Car Buyers' Guide: Smart five-door hatch

By Jack Biddle

Five-door hatch ideal choice to accommodate changed lifestyle

Toyota Corolla
Toyota Corolla

Joe and Marg are downsizing. They have sold their large family home and moved into a retirement village, which means a smaller garage, so they are trading in their Toyota Camry.

They originally wanted an SUV but have settled on a mid-sized five-door hatch to take them on regular outings such as the weekly grocery shop plus local and out-of-town bowling tournaments which can include car pooling.

"The car needs to fit the garage but at the same time provide a bit of oomph and comfort," Joe says.

The Budget: $38,000

The five-door hatch is still a great option and by the sounds of things would suit your needs perfectly.

The industry has actually seen the benefits of downsizing their popular SUVs and we can expect to see more mini versions entering our markets.

If it's your turn for the car pooling, Joe, then you need to be providing reasonable leg and head room for your mates.

Adult space in the rear of vehicles is often overlooked by buyers so make sure you check that out.

Reversing cameras and parking aids are no longer gimmicks. Once you have experienced the benefit it's hard to imagine how you ever coped without them, especially as age creeps up and the neck and shoulders don't swivel as well as they used to.

Hands-free mobile phone connectivity can also be another handy option at times.

No doubt bowlers can accumulate a fair amount of gear for a day out on the green so boot space is another area deserving close attention.

What goes on under the bonnet shouldn't be a great worry if you buy new and stick with one fuel type.

I recommend petrol. Fuel consumption, performance - depending on engine size - and reliability are very much on a par these days, as is safety.

What you could ask about is whether some sort of service plan is offered as a point of difference from one franchise to another.

Servicing isn't cheap and can, at times, spring a few surprises with fairly pricey replacement service items such as air-conditioning pollen filters.

Toyota Corolla

Toyota Corolla
Toyota Corolla

While it sells in big numbers to rental car and business fleets you can't deny its presence on our roads. It's been a long-time favourite in New Zealand and has dominated its market segment for many years. The GLX model isn't head and shoulders above its competition but is worthy of consideration.

Toyota has also risen to the challenge of keeping the brand at the sharp end of the sales charts and advertised retail prices always seem to leave room for negotiation. Reverse camera comes standard on the GLX.

VW Golf

The turbo-powered TSI Comfortline Golf 7 pretty much swept the pool in the New Zealand car awards last year so it's definitely worth a look. Less power than the Toyota (90kW v 103kW) so the 103kW more highly specced variant ($40,750) could be worth evaluating. No reverse camera in the Comfortline and to have one fitted will set you back $1500.

Ford Focus

Ford Focus
Ford Focus

Like the Corolla and the Golf, the Focus is a proved and popular vehicle on the global stage. It has the bigger engine and power output (2.0l & 125kW) but requires the more expensive 95-octane fuel. The Trend model has rear parking sensors only while the Sport hatch ($42,340) comes with reverse camera, navigation and 17in alloy wheels among other upgrades.

Driven recommends

Add the Hyundai i30, Nissan Pulsar, Kia Cerato, outgoing Mazda3 and all-new Mazda3 to the must-check-out list.

- NZ Herald

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