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Used small cars review: 2007-2010

EXPERT RATING
7
You can save a motza on a late-model used car, because the first owner has already taken the biggest hit... usually 30-50 percent, in depreciation. Ideally, you want to be the second owner, and hang on to the car for a few years, to maximise the value you get from your motoring dollar. We've picked our top five used

You might also be interested in the Honda Civic

image of Honda Civic Compare to the Toyota Corolla Book A Test Drive Locate A Dealer

You can save a motza on a late-model used car, because the first owner has already taken the biggest hit... usually 30-50 percent, in depreciation. Ideally, you want to be the second owner, and hang on to the car for a few years, to maximise the value you get from your motoring dollar.

We’ve picked our top five used small cars under $15,000 based on reliability, quality, safety, space and low running costs.

You won’t find any Euros on our list. The VW Golf, Peugeot 307 and Holden Astra are sweet to drive, but they can also fall to bits. They’re hideously expensive to fix and to service. Trust us. There is no such thing as a cheap, reliable, European used car.

TOYOTA COROLLA
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A well-maintained 2007-2008 Corolla Ascent or Conquest is used car gold, because chances are it will still drive like new and you’ll enjoy many years of trouble-free ownership. The 1.8-litre engine, still used in the 2012 model, is frugal, uses regular unleaded and performance, with the six-speed manual or four speed auto, is reasonable.

It’s very easy to drive and park, with great vision, light, precise controls, comfortable seats and a durable, high quality interior. There’s enough back seat space to accommodate a couple of teenage kids; the sedan also has a huge boot. This Corolla also scored five ANCAP stars when fitted with seven airbags; there’s no traction or stability control on 2007-2008 models, though.

TOYOTA COROLLA - see other Toyota Corolla verdicts

 

Model: 2007 Toyota Corolla Conquest
Engine: 4-cylinder, 1.8-litre petrol, 100kW/175Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 4-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Thirst: 7.4L/100km, CO2 173g/km
Safety: 5 ANCAP stars
Body: 4-door sedan, 5-door hatch
Dimensions: 4540mm (l), 1760mm (w), 1475mm (h), 2600mm (wheelbase)
Tyres: 205/55 R16 91V, 16” alloy

Subaru Impreza 
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You’re looking at a 2007-2008 R model hatch or a 2008 sedan, with a dour 100kW 2.0-litre engine that prefers premium. Five-speed manual or four-speed auto transmissions. Impreza R’s standard spec sheet reads like a 2012 model: all-wheel drive, six airbags, stability control, cruise control and Data Dot identification.

Impreza sedan is a more practical, spacious kid carrier than the hatch; both were the safest small cars available in 2007-2008, with five star ANCAP scores. If Subarus are scheduled by the book, they’re reliable; if not, they can be temperamental. The engine will probably use a bit of oil. This doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem; Subaru says check it monthly, or every 500 kilometres.

SUBARU IMPREZA - see other Subaru Impreza verdicts

 

Model: 2007 Subaru Impreza R model hatch
Engine: 4-cylinder, 2.0-litre petrol, 110kW/196Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed sports auto, four-wheel drive
Thirst: 8.9L/100km, CO2 210g/km
Safety: 5 ANCAP stars
Body: 5-door hatch, 5 seats
Dimensions: 4415 mm (l), 1740mm (w), 1475mm (h), 2620mm (wheelbase)
Tyres: 205/55 R16 89V, 16” steel

HYUNDAI I30
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Among many good things going for the i30 is the fact that if you pick up a 2008-2009 model you’ll still have at least 12 months coverage on the car’s standard five years/unlimited kilometres factory warranty. Chances are you won’t need it, because the i30 is bulletproof, and cheap to run. Pick of the range for economy and performance is the i30 1.6-litre turbodiesel, Carsguide’s 2007 Car of the Year. The 2.0-litre petrol is a strong, reliable engine too.

Hyundai was the first maker to offer full iPod connectivity as standard in an affordable car with the i30. The hatch was joined in 2009 by the CW wagon, which has a family-sized boot. Go for base SX spec with the optional six airbags/stability control safety pack, giving it a four star ANCAP rating.

HYUNADAI I30 - see other Hyundai i30 verdicts

Model: 2008 Hyundai i30 SX
Engine: 4-cylinder, 2.0-litre, 105kW/186Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Thirst: 7.2/100km, CO2 170g/km
Safety: 4 ANCAP stars
Body: 5-door hatch, 5 seats
Dimensions: 4245mm (l), 1775mm (w), 1480mm (h), 2650mm (wheelbase)
Tyres: 195/65 R15, 15” steel

MAZDA 3
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Blue-chip Japanese engineering doesn’t get any better than the Mazda3. It’s also the pick of this contest as a drive. You’re looking at a 2008 Neo Sport hatch or sedan, which should have the optional safety pack fitted. This includes six airbags and stability control. The 2008 model is a four star ANCAP scorer.

The 2.0-litre four is strong, responsive and runs on regular unleaded. Handling is agile and secure and on the road the car feels solid and polished. The stylish, durable interior has ample space for four, complemented by useful boot volume. The standard equipment list is stingy in Neo Sport spec; if you’re lucky, you may find a Maxx Sport, with cruise, 16-inch alloys and classier trim.

