Safety first: 10 of the best, safest small car bargains for under $20,000
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As cars become more and more sophisticated, it isn't necessarily the fancy screens or the cameras that represent the greatest changes. That honour arguably goes to the huge steps forward in safety tech; both structural and active.
It means that buying a small car need not be a process avoided for those wanting a safe car, like it may have been in the past. Here's 10 of DRIVEN's favourite small car picks, based on safety ratings and safety features.
We start with one of, if not the sub-compact most popular small cars in New Zealand; the Suzuki Swift.
Most current Swift models priced under $20,000 are entry-level GLs. If you're wanting the safest model in the line-up though, it's worth shopping around for a GLX grade Swift or higher ... a bit like this $18,995, 3995km NZ-new GLXC listed in Manawatu.
The key differences from spec to spec is the added little square plastic box on the front grille on the left of the badge.
This box houses the Swift's radar tech for autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. And, it's the reason higher-spec Swifts score a 5-star ANCAP rating, while others settle for 4. Click here to check it out.
Now to tackle the Swift's arch nemesis, the Honda Jazz. While the Swift has its measure in handling, tech and outright modernity, the Jazz claws things back with its large-car practicality.
The Jazz hasn't undertaken ANCAP's latest more stringent crash testing, but still sports a 5-star result from 2014. It scored an excellent 36.58 out of 37 on that occasion.
This particular example is a lovely RS model (as designated by the bodykit and red highlights).
With just over 10,000km on the clock, it's near new in condition. Click here to check it out.
The first of our larger contenders is a curvy, underrated hatch from Korea.
The Hyundai i30 has sat in the shadow of more established players in the game. But that generally makes it great value on the second-hand market. This high-spec Elite (note the electric adjustable seats and large touchscreen) is a solid example, priced at $17,990.
Like the Jazz, this 2015-generation of i30 scored a convincing 5-star ANCAP safety rating in the organisation's older regime. Click here to check it out.
For a more style and premium build than most on this list, the Skoda Fabia is an excellent bet. Chic looks are supported by handy levels of space inside and, yes, strong safety chops.
The Fabia's 34.16 out of 37 5-star ANCAP safety rating is highly competitive in class. Note that this test took place in 2015 and as such only applies to Fabias produced and sold from that point onwards; like this 2016 TSI.
It's under budget by over two grand, has just 31,000km on the clock, and looks great on those chunky five-spoke wheels. Click here to check it out.
Those familiar with the Fabia will know that it shares its platform with a range of other small cars, including the Volkswagen Polo.
Opting for a Polo over a Fabia will grant buyers a slightly higher level of interior quality, an arguably more premium badge, and access to a range of different trim levels like the GTI hot hatch. Given it's produce on the same platform, it's no surprise that the Polo is deemed to be just as safe as its Fabia counterpart.
This particular GTI, listed in Auckland for $21,480, packs genuine hot-hatch performance via a 1.8-litre turbocharged engine, revised suspension and steering tuning, and a host of special touches like a flat-bottomed steering wheel and those signature tartan seats. Click here to check it out.
Wanting to buy new? Well, this might be your best bet.
New and demo-kilometre examples of Kia's diminuitive Rio hatch are widely available for just under or just over the $20,000 threshold. Apart from being a great steer and yet another example of the strides Kia has made as a company, the Rio is also a safe platform. As one of the last cars tested under ANCAP's old measures in 2017, the Rio scored 35.52 out of 37 and 5 stars.
Most 2020 Rios listed under $20,000 are LX models like this one in Auckland. It has just 25km on the odometer, and flies in over $1000 under budget at $18,990. And hey, it's a manual! Click here to check it out.
We've said it before and we'll say it again; now is a good time to investigate buying a Holden. The bargains that can be had are excellent, making cars like the European-sourced Astra an excellent buy.
The Astra has scored well in ANCAP's current, more stringent crash testing procedures. Its 86 per cent Adult Protection, 84 per cent Child Protection, 83 per cent Pedestrian Protection, and 75 per cent Safety Assist ranks handsomely among its peers. Especially given that it's been around a little longer than most to have undergone the same tests.
This particular Astra in Auckland is an RS model, which comes powered by a 1.6-litre turbo four. It has just 24,500km on the clock, and it spriced at $19,850. Click here to check it out.
From the relatively current Astra, we turn to Mitsubishi's faithful compact stalwart; the Lancer.
Mitsubishi made these for a very, very long time as a rival to the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, and others. The Lancer hasn't undergone the latest ANCAP testing (indeed, Mitsubishi recently pulled the plug on the once loved model), but models from 2015 and onwards do have a 5-star rating.
It may not be the newest car out there, but the Lancer is dependable, decent to drive, and practical. This one, listed in Waikato and painted gunmetal silver, is priced at $17,450 with 22,403km in mileage indicated. Click here to check it out.
It may sport a Japanese badge, but this Mazda2 is right up there with the aforementioned Fabia and Golf for interior quality and sharp styling.
The 'Two' has aged very well, and brings with it a strong credibility when it comes to safety. Its standardisation of autonomous emergency braking was ahead of its time. When last tested in 2015, it scored 'Good' results for Whiplash Protection and Pedestrian Detection, with a 36.35 out of 37 overall.
This particular Mazda2 is an absolute top-spec, NZ-new model. It's draped in the manufacturer's signature 'Soul Red', has a leather-appointed cabin with suede inserts, and a 20,000km odometer count. Click here to check it out.
If you want a bit of everything though, exclusivity, handsome styling, and safety that's bang up to date, then the Nissan Micra is potentially the best car on this list.
The 'new' Micra isn't widely available in New Zealand, but there are a handful of the sharply styled gems out there. Its Adult Protection is particularly strong at 91 per cent by ANCAP (who gave it a 5-star rating overall), with Child Occupant and Pedestrian Detection at 79 per cent each, and Safety Assist rated at 72 per cent.
This red example comes with a range of neat tech features like traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, cruise control, Apple CarPlay, and more. With just 5000km on the clock, it's priced at $17,990. Click here to check it out.