Car Buyers' Guide: Pleasure behind the wheel

By Jack Biddle

A 2009 Mazda MX5.
A 2009 Mazda MX5.

Jim is due to retire and has decided it's time to spend some of the children's inheritance on a car that can provide an element of fun and driving pleasure.

"Bugger the practicalities, it's now or never; I've always wanted to be able to get into a car and feel excited and enjoy the journey, rather than the destination" says Jim.

He is not a full-on petrol head and is looking for a vehicle that he can drive with some degree of environmental awareness.

A sporty look and feel is important, plus room for two and enough space for an overnight bag for a weekend away with his wife.

I admire your attitude Jim but what's the saying "be a little careful what you wish for as it may come true". If you suffer from the odd back pain or the body is not as flexible as it once was, then any vehicle with a low ground clearance may not provide the driving pleasure you are looking for long term.

Best buying advice initially is to make sure you can exit and enter any vehicle that appeals comfortably and look for the seats that offer the best overall support.

A sporty car offers loads of fun. It doesn't always have to be about top-end speed either, it's often more about sporty looks and the overall driving experience that appeals to buyers like yourself, looking to break away from the mainstream.

Retractable or removable roofs can also add to the driving fun in the summer but be wary of wind noise and water leaks when fitted in wet and cold conditions.

Manual or automatic transmission is another consideration.

The budget: $35,000

Mazda MX5

A 2009 Mazda MX5.
A 2009 Mazda MX5.

The MX5 has seemingly been around for 25 years and appeals to a wide group of motoring enthusiasts. It's a simple and well-executed design and not overly complicated from a technical aspect. For your price you'll get a 2010-12 model, but as there are loads of used imports I suggest you make contact with the MX5 car club (www.mx5club.org.nz) for advice.

Honda CR-Z

Honda CR-Z. Picture / Mark McKeown
Honda CR-Z. Picture / Mark McKeown

You could say it's the perfect sports car for those with an environmental bent because it's a hybrid (petrol/electric). Claimed combined fuel consumption is 4.7l/100km, the Honda hybrid system is at its best on the open road also where the electric motor boost provides additional power to the 1.5l petrol engine. Rear seating is limited to luggage, rather than passengers.

VW Polo GTI

The VW Polo GTi is currently priced at $34,750.
The VW Polo GTi is currently priced at $34,750.

The 2014 Polo GTI is being discounted to $34,750 which represents a lot of car for the money. It has the sporty look with a performance to match (132kW) from the twin-charged (turbo plus supercharger) 1.4l engine. The list is long and impressive, including a host of safety features.

Driven recommends

Check out the VW Polo. It may not be a straight-out sports car but it has good looks, performance and economy with some practicality.

- NZ Herald

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