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Dealers are sharpening the pencils for the end of the year — and these are the best buys.
December is a great time to buy a new car as dealers try to clear stock before 2016 arrives.
Many buyers are away on holidays so the dealers sharpen their pencils to try to get people in the door and cars off the lot. This year is no exception.
Before highlighting the best new-car deals, we should clarify what "2016 Model Year" means.
That's the car industry's way of describing when the model is planned for sale, even though they're often released in the second half of the previous year.
The contrived confusion is aimed at blunting the need for sharp discounting as the new year rolls around.
But regardless of what you are told, the only date that matters is not the model year or the compliance date but the build date of the car.
If your car is built in November 2015 but it is being marketed as a "2016 Model Year", it will be regarded as a 2015 model at trade-in time, even if it's at the very same dealer trying to convince you it's next year's model.
Be wary of some low interest rate finance deals
Does it matter? Not really. But you should know. Besides, the discount you're getting now will likely be worth more than the slight dip in resale.
One more caveat — be wary of some low interest rate finance deals.
Nissan, for example, has 1 per cent finance on most of its model range. Its cheapest model, the Nissan Micra manual, is $49 a week or $15,850 drive-away. But in the fine print you'll find the repayments must be made within three years — and there is a whopping "balloon" payment of $8210 at the end, more than half the car's cost.
On the other hand, Toyota's zero finance deal on certain models is spectacularly good. It is over four years, there is no balloon so, as we discovered, they're practically giving money away.
Now, let's go shopping...
Sharp deals are customarily hard to find here because the profit margins are so low — the cut to the dealer on one popular small car is $450.
Slightly larger, the trusty Suzuki Swift is good buying at $16,490 drive-away with auto.
Toyota's Yaris — with seven airbags and reverse camera — is back at $17,990 drive-away with auto and four years' roadside assistance.
The Mazda2 initially looks good at $16,990 drive-away for the manual. Auto brings the price to $18,990 drive-away, which is not as sharp.
Kia's Cerato sedan and hatch are still at an incredible $19,990 drive-away for auto (metallic paint is expensive at $495). They have a seven-year warranty, front and rear parking sensors but no camera.
The Hyundai i30 hatch auto is $21,990 drive-away and you can swap December's $1000 Eftpos voucher for $1000 off the car, so at $20,990 it's good buying. The Elantra stablemate is the same price but will be in run-out within a few months.
Toyota's Corolla Ascent Sport hatch is fair buying at $23,990 drive-away with auto.
For a little more bling and a good drive, the refreshed Ford Focus Trend is $25,490 drive-away after the $500 test drive discount. That includes auto, satnav, rear camera, alloy wheels, cruise control and a super efficient 1.5-litre turbo engine.
The most metal for the money at the moment, the just-released new Toyota Camry can be had for $28,990 drive-away at zero finance over four years. It has the cheapest servicing in the business and is economical to run and easy to drive. Standard fare includes seven airbags and rear-view camera.
The stablemate Aurion V6 is just $1000 more at $29,990 drive-away, also with the same equipment and the same terms. Warning: this car has so much grunt it can lose traction when accelerating in the wet.
The Holden Commodore SV6 "Storm" edition is $39,990 drive-away with auto but $2000 bonus from Holden trims the price to $37,990 drive-away. That's the cheapest VF II yet (though the VE II dropped to $34,990 and $35,990 a couple of years ago).
The city-sized Holden Trax LS is priced so sharply that dealers have almost run out. More stock is coming late this month and early January.
The headline price says $22,990 drive-away with a free auto upgrade — for this month, take off a further $1000, bringing it to $21,990 drive-away or about $6000 off the original RRP.
The Mitsubishi ASX LS manual is $25,000 drive-away but there is a free auto upgrade this month, about $5000 off. It has seven airbags, five-year warranty, 18-inch alloys, touchscreen, rear camera and sensors. Good deal.
Much newer but about the same price, the Toyota Kluger seven-seater can be had for $42,990 drive-away.
Looking to buy a Holden Captiva 7? Be warned, a refreshed model with a new look and Apple CarPlay is just around the corner.
Want to go bush? The Holden Colorado 7 LT will get you there and leave more money for camping gear: with $1000 factory bonus it comes down to $42,990 drive-away, or about $5000 off.
Mitsubishi Pajero is also really good buying for the Big Trip. At $55,000 drive-away with auto and five-year warranty, it's a solid choice at a sharp price.