Eight cars you can buy for $10k that are all kinds of fun
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Ten thousand bucks isn't a lot of money for a car. Especially if you're not content to drive something unrelentingly ordinary. Or is it? We went searching for some true surprise-and-delight machines for $10,000 and we got pretty excited. And bemused. And scared a couple of times. Check these out...
Mitsuoka is a niche maker of very strange looking cars, usually based on existing production vehicles and often with outrageous retro styling.
The company really made its name as Japan's 10th official car brand with the Viewt, a tiny sedan based on the Nissan Micra/March but styled to look like a 1960s Jaguar. It was launched way back in 1993, but the Viewt is still in production, which means it does occasionally appear as a used import in New Zealand. Go on, you know you want to.
If you want to go deep into the rabbit hole, check out the other Mitsuokas listed on DRIVEN.
If you don't fancy a reboot of a 1960s Jaguar made by Mitsuoka, how about a reboot of a 1960s Jaguar made by... Jaguar?
Our $10k budget can actually buy you a genuine S-Type, a fascinating curio from 1999-2007 - a time when Jaguar still thought its new models had to look as much like its old models as possible.
What looked awkward two decades ago now looks retro-cool again and the S-Type was always decent to drive - a proper rear-drive sporting sedan. Break out the tweed (ironically of course) and enjoy.
Toyota Blade Master G
Toyota Corollas for less than $10k are not hard to come by. But here's the hard-man of the bunch: the Blade Master G.
"Blade" was the Japanese-market brand for a more powerful and luxurious version of the 2006-12 Corolla hatch. There's the standard Blade, which has a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine. But we especially love the Blade Master G, which packs the 3.5-litre V6 from the Aurion. A Corolla V6 just seems so great in so many ways.
The Master also comes with all kinds of stuff that was usually reserved for contemporary Lexus models, like adaptive cruise and Alcantara trim.
Chrysler PT Cruiser
The Chrysler PT Cruiser (2001-10) is another one of those cars that falls into the so-bad-it's-now-good category. The hot-rod styling wrote cheques (sorry, checks) that the puny four-cylinder engine couldn't cash - at least in right-hand drive, because the US did get a turbocharged option.
The PT now stands as a fantastic souvenir of a time when Chrysler was obsessed with the whole retro-Americana thing. As a vehicle it's quite practical, with lots of people mover-type packaging.
Covet a special-edition if you can - there were many, including a "Route 66" with bright yellow paintwork and the shiniest alloys you're ever seen on a factory-standard car. Or the convertible!
You can't mention budget fun without throwing a Suzuki Swift Sport into the conversation. They are tremendously popular and therefore plentiful. They're also a lot more special than the standard Swift thanks a unique engine, transmission and suspension setup.
On our budget you're looking at a first or second-generation Sport - the former was manual only, whereas the latter came with a choice of three pedals or a continuously variable automatic.
Nissan Skyline V35
The V35 Nissan Skyline (2001-06) is your ticket to budget rear-drive fun. It doesn't look much and it's a teeny bit unloved because this was the generation where the GT-R parted company with the Skyline name; but it's based on the same platform as the 350Z and has a reputation as a great drive.
For a bit more style there was also a coupe version, produced from 2002-07.
For purist sports car fun at this money you cannot ignore the Mazda MX-5: it's a proper rear-drive roadster, brilliantly reliable and because it's been produced for over 30 years, there are plenty to choose from.
You'll probably be looking at a second-generation (1997-05) model, because the originals are quite sought-after now. But maybe a also third-gen (2005-14) - arguably the least liked version because it got a bit bloated, but it's still brilliant to drive.
The Smart Fortwo gets all the glory for combining an absurdly small footprint with the safety of a much larger car, but those in the know revere the Toyota iQ (2008-15).
The European-designed iQ used all kinds of design and engineering innovation to provide large-car crash-strength and accommodation for three (four at a pinch) in a package less than three metres long.
The iQ was offered as a Toyota NZ Signature Class used car for while, but there are also plenty of other used-import examples around. And yes, the iQ was the base for Aston Martin's infamous Cygnet.