South Korean brand's cut-price city car is an enticing package, especially with its extended warranty.
Ankit drives a Hyundai Getz but is finding its three-door body less than ideal when he occasionally has to put a kid in the back. He wants a car with easier access that fits well with his highway-orientated driving habits. He’d like it to have a manual gearbox, Bluetooth, yearly/15,000km service intervals and some factory warranty remaining.
If Ankit is simply looking for better access than he gets with his, er, Getz rather than a bigger package all round, then a five-door light car is likely to be all he needs.
It will also be the best way to get some of the factory warranty he wants; indeed, he might just snag a brand-new example if he isn’t seeking upper level equipment or performance.
Ankit’s desire for yearly/15,000km service intervals, however, puts paid to a host of possibilities that need attention every six months or 10,000km, from Honda’s Jazz, Mazda’s 2 and Nissan’s Micra to Suzuki’s Swift and Toyota’s Yaris.
The list of players with his desired service intervals can also be culled, some due to being comparatively crummy, others because they don’t make as much sense as this trio below.
2009-on Ford Fiesta five-door, from $9790*
If Ankit could stretch to $15,825 plus on-road costs, he could snare a recently updated Fiesta Ambiente with massaged looks, glitzier cabin, beefed-up in-car connectivity and thriftier 1.5-litre petrol engine.
However, its predecessors still look sharp, drive brilliantly and have a 1.6-litre engine that might drink a little more but is also brawnier. Bluetooth is standard on 2011-on stock and examples with a fully stamped logbook will gain access to Ford’s seven-year/105,000km capped-servicing plan.
No Fiesta, though, is particularly roomy in the back, quiet or a quality leader. Its three-year factory warranty also puts it on the back foot against the next car in this fight.
Read Drive’s Ford Fiesta reviews:
2011-on Kia Rio, from $9680*
Kia was doing some tempting deals on the five-door Rio S as this was written ($15,990 driveaway, with a $500 factory bonus), so a brand-new example is a real possibility on Ankit’s budget.
We’ll get the bad news out of the way first. The Rio lacks the driving flair of a Fiesta and has no answer to the ultimate depth and refinement of our third contender.
However, it’s nicely presented, roomy, drives with more than adequate proficiency and has standard Bluetooth. It also combines a five-year/unlimited km warranty with five years/75,000km capped servicing.
Then again, a used Si or SLi might just be better – their 1.6-litre petrol engine is much stronger than the S’s mediocre 1.4, and they look sharper and have more gear as well. Even the oldest ones, too, will still gain access to Kia’s ownership sweeteners until 2016.
Read Drive’s Kia Rio reviews:
2010-on Volkswagen Polo, from $10,890*
This VW looks and feels decidedly upmarket and that’s how it drives – for drivetrain refinement, ride comfort and quietness, no other light car comes close.
77 TSI turbo petrol models also deliver standout performance and economy, while 66 TDIs have impressive flexibility and highway frugality to counter the odd urban driveability nag. There are no significant functionality issues either.
However, a new Polo can’t really be entertained at this budget (they start at $16,990 plus on-roads) and Bluetooth only arrived in 2012, which could mean settling for a base model and its rather less impressive 1.4-litre petrol engine at this budget. Despite VW now offering six-year/90,000km capped-price servicing, some reliability and cost question marks (notably petrol models asking for premium unleaded) remain to sour the taste.
Read Drive’s Volkswagen Polo reviews:
The Polo is the light car you’d want for crunching highway kays, and the one you’d want full stop, but its value and ownership question marks also stop it from being an unequivocal winner here.
The Fiesta goes that bit closer to victory with its decent value, compelling road manners and the most comprehensive capped-servicing regime of this group. Buyers looking for some real satisfaction at a good price should consider it seriously.
But the Rio has the Ford beat for value, quality and space, and will give Ankit more of the factory warranty he’s looking for. If it doesn’t quite match the driving highs of the Fiesta or outright sophistication of the Polo, by any mainstream standards this capable and appealing light hatch is more than good enough.
* Values are estimates provided by Glass’s Guide based on an example averaging up to 20,000km per annum and in a well-maintained condition relevant to its age