There are plenty of deals on wheels in the race to the end of the year.
The Corolla leads the year-to-date tally and Toyota as a brand is trying to eclipse 200,000 sales for the 10th time -- as market leader for a record 12th year in a row.
The reigning champion Corolla overtook the Mazda3 in the year-to-date tally in July by just 21 sales -- but the pair have swapped the monthly lead three times in the past four months.
The Mazda3 landed the most recent punch, outselling the Corolla in November and closing the gap to top spot and now either brand could win for the year. In decades of Ford versus Holden rivalry the finish was never this close.
Even if these two cars are not on your shopping list this is still good news because their discounting has dragged other brands into the battle, giving buyers more bargaining power than usual.
December and January customarily make for sharp buying because dealers are trying to clear 2014-built stock.
But the tight battle at the top of the charts has increased the pressure in the biggest segment of the market. Here are the best deals we found this week, in order of each car’s popularity on the 2014 sales charts.
The discounts are hard to find online but they’re available at the dealer if you go in with a reasonable target price rather than a made-up one.
Toyota is trying to walk customers up to the Ascent Sport ($23,990 drive-away for manual and $25,990 drive-away for auto) but the best deal is still on the most affordable model.
Aim for $21,990 drive-away for the Corolla Ascent hatch or $22,740 drive-away for the sedan. Both come with seven airbags but the sedan gets a standard rear-view camera and parking sensors.
Mazda is being discreet with its discounting and dealers will try to upsell you to the dearer models. Once again, the cheapest models are the best buying. The website says "free on-roads", which effectively means you can take the RRP and turn that into a drive-away price. Aim for $19,990 drive-away for a manual and $21,990 drive-away for an automatic.
The Hyundai i30 hatch comes with a $1000 EFTPOS card, but you can turn that into a $1000 discount. Aim for $19,990 drive-away for a manual or $22,540 drive-away for an auto -- if you don’t take the spending card. There’s also a finance offer: no deposit or repayments until 2016, but be sure to check the interest rate.
The Australian-made Holden Cruze is struggling, sales are down, and it is on track to go out of production at least one year before the Commodore (when Holden will import the new generation Cruze). Which is why Holden has an epic deal: $19,990 drive-away with automatic transmission plus a five-year warranty. The only catch: metallic paint is $550, the dearest of the mainstream brands.
The German brand wants to overtake Toyota for global sales leadership by 2018 and is dropping Golf prices the world over. At $22,990 drive-away for the manual and $24,990 drive-away for the automatic it is about $4000 off the full RRP. But the best buying is the Jetta sedan (an updated model is due early next year). The price is an unbelievable $19,990 drive-away for a manual and $22,990 drive-away for an auto, about $7000 off the full RRP.
The Ford Focus Ambiente sedan and hatch have been trimmed to a super-sharp $18,490 drive-away for a manual or just $19,990 drive-away for an auto -- once you take up the $1000 discount or “cash back” offer funded by Ford.
The Nissan Pulsar is the sharpest buying in the small car class: $18,476 drive-away for a manual or just $19,476 drive-away for an automatic if you ask politely. There is just one catch: Nissan wasn’t very good at clearing stock this time last year, so these deals are on 2013-built cars.
Even though they’ve been sitting around for at least a year, the dealer will prep them so they’re as good as new and the three three-year warranty starts the day you take delivery. But it’ll be marked down slightly at resale time because you’re trading in a 2013 model, not a 2014.
Given that the Lancer is one of the oldest cars in the class (it has been with us in this guise for seven years) its discounting could be a little sharper than this: $18,990 drive-away for a manual and $21,490 drive-away for an auto -- once a $1000 cash back is taken into account.
Recently given a freshen up the Elantra can be had for the same money as the Hyundai i30 hatch: aim for $19,990 drive-away for a manual or $22,540 drive-away for an auto if you don’t take the $1000 spending card. Not the sharpest deal around but not the worst.
Last but certainly not least, the Kia Cerato is among the sharpest deals out there, especially when you consider the market-leading seven year warranty: $19,990 drive-away for a manual or an automatic (yes, same price for both), about $4000 off.