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Half-price heroes! Affordable used alternatives for the new cars you want: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Isuzu D-Max, Mazda 2 and Ford Focus ST

As long as there is a full service history and it's looked after, a used car ought to provide years of trusty service.

It might be a year most of us would rather forget, but 2020 is undeniably a bumper year for exciting new models, especially under lockdown where there’s not much to keep us occupied other than dreaming about your next purchase.

The thing is, with fluctuation currencies pushing prices ever-upwards in such unpredictable times, spending up big may not be an option at all for many of us right now.

Thankfully, there’s always the used market, where hundreds of not-so-old alternatives await fresh buyers to take them to new homes.

Welcome, then, to our new regular feature, Preloved Gems. Or Used but Not Abused. Not So Shabby Chic. Or Get ‘Em While They’re Hot. Or whatever.

The point is, there are not-so-pricey bargains out there.

Half-price heroes! Affordable used alternatives for the new cars you want: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Isuzu D-Max, Mazda 2 and Ford Focus ST

NEW: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

From $37,070 to $46,415

A brief recap. The latest, fifth-generation RAV4 has turned the market on its ear in newly minted hybrid guise, the latter’s lion’s share of sales far-exceeding forecasts to create year-long waiting lists FOR some variants and sending rivals scrambling to electrify their own competing mid-size SUVs.

Like all RAV4s, the petrol-electric version strikes a chord with appealing, chunky styling, exceptional interior space, high levels of standard safety and excellent all-round vision. For all intents and purposes, 2020’s real car of the year.

What to do? Ask for a pay rise? Join a queue? Or consider a roomy, reliable, economical and enjoyable alternative like…

USED: 2012-2017 Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-D AWD

From approx. $16,000 to $22,000, under 100,000km

The CX-5’s diesel is generally better than most. The CX-5’s diesel is generally better than most.

Half a decade ago, Mazda’s corporate saviour, the CX-5, was the flavour-de-jour, standing out against frankly dull rivals thanks to sharp styling, keen handling, an appealing interior and – in SkyActiv-D four-cylinder turbo-diesel guise – smooth yet gutsy performance combined with exceptional real-world economy.

A bit like a hybrid… except for the diesel clatter and harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) all such engines emit. The thing is, the CX-5’s diesel is generally better than most.

As with all used cars, ensure a full service history is present, there’s been no accident damage and – important this – the vendor seems like somebody you could trust.

HONOURABLE MENTION: 2014-2018 Subaru Forester

 

Mazda CX-5

Mazda CX-5
3.9
From
$30,880
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)

NEW: Isuzu D-Max 4x4 Crew Cab X-Terrain

From $62,900 

Completely redesigned and re-engineered for 2021, the all-new D-Max is the biggest threat yet to the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger, melding many of the design and packaging elements of those two in a truck with a heritage for no-nonsense reliability, durability and value.

If you’re familiar with the old D-Max, the MY21 is a substantial improvement, especially in terms of refinement, comfort and on-road driveability. Perhaps it might even be the most improved vehicle of this year.

For our half-price bargain, we’ve searched for a 4x4 dual-cab diesel alternative offering five-star ANCAP safety. Here’s our choice…

USED: 2018-2020 Mitsubishi 4x4 Triton Double Cab GLX+

$30,000 to $35,000, under 5000km

Tritons are solid, dependable and reliable workhorses. Tritons are solid, dependable and reliable workhorses.

Mitsubishi’s been in the one-tonne pick-up business for over 40 years, as the early L200s and generations of Tritons prove. Solid, dependable and reliable workhorses with a strong yet frugal four-pot turbo-diesel providing plenty of oomph.

These are the near-new or demo models, with the current styling inside and out, plus all the essentials like a reversing camera and Bluetooth connectivity. But the real Triton advantages are virtually no wear or tear, combined with advanced driver-assist safety like autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and most – if not all – of a seven-year warranty currently on offer. A set of accessories like a sports bar, stripes and aftermarket wheels will give it that ‘wild rogue’ look.

HONOURABLE MENTION: 2016-2019 Holden Colorado

 

NEW: Ford Focus ST

From $44,890

What’s the best hot hatch you can buy right now?

The recently released Focus ST from Germany should be on every keen driver’s short list, since its lightweight yet super-strong platform provides exquisite handling, phenomenal roadholding control and – courtesy of the Mustang EcoBoost – terrifically responsive turbo performance. And while the dashboard presentation is a bit ho-hum, the cabin is roomy, comfy and suitably sporty.

Arguably the best Ford in years, the hottest Focus is a thrilling yet cosseting blast. Bang for your buck, you cannot buy better. The ST deserves to be flying out of dealer forecourts. This said, if that $45K sticker price is out of reach, then there’s always…

USED: 2016-2018 Peugeot 308 GTi

$22,000 to $30,000, under 60,000km

Ford has admitted that Peugeot’s current 308 was the benchmark for the Focus' exemplary ride and handling. Ford has admitted that Peugeot’s current 308 was the benchmark for the Focus' exemplary ride and handling.

This one’s easy. At the current Focus’ global debut in Germany in 2018, a senior engineer admitted that it was Peugeot’s current (and vastly underrated) 308 that was the benchmark for the small Ford’s exemplary ride and handling.

In GTi form in either 250 or 270 guises (denoting European horsepower outputs), the French hot hatch hits every mark, from its scalpel sharp cornering and astonishing body control, to the gorgeous cabin and timeless design. We’d go the 270 for its extra torque and mechanical LSD that feels supernaturally glued to the road, but either GTi is worthy of the legendary ‘80s 205 GTi’s legacy. Pure joy.

HONOURABLE MENTION: 2013-2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI

 

Peugeot 308

Peugeot 308
3.7
From
$26,990
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)

NEW: Mazda2 G15

From $20,990 to $25,990

Facelifted late last year with a decent level of added refinement and updated technology, the Mazda2 G15 is ageing gracefully despite recently celebrating its sixth birthday. It remains a yardstick of attractive, high-quality, enjoyable, economical, reliable and cheap-to-run supermini motoring in Australia.

However – like the all-new Toyota Yaris released in August – the price to pay for all the additional improvements is a hefty price jump over previous Mazds2s, and so no matter how much better the latest version may be, this may scupper its chances of success. Which is a shame, as the light-car segment is already looking pretty deserted.

Thankfully there’s the used market, with one standout contender buyers cannot afford to ignore…

USED: 2017-2019 Suzuki Swift

$12,000 to $15,000, under 60,000km

The current Swift iteration has wowed us with feisty performance, zippy handling and a fun attitude. The current Swift iteration has wowed us with feisty performance, zippy handling and a fun attitude.

In September, Suzuki released the Swift Series II, meaning that prices of the earlier version of the existing supermini from Japan are slowly edging downwards.

That’s great news, because since its unveiling in mid-2017, the current iteration has wowed us with feisty performance, zippy handling and a fun, chuckable attitude. It’s civilised inside too, thanks to quality engineering, exceptional space for a car this size and easy controls.

Throw in spunky styling, and it’s easy to see why the Swift’s success has been so enduring.

HONOURABLE MENTION: 2017-2020 Kia Picanto