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Gen-Y buyers guide

Raised in the digital age, they expect to have 24/7 accessibility to their friends and family as well as the must-have iPods and internet savvy smart phones.  Their needs also extend to their cars. They want the latest in-car gadgets but in many cases are not prepared to pay for it, according to a JD Power survey published in the US last year.

The survey of more than 19,000 car buyers also found that today's buyer expects standard features but may not necessarily use them.  About half of car owners surveyed us an auxiliary input jack for their portable digital music player in their vehicle, while about 20 per cent use a wireless FM transmitter.
Almost two-thirds want the ability to listen to a portable digital music player through their vehicle's speakers, while 27 per cent say they want ‘smart’ phone music capabilities mated to the car stereo.

Other findings show that 68 per cent of owners use their vehicle's in-car Bluetooth, compared with 47 per cent who have this feature but do not use it.
Entertainment and connectivity related devices are among the most desired technologies for buyers, leading to companies like Ford introducing Bluetooth and voice activation controls as standard in its Fiesta LX and Zetec.

To test the JD Power theory, Carsguide gave four Gen Y buyers an opportunity to try out several cars specifically aimed at them.  After spending a few days checking them out, they came back with some surprising findings.

What Gen Y wants in a car

Steering wheel mounted audio controls
Powerful amplifier
Sub-woofer
Mood-lighting
Metallic finish dashboard
Privacy glass
Personalised seat trim
Airbags
iPod connectivity
USB/CD/MP3 connectivity

Volkswagen Beetle Cabrio
Katherine Firkin

This car looks so cute I easily got as much enjoyment out of seeing it parked in my driveway as I did actually driving it.  With its chic exterior and sleak styling, the VW Beetle Cabrio looks more like a fashion accessory then a practical mode of transport.

Getting behind the wheel for the first time is a bit daunting, unless you're used to driving in a bubble.  The curved dashboard seems to stretch out endlessly, making it difficult to perceive the distance between yourself and the car in front of you.

And like every good fashion accessory, what it adds in looks and style, it lacks in practicality.  The biggest shortfall is the size of the boot. The compartment is so small you'd be struggling to ever pack more then a plane's hand-luggage allowance, and trying to wiggle your bags in and out of the compartment is a nightmare.

The visibility is also poor.  While you do eventually get used to guessing how much space is left in front of you, don't even try to reverse the car when the top is down.

With the top lowered, rearward vision is almost totally blocked - which possibly explains why the car has such an outrageously loud horn.  Even with the roof up, over-the-shoulder visibility is still poor.

Lowering the roof is also not as easy as you'd expect. It was disappointing to discover you have to muscle the roof on and off with a twist-and-rotate action - not the easy click-of-a-button motion I was expecting.

But for all the difficulties getting the roof lowered, the drive well and truly makes up for it.  The Cabrio is relatively smooth and easy to drive.  Cruising along an open road with the top down is magic, and you can't help but notice admiring glances from other drivers.

The stereo has good sound quality, and I was relieved to find an AUX port for my iPod and other bits and pieces.  The car also feels sturdy and safe, and seems to be fairly fuel efficient.The driver's seat is comfortable, although the same can't be said for your passengers - who'll either be squashed against the glove box in the front, or have their legs cramped in the back. 

It's certainly not the most practical car, but it sure is fun.  And if you value looks and personality over practicality - and who doesn't? - you'll be hard-pressed not to fall in love.

Likes

  • The overall look and feel
  • The sound system
  • The easy manoeuvrability

Dislikes

  • The tacky plastic flowers that come as standard
  • The poor visibility, especially when the top is down
  • The slight groaning noise the car often makes when you take your foot off the break

Volkswagen Beetle Cabrio
Price: From $37,700
Engine: 2.0-litre
Economy: 8.8 litres/100km
Features: Dual front and side head airbags, anti-skid brakes, air conditioning, electronic stability control, vase with flower, 10-speaker CD stereo, iPod adaptor, electric windows If you like this try this: Peugeot 207CC


Nissan Micra
Nathan Mawby

‘THAT'S so cute’ are not words most guys want to hear about their car.  If the veiled snickering from the men I showed it to and universal adoration from the women are anything to go by, the Nissan Micra is definitely marketed at young female drivers.

