What is the best small car under $20,000?
We’ve compared four of Australia’s top-selling small cars under $20,000.
Gone are the days when small city runabouts were unsafe and unreliable. Many have the latest safety features and more than a few have earned five-star ANCAP safety ratings.
Many manufacturers now offer high-quality micro and light cars, but despite many buyers downsizing, sales in these two segments have dropped in recent years. Several car-makers have pulled out of the segment because they don’t make much profit on sub-$20,000 cars.
Well-known nameplates such as the Holden Barina, Nissan Micra, Suzuki Celerio and Mitsubishi Mirage sedan have all disappeared in the past couple of years. Even Ford has dropped regular versions of its Fiesta, opting instead to offer only the ST performance variant.
Despite the sales decline, there are still some seriously impressive micro and light cars priced at less than $20,000. Here are some of our top picks.
Volkswagen Polo 70TSI Trendline
Mazda2 Maxx ($17,690)
Thumbs up: 1.5-litre engine is a delight. A car for driving enthusiasts.
Thumbs down: Inadequate insulation means it has a noisy cabin.
The Mazda2 is the second-best selling light car in Australia – behind Hyundai’s ageing Accent – and there is good reason for it. The Mazda is one of the best driver’s cars on offer for under $20,000.
It is powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol unit that is also found in the excellent MX-5 roadster, although the drop-top gets more power and torque.
Depending on whether you choose the six-speed manual or auto, fuel use ranges from 4.9 to 5.5L/100km on the combined cycle – nothing to be sniffed at. The 2 also has an impressive equipment list, which notably includes AEB as standard across the range.
The Mazda2 is a few years older than the VW Polo, but the cabin still feels brand new and it has a semi-premium feel that most of its rivals can’t match.
The Mazda2 is let down by its lack of refinement. Mazda has spent a lot of its research and development money improving the cabin noise of recent models, but the 2 was launched just before this.
Volkswagen Polo 70TSI Trendline ($18,790)
Thumbs up: Great performer that feels well put together and semi-premium.
Thumbs down: Pricier than many of its rivals.
The Polo is the priciest offering here and it only just crept in to the sub-$20,000 category. Swap the manual out for an auto and it jumps to $21,290. Higher entry price aside, the Polo is a quality offering that is light years ahead of many of its rivals.
The latest Polo has grown considerably in its latest generation and is bigger than the Mark IV Golf small car that ended production in 2004. It is the largest offering among this group by some margin.
The Polo has a level of refinement the Mazda can’t match and its modern and minimalist interior features the latest Volkswagen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Safety wise it has AEB, a five-star ANCAP rating, a reversing camera and tyre-pressure monitor.
The VW also excels as a driver’s car. Like the Mazda, it is engaging and fun behind the wheel. The 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine is a real sweetie and can be pushed hard. Fuel use is 4.8L/100km for the manual. Like Mazda, the Polo has a five year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Kia Picanto GT
Fiat 500 Pop