Car Buyers' Guide: Hatchback needs

By Jack Biddle

Jazz has ease of entry and exit that older drivers need

2009 Honda Jazz 1.5 Sport.
2009 Honda Jazz 1.5 Sport.

The dilemma: Joslyn Tierney says she is in her 70s and now that her husband has passed on, wishes to trade in their 2004 Toyota Camry for a smaller car, such as a 1500cc hatchback, hopefully two to three years old.

She asks for advice on what things she should be aware of? She has friends who have a Colt Plus, which she quite likes, but has been told that their transmission is not very good. Is this your opinion, too? she asks.

She has looked at the Suzuki Swift, but finds this car very cramped, especially compared to the Colt Plus. The Honda Jazz appeals, but Joslyn thinks it will be hard to find one in her price range.

I believe you are on the right track in terms of vehicle age, engine size and body configuration, however, the budget may be a little bit on the light side. Often late model vehicles at the lower end of the price range come with high mileage and multiple owners, which is something I suggest you should try to avoid. If you could increase the budget just a little (3-4K) then I believe the chances of getting something ideally suited to your needs will be far greater.

Stepping up from, say, a Suzuki Swift can also mean an increase in engine size, so make sure you really do require that extra space.

Safety, reliability and fuel efficiency are important features to look out for but as the body joints stiffen as part of the ageing process, so too do the demands of practicality, visibility and ease of entry and exit from the vehicle itself.

Mitsubishi have definitely moved on from the Colt. However, it was not the only vehicle to suffer from transmission issues a few years ago. Once again, by increasing the budget, you can take yourself away from that high risk area.

Don't forget also, prices on used cars are often very negotiable.

The budget: around $15,000

Honda Jazz Sport 5-speed automatic 2009 (1.5-litre)

Honda moved away from its problematic transmission (CVT) when the much improved new model was launched in 2008. Downside was a slight increase in fuel consumption but I imagine that is hardly going to worry you. As you have discovered, it has the interior space, ease of entry and exit that would suit you, and is a good example of the benefits of stretching that budget just a little more.

Toyota Corolla Hatchback GX 2010 (1.8-litre)

As a current Toyota owner, I am sure you don't need me to tell you of the brand's overall reliability record with NZ-new passenger cars. An all-new Corolla was released not that long ago, so there should be a reasonable supply of one-owner previous models that have been traded in at Toyota dealerships around the country. It's certainly a step up from the Swift if rear passenger and boot space are important to you.

Nissan Tiida ST Hatchback 2012 (1.8-litre)

The Tiida never set the world on fire when sold new but it does represent great value for money second-hand. The big benefit is you would be buying a very late model car with a low odometer reading and the remainder of a new car warranty. It was the rather bland look that steered potential buyers away rather than any outstanding mechanical issues. There is a number of used imports on the market but I would recommend sticking with NZ-new.

Driven recommends

If the Jazz appeals and can fit within the budget, then use it as the benchmark for other models to equal or better.
For car advice, email driven@apn.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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