Conquer the urban jungle: What's the best city car you can buy for $20,000?
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Today's first drive report of the new Suzuki Swift Hybrid got us thinking; what other great city cars are out there for those driving in town on the daily?
A good city car must be easy to drive, easy to park, easy to see out of, economical, and nippy enough to carve up traffic and perform incomprehensible lane changes in the blink of an eye. Here's five cars that we reckon do the job perfectly — for less than $20,000.
Let's start with the traditional 'anti-Corolla' choice — the Mazda3.
Also known here as a Mazda Axela thanks to its popularity as a Japanese import, the outgoing 3 blends lovely styling that's aged gracefully with an exceptional chassis and solid interior material quality. It's small portions and extensive tech list make it a formidable contender for urban-living supremacy.
The arrival of a new Mazda3 means that you can get quite a nice previous-gen model for under $20,000. Low-spec sedan variants with higher kilometres can be found for less than $15,000, with high-spec models like this SP 20S being in the upper price range.
It comes with climate control, radar cruise control, lane-keep assist, and a few neat visual touches like red stitching and larger wheels. Listed in Auckland, it's only for 51,419km on the odometer and is priced at $19,700. Click here to check it out.
2. 2014 Fiat 500
Wanting something with even more style and much easier parking abilities? Well, say hello to the Fiat 500.
The 500 is been around as a model for over 10 years, but you wouldn't necessarily know it. Ironically, its retro-themed styling has stood the test of time wonderfully both inside and out. More to the point, the wee little 500 is diabolically simple to park due to its small dimensions and relatively large glasshouse.
The catch? Well, a lot of the models listed for sale in New Zealand are manuals.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. Manual variants will be more reliable than versions fitted with the single-clutch automatic while also being smoother to drive.
This particular 500 has 63,000km on the clock and a two-tone cabin (complete with a manual stick). Click here to check it out.
Take the 500, add a dash of extra practicality, a few tablespoons of probable reliability, and a hint of SUV and you get this Kia Picanto X-Line.
These little things are fabulous fun to drive and look adorable with their chunky styling and low-profile tyres. And, for such a small car, the build quality in them is very impressive. You could be forgiven for thinking you were in a car a few sizes up.
Right now, Kia dealers all over the country are slashing prices on brand new Picantos (a face-lift is on the way). For under $20,000, you can have your pick of an X-Line (a little SUV lookalike with cladding, a cute faux bash plate, and more) or a GT-Line (a hot hatch cosplayer with a bodykit and red highlights in some models).
This X-Line is listed in Auckland and has just 25 delivery kilometres indicated. Click here to check it out.
Yup. Now we get to perhaps the most inevitable entry on this list; the Suzuki Swift.
These are popular for good reason. They're great value, typically loaded with equipment, are known to be built like tanks, and they're fun to drive. The current-generation Swift cranks up all of these foundation elements to 11 ... but particularly in tech. Most models come standard with radar cruise control and lane-keep assist. The autonomous emergency braking system, meanwhile, is one of the best in the business going on our testing.
With $20,000 in hand, you'll be able to afford either a pristine second-gen model or a current model with a few kilometres on it. A current Swift Sport is mighty tempting, but around town I reckon the three-cylinder Swift RS like this one is even more fun.
It'll be more fuel efficient, cheaper to run, and that engine sounds marvelous when you're giving it the beans. Click here to check it out.
Lastly we have the car probably more common in New Zealand's urban jungle; the Toyota Prius.
Forget the jokes and jeers, Priuses are excellent daily drivers. Quiet, comfy, reliable, easy to drive, very cheap to run ... they tick just about every box required for being excellent city slickers. Just bare in mind that you're vulnerable to legions of total strangers hopping into your car at random, asking 'are you my ride?'
Prices for decent third-generation Priuses start well under $15,000. But if you've got $20,000 to spend, it's worth looking at getting the Prius plug-in hybrid (PHEV) instead. These weren't sold new here, but are occasionally brought in as foreign imports. You can spot one by its extra chrome highlights.
Along with being a bit more fuel efficient than a standard Prius (they can run solely on electricity, too), a surprise benefit is ride quality. Assumedly due to the extra weight, Toyota fitted the PHEV with more supple suspension. This one is a smidge outside budget at $20,480, but it's only got 47,570km on the clock. Click here to check it out.