Looking for a small car that punches above its weight when it comes to space, performance, comfort and fuel efficiency?
We've put together a list of seven great little cars that are taking the Australian market by storm. Read on to discover which compact motors are providing the best value and what type of driver they're going to impress the most.
1. Kia Cerato
South Korean cars have improved significantly in the past few years, and the Kia Cerato is no exception. It's the best-selling Kia over here, and the 2021 version, complete with Kia's new badge, offers excellent value.
- Low entry price of $25,420 (before on-road costs)
- 7-year breakdown cover, 7-year warranty, and 7-year fixed-price servicing.
- Advanced tech both inside the cabin and under the bonnet.
- Some variants (the S and the Sport) only have a 4-star ANCAP rating.
- Some reviewers complain of cabin noise in the base spec model.
Who should drive the Kia Cerato?
If you want a small car that's comfortable, great to drive, fuel-efficient and spacious, alongside a good suite of autonomous features and hi-tech innovations, the Kia is going to tick your boxes. If value-for-money is a priority for you, the Cerato definitely warrants further consideration.
2. Hyundai i30
The fourth most popular car here in 2020, there are plenty of good reasons why the Hyundai is a good option. Not least of these reasons is the price - on a par with the Cerato, the automatic base-spec variant costs just $25,420 before on-road costs.
- High level of active safety equipment
- Plenty of luggage space (395l).
- Striking interior and exterior upgrades for 2021.
- Some reviewers aren't keen on the cabin tech (such as the "supervision" display).
Who should drive the Hyundai i30?
The i30 offers excellent value, roughly on a par with the Cerato. If you value looks, the i30 is arguably more distinctive and benefits from some attractive interior touches (such as leather trim and leather-covered steering wheel, for example). That said, it only has a 5-year unlimited warranty, which compares unfavourably with the Cerato's 7-year offering.
Learn More About The 2021 Hyundai i30
As Australia's best-selling passenger car, you'd expect the Corolla to be something special - and it doesn't disappoint. Reviewers rave over its excellent driving performance and miserly fuel consumption. There's also a hybrid version that delivers even greater fuel savings.
- Excellent handling.
- Strong range of advanced tech.
- Hybrid option for great fuel savings.
- No turbo version (unlike the Cerato and the BMW 1 series).
- Small boot.
- Relatively small rear-seat area.
Who should drive the Toyota Corolla?
Starting prices are slightly cheaper than the South Korean options, at $25,390, but with on-road costs, it does come in a couple of thousand more expensive. Extremely reliable and with an excellent resale value, the Corolla is a great choice, particularly if you rarely use the back and are planning to sell on in a few years' time.
See How The Toyota Corolla Compares To The Mazda 3
If price is no object, you may want to consider the Mercedes Benz A-class. Sales regularly outperform those of BMW and Audi, so it's clear the A-Class offers something special. With prices starting at around $45,000 however, it's definitely not a budget option!
- Beautifully appointed interior.
- Excellent fuel efficiency (1.6 to 6.6l/100km depending on variant).
- Some reviewers were critical of the rear suspension.
- It's significantly more expensive than others in its class.
Who should buy the Mercedes Benz A-Class?
If you want to invest in a premium motor, the Merc certainly hits the spot. It's an attractive vehicle that's beautifully styled, as well as possessing a premium engine, high-end tech and brand cachet. The question for many motorists will be whether it offers the best value when compared with others in its class, particularly well-known high-grade brands such as the BMW 1 series.
5. Mazda 3
Back in the day, Mazda 3 held the title of Australia's best-selling passenger car. Now playing catch-up with the Corolla in terms of sales numbers, the Mazda still has plenty to offer a driver who craves sporty performance and a high-end cabin.
- Beautifully styled - the 3 has been compared to BMW and Mercedes in terms of its interior.
- Spacious, comfortable rear space for back-seat passengers.
- Excellent autonomous safety.
- No turbo engine is available.
- Infotainment screen is difficult to operate.
- Relatively small boot.
Who should drive the Mazda 3?
If good looks and excellent driving performance are your priorities, the Mazda 3 is likely going to appeal to you. It's also great if you frequently carry passengers, with rear seats that are relatively spacious and comfortable. Boot space is minimal, however, and drivers who like decent tunes when they drive may struggle with the lack-lustre infotainment system and Bose speakers (that historically lack bass).
Find Out How The Mazda 3 Compares To The Honda Civic
6. Honda Civic
Currently in its 10th generation, the Civic's longevity is a testament to its popularity. Honda is a well-known, reliable manufacturer with a reputation for innovation and dependability, the Civic is a hot hatch-style family car that's a versatile option.
- Plenty of torque under the bonnet.
- Excellent safety features.
- Reviewers are very impressed by the handling.
- Some reviewers complain of cabin noise.
Who should buy the Honda Civic?
Possibly the most contentious feature of the Civic is its revamped exterior. It's certainly stand out from the crowd, but whether for the right reasons or not is a matter for debate. Get beyond that, however, and the Civic is a high-performance hatch that is also safe, fuel-efficient and comfortable. With a wide audience, the Civic is hard to fault.
7. BMW 1 Series
BMW is never going to make the cheapest cars, and with an entry-level price of $46,990, it's not a cheap option. If you're in the market for a premium car, however, the 1 series possibly outshines comparable Mercedes and Audi options.
- Excellent resale value.
- Beautifully made.
- Excellent infotainment system.
- Not as many safety features as others in its price class.
- Some reviewers have mentioned driving noise as an issue.
Who should drive the BMW 1 series?
If you're a driver who likes to drive, the BMW 1 series could be the car for you. Reviewers rave about its driving performance - although whether it's the best out of others in its class (notably Audi and Mercedes) is a matter of opinion.
Comfortable and well-equipped for drivers and passengers, it can work as a family car, a car for couples or a fast, stylish means of transport for solo drivers. Its high resale value means if you're planning to sell it on, you can expect to recoup some of the initial outlay through an advantageous sale or trade-in price.