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Best small car for the long haul

The small-car landscape has tilted towards Europe with the arrival of Golf MkVII. Volkswagen seems finally to understand that Australians want more than just a nice car with a European badge, so it's serving up extra value on the new Golf and including the capped-price support package that now provides a fresh foundation across the brand.

So the Golf is the car you want for the here-and-now. But do you really want it for the long haul, once you're out the other end of the warranty and approaching the 11-year average of the fleet on Australian roads?  Not me. Not Carsguide.

Japanese brands still make a more compelling case for the long haul, which is among the reasons Mazda and Subaru sell so well here. It's all about the dealership,  intrinsic quality,  long-term support and resale value.

Volkswagen is doing much better these days on the sales charts but, based on my personal experience and the weekly emails from owners, it's still catching up. We get regular complaints about DSG gearboxes, the cost of premium unleaded petrol and electrical glitches. And that all mounts up to a Very Big Deal if you keep your cars for longer than three years and the next company lease.

The new Golf is considerably better than the Mazda3 as you drive away from the showroom but the Mazda hits back in the long run. And think about this. If you're buying a vehicle with your own money, for your own garage, the Toyota Corolla and Hyundai i30  make powerful cases for cost-effective ownership.

The new Corolla is great buying and has capped-price servicing. The i30 adds a five-year warranty. I can't remember the last time I heard a complaint from a Corolla or i30 owner.

Is it any wonder, then, that Corollas often stay in the family for 10 years or more? They are passed down from parents to their children, or move out through extended family and friends, because they stay bulletproof and cost-effective for so long.

So, Golf or Mazda3 for a 10-year run? A Corolla for me, thanks.

This reporter is on Twitter: @paulwardgover