Five small cars with big bang for your buck

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10 Oct 2017 by smartleasing

Motoring is a pretty simple prospect for a lot of small-car buyers. It’s all about getting to your destination for as few dollars as possible. Maybe, though, you’d like a small car as well as some gratification from driving it, too. What are your options?

Well, the good news is you don’t need a sports car, or even an overtly sporting version of a mainstream car, to dial up some good times. Here are five contenders that deliver big grins in a small package.

Ford Focus

This Ford is far from the latest small car in 2017 and owing to the sheer talent of all-new arrivals such as Holden’s Astra, Subaru’s Impreza and Hyundai’s i30, not to mention refreshed versions of Mazda’s 3 and VW Golf, probably not the greatest all-rounder, either.

For the keen driver, though, its sweetly responsive steering and supremely poised, surefooted behaviour through the bends are big enticements. A strong, flexible and refined 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, added in a 2015 update, bolsters its blue-chip driving credentials. From $23,390.

Mazda 2

Some light hatches don’t much like being taken out of their favoured urban environment, but a combination of its recently upgraded and willing 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with eager, athletic handling makes this car a real hoot when the skyscrapers recede and a twisting, tree-lined road appears.

Slick presentation, great economy and mandatory safety technology such as auto emergency braking mean the 2’s scope of appeal runs beyond its stellar driving credentials. Just don’t expect the biggest back seat and boot in the class, or much in the way of peace and quiet on the open road. From $14,990.

Mini Cooper hatch

True, this Mini, with a near-$30k entry fee, doesn’t really live up to the ‘affordable’ end of the small-car deal.

Plenty of buyers, though, are just fine with the idea of a “premium” light hatch and this one is a standout for enthusiastic drivers with its turn-on-a-dime obedience and confidence-inspiring composure. Its 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine delivers surprisingly zesty performance as well. A five-door option, meanwhile, offers a bit of practical relief to those who can’t live with a three-door. From $27,400.

Suzuki Swift GLX

This recently renewed Suzuki light hatch’s combination of featherweight mass (it weighs in at just 915kg), a willing 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine and agile, engaging handling make it a treat for the driver on the right road, even with its mandatory auto gearbox.

This new-generation model also ushers in a host of other advances over its predecessor, including slicker presentation and up-to-the-minute technology such as auto emergency braking and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration. From $22,290.

Toyota C-HR

Yes, a Toyota. And an SUV. But it’s a small one and, more pertinently here, one of the best to drive. The C-HR is no drag racer – its 1.2-litre, turbo-petrol engine is more adequate than exciting – but its adroit, enjoyable handling shows that the Japanese brand is capable of injecting a bit of on-road mojo into more than just its celebrated 86 sports car.

Even better – and unlike some rival city SUVs – it does it while pampering its occupants with a plush, quiet ride. Bold looks, a classy cabin and strong safety and technology features bolster its robust appeal. From $26,990.

While fuel economy and parkability might be among their main attractions, the drivability of these small cars means you don’t need to short-change yourself on the fun of touring the tarmac.

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