Having said that, guys, if you're prepared to embrace your inner-woman (just borrow a Dirty Dancing soundtrack before you hit the road and you'll be right) this is a car that will grow on you.  A ‘make-up’ mirror in the driver's side sunvisor left my hair looking the best it has in years and a surprisingly gutsy 1.4-litre, four cylinder engine (hello, fuel economy!) was versatile enough to zip around the city and hit the freeway.

The first thing to note is that the Micra is tiny, microscopic even.  Perfect if you're going to be driving around the city, or inner suburbs - not so good if you're the designated driver and need leg room to stop back-seat fights.

Meanwhile responsive steering helps with maneuverability in traffic, narrow lanes, the fast food drive-through and parking.  I even found myself seeking out the dreaded reverse parallel park in heavy traffic just for funsies!

Thanks to clever design you can see everything going on outside the car - unfortunately that also means everything inside is on display.  Nissan balance this with clever hidey holes: a sliding tray under the passenger seat and the boot is completely concealed from the outside world.

But if like many Gen-Y's you run your life from your iPhone, hiding the AUX port in the back of the glove box could present a problem when you have to sift through it to find your phone.  But no matter what you listen to, a robust sound system means you can listen to it loud - a necessity for Australia's iPod affected youth.

There are few basic issues, sacrificing your masculinity aside, that give you pause, however.  No tachometer, having to hit a button to see the time (how many Gen-Y's actually wear a watch?) and no obvious temperature gauge probably won't bother the targeted drivers.

The absence of side and curtain airbags as a standard feature should (they are available as part of the City Collection Option, though).  Sure there are "blokier" options out there - but if you picked one of them you'd probably have to give back that Dirty Dancing soundtrack...

Likes

  • Manoeuvrability
  • Sound system
  • Visibility

Dislikes

  • No tachometer
  • Non-standard side and curtain airbags
  • Gender bias

Nissan Micra
Price: From $15,990
Engine: 1.4-litre
Economy: 6.8 litres/100km
Features: Four-speed automatic, Dual front airbags, anti-skid brakes, air conditioning, MP3 player input, CD stereo, front seat storage draw If you like this try this: Holden Barina

Kia Soul
Travis Kennedy

Taking a brand new Kia Soul for a spin was easy to accept - especially given the fact my regular drive is an old Honda Legend with 300,000km on the clock and the squeaks and creaks that goes with the longevity. I'm very much an A-to-B type of driver.  I rarely venture into long drives, unless I have to. 

The Soul is not the type of car that would normally appeal to me -- a bloke in his early-twenties, who would probably call it "a bit of a girl's car".  It's just not the type of car most hot-blooded young men would choose if part of the buying criteria was to turn the collective heads of the opposite sex.

It won't: But I swallowed my pride and hit the road. Without overstating the obvious, the car is a bit of a box.  It's almost as if it has an identity crisis -- on one hand it looks like a 4WD and, on the other, it has small car aesthetics.

It makes a bold impression on the road with its unique look and, interestingly, I noticed many drivers paying it quite a lot of attention.  The Soul is the perfect commuter, giving great flexibility moving in and out of bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Parking is a cinch, but beware blind spots caused by chunky rear end of the car. They can be dangerous, especially when reversing.  The 1.6-litre diesel engine makes a noticeably loud chugging sound, but all is forgiven by its excellent fuel economy. The Soul handles well on the open road.

It does lack a little instantaneous grunt, especially when on the freeway, but it's still zippy for most regular traffic situations.  The lack of cruise control is a little annoying.

Inside, there is a surprising amount of room for the driver, but back seat passengers may struggle for leg room. The boot is small, but the rear seats fold flat to open up reasonable amount of space for most items.  Tech-savvy buyers will love the interior features - the inbuilt USB port for iPod connectivity and the rather punchy sound system are impressive.

