great a response to our recent “Cool Cars Under $40k” instalment and it got us thinking: strip away even more of that budget and what cool cars are available used for, say, $15k? “Cool” is a subjective thing of course. But nonetheless, here are 10 used models that we reckon most would agree have cred and a certain chill factor.
Mazda MX-5s are great, but way back in 1984 Toyota launched the first of a model series of roadsters that are still highly regarded today.
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The MR2 lasted three generations and 23 years. As the name suggests, all were M-for-mid-engined, R-for-rear-drive and 2-seat (although the third-gen was badged MR-S). Although Toyota also suggests the name could stand for "Midship Runabout". Hmmm.
They’re not always easy to find, but worth the work. It’s a taste of the exotic… for $15k.
The Volkswagen Golf truly is the German Toyota Corolla (we like those too). But perhaps because it’s a Euro in a Kiwi market dominated by Japan, or it has such rich heritage (GTI anybody?), the Golf is regarded as a cut above the mainstream by Kiwis.
The beauty of such a broad range is that the world is your oyster with Golf, even at $15k: whether you want a sensible family car, hot hatch, wagon or convertible, there’s probably a Golf out there to suit.
BMW 3 Series
The 3 Series is still the definitive compact-executive model (well, BMW did pretty much invent the segment after all) and it’s always been at or near the head of the class for design and driving dynamics.
It’s also instantly recognisable because it’s been so consistent over the years. The sedan is the classic, but if you want a wagon, coupe or convertible, they’re in the 3 Series portfolio too.
The latest Jimny was one of our “Cool Cars Under $40k” because it has great off-road cred and people seem to love the style. So much so that there’s still a waiting list.
That’s thrown a spotlight on the previous Jimny, which isn’t as strikingly styled as the new model, but still hugely sought-after for its cute looks and incredible 4x4 ability.
Alfa Romeo GT
Alfa Romeo has had its ups and downs for sure. It’s currently cool again thanks largely to the Giulia rear-drive sedan, and that’s created a bit of a glow around some of the older models again.
Whether an Alfa family hatch is cool is debatable, but surely you can’t argue with a sleek coupe. The GT (2003) was based on the 159 sedan and came with four-cylinder petrol/diesel engines – as well as a range-topping V6. It’s one of those Alfas that looks awesome under the bonnet as well…
The Fiat 500 was one of many retro-themed small cars that made their mark last decade: think VW Beetle and Mini.
The 500 was cheap and cheerful right from the start (2007) and has lasted a long time without major changes; it references the iconic original without being the least pretentious about it. It’s easy to love.
Nissan’s new Z Proto concept (soon to become the 400Z production car) is in the news, which naturally inspires us to start looking back at former Zed cars.
The sports car line got its last major boost with the 350Z (2003-09) and that’s a model that falls nicely within our budget. It still looks great and is a real driver’s car: compact, with a rear-drive chassis.
Well, you can’t ignore the Swift, right? It’s one of NZ’s best-selling models, but it’s also a rare thing: an inexpensive family hatch that’s also truly desirable and seemingly loved by almost everybody.
Our budget gets you plenty of choice, right from the entry model to the highly acclaimed Sport.
Utes are a very personal thing to many buyers and there’s fierce brand loyalty. However, when it comes to the cool-factor you really can’t deny the Hilux holds a special place in Kiwi culture.
Utes hold their value incredible well, so even at this money it'll be an older (probably pre-2005) model that's covered a fair few kilometres. But Hiluxes are tough, right?
Subaru Legacy wagon
Subaru has taken some love-it or hate-it directions of late. But who isn’t in for a traditional Legacy wagon, especially now that the model is winding down in NZ?
The Legacy load-carrier was dropped when the latest Outback was launched (because it’s essentially a jacked-up Legacy anyway) and now we’ve learned the Legacy sedan is reaching the end of the road.
That makes a traditional Legacy wagon a bit of a classic in our opinion - even with the somewhat challenging styling of the fifth-generation model (2010-14).