Car of the Year for $10K: New Zealand's best automotive offerings on a budget
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Just this morning, we released the 2019 finalists for our AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year, where ten of New Zealand's best vehicles were selected by a panel of automotive journalists alongside the AA.
For the first time in the awards’ history, nearly a third of the top 10 contenders in the running for the country’s most prestigious motoring award are electric or hybrid models.
If you haven't seen the full list of finalists yet, take a look at the list here.
While we'd all love to go and splash out on these excellent automotive offerings, buying new comes at premium, and not everyone can afford it. So here are the equivalents that (mostly) fall under a $10,000 budget — as listed here on Driven.
This list starts with the humble BMW 3 Series and it's earlier 3 Series equivalent. In terms of European offerings on the automotive market, popularity has led to these being a dime a dozen — which translates to an extremely saturated second-hand market.
The 3 Series has always been an industry standard for smaller sedans, complete with sharp handling and significant performance increases as you climb up the spec list and engine options.
If you are in the market for a budget-friendly BMW 3 Series, the E90 generation is a good start, and you'll have no trouble finding a reasonably low mileage 320i model within this budget. Opting for a higher spec such as a 325i or the twin-turbo 335i would either require straying out of the budget or opting for a higher mileage model.
The Peugeot 508's equivalent comes in the form of a quirky little 308 hatch.
While French-built vehicles are a favourite over in Europe, New Zealand and Australia's market uptake has been a little different. As you would know, Japanese vehicles dominate our markets, making the French-built second-hand scene a little scarce.
Despite this, there are still bargains to be had, and this 2014 Peugeot 308 hatch is a perfect example of this. With oodles of space, and a unique interior, this hatch is a refreshing change from the other more popular vehicles in this crowded segment.
Finding a cheaper equivalent of the Jaguar I-Pace is an impossible task, and as the electric SUV market is still a relatively new concept to the world, the second-hand market is almost non-existent.
Because of this, those in search of the spacious luxury that a Jaguar offers within the budget will have to go for an older wagon. It might not have the bone-shaking force of the fully-electric I-Pace, but this 2.5-litre V6-powered X-Type wagon is certainly no slouch.
Following in the footsteps of the Jaguar I-Pace comes the Tesla Model 3. The "entry-level" Tesla is known for its intense acceleration and gorgeous interior simplicity, but isn't known for being a bargain.
As this car arrived in New Zealand just a couple of months back, the Model 3's second-hand market is literally non-existent, but that doesn't mean that there aren't other EV offerings within the budget constraints.
It may not have the acceleration to match the Tesla, but the older Nissan Leaf is just as silent, and doesn't use any fuel. Because of Japanese imports, the Leaf market is quite saturated, and leaves plenty of bargains are to be had.
There's a reason why the New Zealand and Australia markets were infatuated with Aussie-built sedans before the rise of the SUV. Back in the day, you couldn't drive for two minutes before seeing one of these hardy family wagons on the road, but that isn't the case anymore.
We could slap a Holden Captiva in here as the Acadia's equivalent, but we're not going to recommend one of those to anyone. So we decided to go with the humble VE Commodore.
Powered by a 3.6-litre V6 engine, this sedan makes up in performance where it loses space to the much larger Acadia. Most low-km examples listed on Driven fall just above the $10K budget, and others that fall under it have clocked up a significant amount of mileage — which hints at this car's reliability.
When in search of a hatch that matches the performance of Renault's hot Megane RS, the budget restrictions rule out a lot of possibilities, but it's hard to go past a nice MK5 Golf GTI.
Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that's matched with a dual-clutch transmission, performance is one aspect that this hatch doesn't lack. Its 0-100km/h time of just 6.8 seconds proves this perfectly.
Just like the BMW, this model of Golf was immensely popular in New Zealand upon release, leading to a huge second-hand market with bargains scattered across the country.
If you can nab a manual at this price it might take a miracle, but the DSG-equipped model does nicely (as long as you keep it regularly serviced), and will provide plenty of smiles-per-gallon.
7. 2010 Mazda3
Just like the Holden Commodore, the Mazda3 is a New Zealand staple, and with the introduction of its sleek new generation, it looks like the sharp-looking hatch is here to stay.
Unfortunately, you're not going to nab one of these new ones for under $10K, but there are plenty of older models that will offer a similar experience.
Complete with refreshing looks and an efficient four-cylinder engine, the 2010-era Mazda3 is a great buy for its age and will offer Mazda's proven reliability for years to come.
Featuring a short wheelbase, and a peppy engine, the 2019 Ford Focus easily earned its spot in the top ten this year, but you don't have to fork out the big bucks for these driving dynamics.
Ford seems to have adopted an "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" mentality with the Focus, and every generation seemed to slightly improve the sturdy foundations that were set by the early models.
This means that you should be seeking out the best condition and most recent Focus for your money, just like this one, that sits a bit out of the $10K budget.
Toyota has found incredible success over the years with models such as the Corolla and Hilux, but the RAV4 can be overlooked despite its popularity as a soft-roader.
2019 brought a drastic change to the RAV4's looks, and Toyota gave it a great hybrid powertrain as well as improving its off-roading capabilities with the 'Adventure' model.
Around New Zealand, RAV4's are a dime and dozen, and plenty of newer models can be found for reasonable prices, just like this one here.
10. 2006 BMW 335i
This is going to be the most controversial pick on the list — the $10K equivalent of the 2020 Toyota GR Supra. But before you dismiss this choice for being a BMW, hear us out.
You'll already know that the Supra was a collaboration between BMW and Toyota, and under the curvy Toyota body panels sits a 2019 BMW Z4. Because of this, the Supra drives like a BMW sports car, so an older BMW sports car serves as the perfect replacement.
This 335i coupe is powered by a 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six engine that produces 223kW and 399Nm of torque which is similar to the 250kW/500Nm of the Supra.