I like listening to my music loud and this system more than met my expectations.  The speakers also have red lights that pulse to the beat of the music or can be toned down to a softer-mood setting -- a little bit tacky, but it makes night driving more interesting.

The Soul won't appeal to everyone and, being a young man, I feel it's more suited to the female market or middle-aged singles looking for a nippy, economical car.  It's a bit of a grower, though -- the more I drove it, the more it won me over.

Likes

  • Handles very well
  • Easy to park
  • Economical diesel

Dislikes

  • Rear blind spots
  • No cruise control
  • Rear passenger leg room is less than generous.

Kia Soul 
Price: From $20,990
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol or diesel
Economy: 5.2 litres/100km
Features: Dual front, side and curtain airbags, anti-skid brakes, air conditioning, central locking, MP3 CD stereo with six-speakers, Aux/iPod input If you like this try this: Fiat 500

Honda Jazz
Antonia Magee

Being at the upper end of Generation Y, I knew the Jazz VT-i was not for me as soon as I pulled onto Swan St, Richmond in pouring rain on a Friday night only to see several saturated people stop and stare as I drove past in the blazing yellow vehicle.

I know that is just the colour, but I am part of an apparently fickle generation and the way the car looked was important to me.  On first glance inside though, the Jazz had everything a Gen Y driver would be looking for.

The extra windows, huge windscreen and big dashboard made me feel as though I was in a much bigger car, the back seat was roomy and the boot was much larger than it looked.  The technology was on the pulse, with a MP3 plug for one's iPod and a quality stereo and CD player.

And as one would expect from any car in the new generation of excessive paraphernalia, the storage space was excellent.  There are several pockets and holders for coffees, phones, CDs, iPods and sunglasses.

It was also extremely nifty driving around the streets of the CBD and parking in a tight spot was a dream.  But the real test for me was when it was pushed to its upper limits.

Four months after selling my own car I was, finally, able to hit the open road without relying on someone else to pick me up and drop me home.  After the impressive feel while driving around the city, the car was a tad unimpressive on the freeways of Melbourne. The problem was once I hit 100km/h.

That is the speed limit, I hear you say, but the VT-i just didn't feel completely comfortable going even that fast.  The 1.5-litre four felt a little buzzy and in need of a sixth gear to cope. It made me feel like I was straining the car.

There is no doubt it is fuel efficient around town - Honda says the 1.5-litre manual VT-i will sip 6.4 litres for every 100km - but the little hatch ran out of legs while out on the open road.  This could be a problem for a young person doing a long daily commute, but for a student or worker not having to travel too far, you would be hard pressed to go past the Jazz for a zippy, modern city car.

It felt just a tinge tinny, but to be fair it ticks all the boxes for a $18,000-plus car. All in all, this would be a great inner-city run around vehicle.

Likes

  • Extremely spacious for a small car
  • Great for parking
  • iPod access

Dislikes

  • Grunt- just didnt have any
  • Fuel efficiency
  • Lack of legroom when driver seat pushed back

Honda Jazz
Price: From $16,990
Engine: 1.3-litre or 1.5-litre
Economy: 5.8 litres/100km (VTi/VTi-S 6.4 litres/100km)
Features: Dual front airbags, anti-skid brakes, CD stereo with MP3, auxiliary jack, air conditioning, 10 cupholders If you like this try this: Suzuki Swift

Pricing Guides

$8,360
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$5,170
Highest Price
$11,550

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Cabriolet 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $8,030 – 11,330 2010 Volkswagen Beetle 2010 Cabriolet Pricing and Specs
Cabriolet Blackorange 2.0L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $7,700 – 10,780 2010 Volkswagen Beetle 2010 Cabriolet Blackorange Pricing and Specs
Blackorange 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $6,050 – 8,580 2010 Volkswagen Beetle 2010 Blackorange Pricing and Specs
Miami 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $5,940 – 8,360 2010 Volkswagen Beetle 2010 Miami Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$4,988

Lowest price, based on 6 car listings in the last 6 months

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