MAZDA 3 - see other Mazda 3 verdicts

Model: 2008 Mazda3 Neo Sport hatch
Engine: 4-cylinder, 2.0-litre, petrol, 108kW/182Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed sports auto, front-wheel drive
Thirst: 8.2L/100km, CO2 194g/km
Safety: 4 ANCAP stars
Body: 5-door hatch, 4-door sedan, 5 seats
Dimensions: 4400mm (l), 1755mm (w), 1465mm (h), 2640mm (wheelbase)
Tyres: 195/65 R15 91V, 15” alloy

MITSUBISHI LANCER
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The Lancer was (and still is) heavily discounted when new, so you can pick up a late-model used one on the cheap: a 2009 or maybe even 2010 ES sedan or hatch (Sportback in Mitsubishi-speak). There’s nothing wrong with the big, basic Lancer except that it’s so stupendously boring. Still, in the car business, boring usually means reliable, durable and grief free, which the Lancer certainly is.

The 2.0-litre petrol engine has plenty of power and goes well on regular unleaded; you can have it with a smooth, efficient CVT transmission, which works beautifully around town. Stability control is standard; seven airbags were optional on 2009 ES and standard on the 2010 model. You’ll also have plenty of coverage left on the five years/130,000 kilometres warranty.

MITSUBISHI LANCER - see other Mitsubishi Lancer verdicts

 

Model: 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer ES
Engine: 4-cylinder, 2.0-litre petrol, 113kW/198Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 6-speed CVT optional, front-wheel drive
Thirst: 7.6L/100km, CO2 182g/km
Safety: 4 ANCAP stars
Body: 4-door sedan, 5 seats
Dimensions: 4570mm (l), 1760mm (w), 1490mm (h), 2635mm (wheelbase)
Tyres: 205/60 R16 92H, 16” steel

RIVALS

Ford Focus

The 2008-2009 Focus was engineered in Europe; ours were imported from South Africa, so quality and reliability aren’t as bankable as Japanese and Korean rivals, but a well looked after Focus is worth considering because late model ones are cheap.

Shop around and you may find a 2010 2.0-litre petrol LX sedan or hatch, with very low kilometres and a year or so left on the three years/100,000 kilometres factory warranty.

FORD FOCUS - see other Ford Focus verdicts

Model: 2008-2009 2.0-litre petrol LX sedan or hatch
Engine:  4 Cylinder, 2.0 Litre 107kW /185Nm
Transmission: Sports Automatic, Front Wheel Drive
Body: 5 door hatch
Thirst: 8.2 / 100Km

Honda Civic

The Civic is big sedan, with the most sophisticated, fuel efficient small car drivetrain around in 2008, plus impeccable Honda quality, luxurious comfort and a smooth ride. So why isn’t it in the A team? No stability control or curtain airbags were available on the base VTi model, a bizarre omission only rectified in 2010.

If you can find a 2010 VTi Civic for $15,000, buy it.

HONDA CIVIC - see other Honda Civic verdicts

Model: Honda Civic 2008 VTi sedan
Engine:  4 Cylinder, 1.8 Litre 103kW/174Nm
Transmission: Automatic, Front Wheel Drive
Body: 4 Door Sedan
Thirst: 7.2 / 100Km

Hyundai Elantra

Like the i30 (which has the same 2.0 petrol engine), there’s a five years/unlimited kilometres warranty.

So the fact that you can get into a 2010 SLX sedan for $15,000 means you’re basically scoring a new car at a big, fat discount.

The only major caveat here is a three star ANCAP score for the base SX; go instead for the SLX, which has six airbags as standard.

 

HYUNDAI ELANTRA - see other Hyundai Elantra verdicts

 

Model: 2.0-litire 2010 SLX sedan
Engine: 4 Cylinder, 2.0 Litre, 105kW/186Nm
Transmission: Manual, Front Wheel Drive
Body: 4 Door Sedan
Thirst: 7.4 / 100Km

Kia Cerato

Shares DNA with the Hyundai Elantra, but you get a better 2.0-litre engine with more power, and less geriatric styling, in sedan or hatch body styles, both family-sized. You’re looking at a 2010 S or Si model, with the same warranty as the Hyundai, so you’re still covered against any unlikely problems for a few years.

Six airbags and stability control standard on Si; four star ANCAP.

KIA CERATO - see more Kia Cerato verdicts

Skoda Roomster

It’s a Volkswagen with a Czech badge, so the usual warnings apply about dubious reliability and high servicing costs, but if you want a small, perfectly-formed, five star family wagon, the eminently sensible and undeniably cute 2008 Roomster is almost irresistible.

The petrol 1.6 is as slow as Tuesday, and prefers 98 octane. So you’ll spend heaps on fuel even though it doesn’t use much. Aren’t European cars wonderful?

SKODA ROOMSTER - see more Skoda Roomster verdicts

 

Model: 2008 1.6-litre
Engine: 4 Cylinder, 1.6 Litre
Transmission: 5 speed manual
Body: 4 door wagon
Thirst: 7.0 / 100Km

 

Pricing

Year Price From Price To
2008 $3,080 $6,930
2007 $2,530 $6,490

View all Toyota Corolla pricing and specifications

Pricing Guides

$7,950
Based on 266 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$2,300
Highest Price
$12,999

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Ascent 1.8L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $2,300 – 9,990 2007 Toyota Corolla 2007 Ascent Pricing and Specs
Ascent Seca 1.8L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $4,490 – 9,990 2007 Toyota Corolla 2007 Ascent Seca Pricing and Specs
Ascent Sport Seca 1.8L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $8,588 – 8,990 2007 Toyota Corolla 2007 Ascent Sport Seca Pricing and Specs
Conquest 1.8L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $5,999 – 7,990 2007 Toyota Corolla 2007 Conquest Pricing and Specs

You might also be interested in the Honda Civic

image of Honda Civic Compare to the Toyota Corolla Book A Test Drive Locate A Dealer
EXPERT RATING
7