Patrick is ready to move on from his 2009 VW Golf 118 TSI and likes the look of the new seventh-gen model. But he’s tempted by Hyundai’s i30, mostly due to its five-year warranty and capped-price servicing, while Holden’s Cruze SRi-V and Mazda’s 3 SP25 have also caught his eye. Which one would we buy? The budget is up to $37,000.
We’ve yet to fully road test the new Golf, but can report it’s an advance over the excellent sixth-gen model. The addition of capped-price servicing means you can keep a lid on costs. The current model has had reliability issues, but the fact Patrick is happy to look at another Golf suggests he’s had a trouble-free run with his car.
The Hyundai does throw in a long warranty, which could potentially make this very able – if not particularly exciting – small car a potentially better bet.
The SRi-V and SP25? Both have attractions but neither has the talent to challenge the Golf, or counter the ownership appeal of the i30. No, if it were our money we’d be checking out our third contender, which is one of today’s best small cars no matter how you cut it.
Ford Focus Sport/Titanium, from $25,890/$32,990
With its strong functionality, safety, value and seven-year/ 105,000-kilometre capped-price servicing deal (one of the longest around), this Ford makes a good fist of being a mainstream small car. It’s a joy to drive, and while a top-line Titanium can be had for this money, we wouldn’t count out the better-riding, generously equipped and much cheaper Sport.
Regardless of trim, you can expect a willing 2.0-litre petrol engine at this level and similarly competitive (optional) diesel. But Golf refugees could find the cabin a bit scrappy, and may be surprised its capped servicing costs are fractionally higher than the VW’s.
Hyundai i30 Elite/Premium diesel, from $27,190/$32,590
This Hyundai is no leader through the bends, where it’s eclipsed by the Ford and VW. Its position as a standout mainstream buy is threatened by Toyota’s Corolla, which is sharper to drive, slightly better value and caps service costs to 60,000 kilometres rather than 45,000 kilometres in the same three-year time span.
But the Toyota has no answer to the Hyundai’s five-year warranty, pampering ride and classy cabin, or its flexible, frugal optional diesel engine. Thus equipped, the i30 is an extremely able, attractive, safe, economical and worry-free small car with – in Elite and top-line Premium trims – plenty of gear.
Volkswagen Golf 103TSI/110TDI, from $31,990/$34,490
Instalment seven of VW’s small-car franchise might look like just another Golf, but there are tangible safety, economy, technology, cabin and on-road advances to savour.
The new Golf is better value and has a competitive six-year/ 90,000-kilometre capped-price servicing plan – 103TSI petrol and 110TDI diesel models in this budget range undercut their Focus rivals over those six years, while the latter costs barely more to service than an i30 diesel over a three-year span.
Issues? The VW is better value but you’ll still pay more than the other cars here for a similar level of kit. The 17-inch rolling stock fitted to 103TSI/110TDI models does no favours for the low-speed ride quality or in-car hush.
Given Patrick is looking to move on from his current car after about three years, and could well do the same again, the Hyundai’s warranty might not really be an advantage.
In that scenario, and with the Focus and Golf offering capped servicing programs of their own, we’d suggest the Hyundai needs to be even cheaper to balance its relative lack of talent and appeal.
It’s not a one-way street for the Korean over a longer ownership period – it has that warranty, but unlike the others, its capped servicing program will be history.
The other two? Well, you can’t really lose with a Focus, but the last Golf – while ceding to the Ford in several Drive runoffs in recent years – was never shamed, always desirable and only really lost ground due to value and the spectre of high service costs. Now both these sore points have come in for attention, the latter impressively so, we believe it will be a hard small car to pass up.