Best budget buy reputation by segment
Australian car buyers are increasingly attracted by a badge on the bonnet that shows their success.
The luxury brands responded by pushing into mainstream brand territory just a few years ago.
That’s why the “big three” – Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz – saw 10% better growth last year in a 2% decline market.
It is still the case that you get what you pay for, so CarsGuide has looked at the cheapest (other than best value) entries in the major car segments.
This is the cheapest way to buy membership of the prestigious club, but it’s the basic package. First impressions are good, with a special shield-shaped grille that makes the supermini stand out. Inside, however, only the Alfa badge on the center of the steering wheel shows it’s a product of a premium brand.
However, Alfas is all about driving and for the money, there’s a powerful 900cc turbo engine that matches the suspension much improved over the previous series.
It’s a long way to get the car of perfect prestige but it’s the best car a buyer can expect at this price point.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta – $ 29,000
A Giulietta is closer to what we would expect from Alfa than a MiTo, even if it’s not the car Alfisti wanted. The Giulietta has added rear doors and far more refinement in cabin styling and performance. If buyers can find an extra $ 6500, this is the one Alfa should own … at least until Giulia heralded the return of the all-wheel-drive Alfas after its launch later this year.
The Giulietta’s suspension system is generally well-ordered and the turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder gives this five-door enough to be an enjoyable drive.
For CarsGuide, this is the prestigious entry point.
Audi A3 – $ 39,800
Now we are cooking. The A3’s interior finish looks as if it’s assembled using a jewelry roofing panel and the material is a step up from the material found in VW Golf. The design from the inside out is minimalistic but luxurious.
A turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and the little trick is to drop the two cylinders under light load to help achieve a claimed fuel consumption of 4 , 7L / 100km.
Handling compromises are obvious: overcoming city bumps while still trying to get past the zigzag things.
BMW 316i – $ 52,800
The entry level 3 Series is basically a price tag for CarsGuide’s Car of the Year, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Potential owners can save $ 8,000 (the difference between the 316i and the Benz C200) but will miss out on the luxury items.
Performance won’t burn the world but the eight-speed automatic will make the most of the available urge. It handles well through corners and around town. The six-speed manual is available for the same price.
Leather faux leather seats look like merchandise even if they are adjusted manually, not electrically. Standard equipment includes dual-zone air conditioning, a 6.5-inch screen with satnav and rear parking sensors.
Leaping Cat has entered the large car segment with the XF, currently only behind the Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series in sales. There’s good reason for that – the 2.0-liter turbo is willing to perform, if it gets thirsty and is powered by a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission.
Slip into the leather and suede front seats and those for the first time will be impressed by the party tricks. The drive control rotates away from the center console and the vents open.
Rear space isn’t great, but the Jag exudes a classic style complemented by modern technology.
Not so long ago, you used to be a fool when considering a Lexus sports car. Now you won’t be a fool. The RC350 has a striking appearance – though some won’t appreciate the spindle grille – and the poise and performance to aid it. A 3.5-liter V6 powering the rear wheels and a 100km / h sprint time of 6.1 seconds despite a weight of 1740kg.
The four-year warranty and 56% resale value after three years are also worth the attention.
Standard kit includes LED headlights, satnav, 10-speaker audio and heated / ventilated seats.
The poor man’s prestigious drop-top embodies the fun, from breathtaking feel to the sensational handling package. The 1.6-liter engine isn’t a rocket – there’s a supercharged Cooper S for more power – but it’s a performer ready to partner with a six-speed manual transmission (automatic adds $ 2350).
Pragmatism is not part of the package with small boot space and rear seats shouldn’t take up more than shopping bags. There is also wind noise and tire roaring from the top up or down.
Live with that, and the Mini is relatively cheap and exceptionally fun.
No, it’s not all-wheel drive, but neither is it its rival. The 149mm saddle height gives Countryman enough ground clearance to cross rutted roads without challenging the 170mm ground clearance of the Audi Q3. Neither will be used for off-road missions, so the elevated driving position is the attraction here, along with a large (by Mini standard) 350L trunk.
It shares the 1.6-liter engine with the Mini Cabrio and drives almost as much, with just a touch more of the bodywork through turns.
The most attractive aspect is the price, which is 8,000 USD lower than the Audi Q3 and 14,000 USD lower than the BMW X1.
The five-door model doesn’t quite look like its three-door cousin but is a car with more functionality to live in – and it’s $ 2,500 cheaper. The diesel engine is the lowest priced in the range, as the petrol variant is positioned as the performance model.
The 2.2-liter turbo diesel engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission, making this front-wheel drive an economical driving car. Announced fuel use of 5.0L / 100km There’s plenty to see inside, from the partial leather seats to the soft touch panel and elegant switch layout. The base model – called the eD4 – has a 5-inch TFT multimedia display and rear parking sensors, but cannot have a reverse camera or rear-seat vents.
There are still ways to achieve luxury, if not outright prestige, in key segments.
The large all-wheel-drive wagon is 210mm from the road surface, with enough room to climb over the curb and cycle through the snow piles at the local ski rink.
Powered by a 575L boot, it is a wonderfully capable resting machine.
Volvo is all about travel in comfort, so the intricate deliberate ride comes with cornering ability.
The basic diesel is more than enough but some expected gear – like powered rear doors and satnav – requires embedding into the extensive option list.