We take a look at 3 of the main competitors in the budget hatch segment. The VW Polo has been the reigning champion in recent years, with the Yaris also getting its fair share of sales. Nissan has also introduced a stylish new Micra to erase the memory of the old “frog” shape. When looking for a cheap car, many people will be looking at this segment, especially first-time buyers, and we thought we'd compare three hatchbacks with a car book value below R300 000.
· Price R235 000 upwards
· Engines: turbocharged 1.0L 3-cylinder, turbocharged 2.0 litre 4-cylinder
· Gearbox: 5-speed manual, 6-speed manual, 6-speed DSG, 7-speed DSG
· Fuel economy: 4.5 L /100 km (1.0 L) 4.7L/100km (1.0L) (claimed) 5.9 L /100km (2.0 L)
· Power/Torque: 70kW/ 175 Nm (1.0 L) 85kW / 200Nm (1.0L) 147kW / 320Nm (2.0L)
· Seating Capacity: 5
· Loading Space: 350 L (1.0 L) 305 L (2.0)
· Service plan: 3 years / 45 000 km
· Warranty: 3 years / 120 000 km
The VW Polo is currently in its sixth generation and is one of the most popular B-segment hatches available. Since the original Polo was introduced all those years ago, it's evolved into two models. The Vivo is a cheap car for the more budget-conscious model and the Polo being the flagship. With the fifth-generation being such a hit in South Africa, the new model has a lot to live up to.
The current model was introduced last year and is both longer and wider than the previous generation. It also has a sleeker and more sophisticated look than its predecessor.
In the Polo line-up, there are two turbocharged 1.0 litre, 3-cylinder engines tuned to 70kW, and 85kW, as well as the turbocharged 2.0 litre 147 kW engine in the Polo GTI. The lower-end models get a 5-speed manual transmission, with a 6-speed manual available on the 85kW Highline, as well as a 7-speed DSG available on the Comfortline and Highline. The GTI gets a 6-speed DSG. The entry-level Trendline comes with 14-inch steel wheels, the Comfortline comes with 15-inch alloys, the Highline comes with 16-inch alloys, and the GTI comes with 17-inch alloys.
Not only did VW completely revamp the exterior, but they have also changed the interior to look and feel more upmarket and modern. The buttons are well-laid out and practical and have a high-quality feel, especially for a cheap car. Standard safety features include six airbags and ABS brakes. Optional safety equipment includes blind-spot monitoring at R3 950, rearview camera and park distance control at R8 050, and park distance only at R3 200.
As far as infotainment features go, the Polo comes standard with a 6.6-inch touchscreen with multifunction steering, as well as USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity. Onboard navigation with voice activation is an optional R12 900 extra, and Apple CarPlay is available at R4 700.
For a cheap car with a car book value of below R300 000, the Polo has excellent fit and finish, as well as multiple engine options. The price itself is competitive, but with the add-on features can climb very high.
· Price R246 400 upwards
· Engines: 1.5 L naturally-aspirated
· Gearbox: 5-speed manual, CVT
· Fuel economy: 5.9 L /100 km manual 5.8L/100km (CVT)
· Power/Torque: 79kW/ 140 Nm
· Seating Capacity: 5
· Loading Space: 310 L
· Service plan: 3 years / 45 000 km
Warranty: 3 years / 100 000 km
The new Yaris was also introduced in 2018 and grew in size compared to the previous model. The new model is imported from Thailand and has a modern exterior appearance with aggressive upswept lights and grille. The only engine option available is a naturally aspirated 79kW 1.5 litre engine similar to the one in the smaller Etios. Most of the models come with a 5-speed manual transmission, and one with a CVT. Unfortunately, the interior of the Yaris is a bit of a let-down with its dated appearance and abundance of hard plastics. For a cheap car that's supposedly targeted at the younger generation, the interior is far from trendy, but then again many Toyota's are like that and compensate with durability.
For the engine, they’ve also relied on an old workhorse, a naturally-aspirated 1.5 litre compared to the rivals which all have smaller engines with turbos. The engine struggles to deliver performance, and frequent change downs are required to keep it up to speed, especially uphill. In the safety department, the S model gets six airbags, with the others only getting two. All the models get ABS brakes and stability control.
The entry-level 1.5 XI comes with an LCD infotainment unit and all the other models come with a touchscreen, as well as Apple CarPlay, onboard navigation, and a USB port. Android Auto isn’t available, but thanks to Auto Plus Show, it’s possible to mirror an Android screen on the infotainment unit. Apart from the top of the range 1.5 Sport, which as six speakers, all the others have four speakers. The 1.5 XI comes with 15-inch steel wheels, and all the other models come with 16-inch alloys.
While the Yaris lacks some of the refinement of some of the other cars in its class, it still has some decent features for a cheap car.
· Price R247 800 upwards
· Engines: turbocharged 1.0L 3-cylinder
· Gearbox: 5-speed manual,
· Fuel economy: 5.1 L /100 km
· Power/Torque: 66kW/ 140 Nm
· Seating Capacity: 5
· Loading Space: 300 L
· Service plan: 3 years / 90 000 km
· Warranty: 6 years / 150 000 km
Another cheap car that’s been recently introduced into the market is the new Nissan Micra. Its car book value starts slightly higher than the other two, but it probably has the most stylish interior of the lot. For once, the outside styling is also aggressive and sporty and is sure to turn heads for the right reasons, unlike the older models.
All the models in the range share the same turbocharged 0.9 litre, 3-cylinder engine making 66kW and 140Nm of torque. Unfortunately, the engine is sluggish, and to compensate Nissan has added short rear ratios to the five-speed manual transmission to give it a bit more energy. However, it still takes a lot of downshifts and a heavy foot on the accelerator to get it going.
For a cheap car, all models come with standard with 6-airbags, stability control, ABS brakes, hill start assist, and ISOFIX child seat mounts. They also come with Bluetooth and a USB port. From the Acenta upwards, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as four speakers are standard, and the Acenta Plus and Acenta Plus Tech both get 7-inch touchscreens, as well as. It's great to see a cheap car that offers both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay when some of the premium brands with a great car book value are charging extra for them. Nissan has also equipped the top of the range Acenta Plus Tech model with keyless entry, push-button start, rear parking sensors, blind-spot warning, and even a surround-view camera, although the price climbs to R305 000.
The entry-level Visia model comes with 15-inch steel wheels, while the Acenta has 16-inch alloy wheels, and the Acenta Plus and the Acenta Plus Tech come with 17-inch alloys. In addition to the standard colours available, the Micra also has a variety of styling packs to enhance the look further.
All three options are cheap cars with a car book value of less than R300 000 and have excellent backing by a wide network of dealers in South Africa. The Polo is the only one available with multiple engine options which all deliver peppy performance, and neither the Yaris or the Micra have anything to compete against the Polo GTI. While the Polo has trendy looks and an impressive interior, the options can be pricey and can lift the car book value above the R300 000 mark.
The Toyota Yaris might not have an up to date turbocharged engine, or the best interior, but being a Toyota, it will appeal to drivers who value reliability and simplicity above all else. It’s a practical choice for a cheap car, and Toyotas are renowned for holding their car book values.
Compared to the old Micras, the new model is light years ahead. Both the interior and exterior are very stylish, and they've bundled in an enormous amount of features. Another major selling point is the 6 year/150 000 km warranty which trumps the 3 year/100 000 km warranties offered by the Yaris and the Polo.
At the end of the day, all three are cheap cars that offer a host of features at a low price. The Polo edges out the competition by having more engine options, as well as having a more all-round package of good looks and a modern and functional interior for a cheap car. It also has slightly more boot space than the others. On the downside, it’s also one of the most hijacked cars in South Africa.
Other notable competitors in this segment are the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio, Hyundai i20, and Renault Clio.
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