Car Buyers' Guide: How to buy a sporty hatch

By Jack Biddle

You have good options if you want a sporty small car

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Stefan is a keen motorist looking for a 5-door hatch that marries reasonable performance, good looks and a sporty drive within a reasonable budget. While the used-car options are plentiful, he's more focused on a new car. He has looked at the Suzuki Swift Sport 5-door manual and the new Honda Jazz RS manual and asks which would provide the better driving thrill, and are there any other cars he should consider.

The budget: About $25,000

Maybe we should start by welcoming Honda back to the party as once again being a serious option for potential new-car buyers. It's no secret within the industry that sales have stagnated at best over the past few years. That has left the once-inspirational brand sitting at the wrong end of the market share in NZ.

With the all-new Jazz it appears the opportunity has been taken to almost relaunch the brand and its specific model range to create greater buyer awareness. It must be working if people like Stefan are asking questions and at least placing models like the Jazz on their shopping list.

Your idea of a sporty vehicle is obviously not at the extreme end of the performance scale, Stefan. It sounds like your decision will be weighted more toward value for money and getting behind the wheel of something fairly mainstream with a little more sporty personality.

You will also need to weigh up each vehicle's individual specifications to make sure you get exactly what you want. For example, is interior space more important than a sportier looking interior?

Choosing a manual transmission is definitely a good move. Being in control of when gear changes take place will provide a driving buzz that an auto will struggle to replicate.

Honda Jazz RS manual (from $27,000)

The new Jazz retains the previous model's rear magic seat which, when folded, creates generous amounts of additional interior space. Great if you have a surfboard or similar to carry around and you travel alone, but the benefit may be a little bit lost on you.

The 1.5l engine produces 97kW of power (6600rpm) and 155Nm of torque (4600rpm) and is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. Claimed combined fuel consumption is around 5.3l/100km (91-octane fuel). Interior features that may appeal include reverse camera, climate A/C, navigation, leather steering wheel, Bluetooth music streaming and Wi-Fi-capable internet connection.

Exterior looks are enhanced with the aero bumper and skirts and 16-inch alloy wheels. No spare is provided; in its place is a temporary repair kit.

Suzuki Swift RS Sport 5-Door ($27,500)

The Swift has been an absolute winner for Suzuki from day one and continues to reinvent itself and retain its unique appeal. One of its strengths is its ability to fit into a wide range of age groups and lifestyles. It can appeal to those who simply require good looks and cheap transport while it has an attraction for those looking for sporty looks combined with a brilliant open-road driving set-up.

The 1.6l engine produces 100kW (6900) and 160Nm of torque (4400) and is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. Claimed combined fuel consumption is 6.3l/100km (95-octane). A sports body kit, 17-inch alloys, leather steering wheel and sports seats with red stitching help provide the sporty look.

Climate A/C and Bluetooth audio streaming also helps provide added value and driver comfort. The Swift Sport also has a repair kit in place of a spare wheel.

Ford Fiesta Sport ($27,340)

This is an amazing motor vehicle if you have a bent for power unit technology. Even if only for interest's sake, go and drive the multi award-winning, turbo-assisted 1-litre 3-cylinder Fiesta Sport.

It has a power output of 92kW and generates 170Nm of torque. It also has a long and occupant-focused spec list.

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Sales staff will fill in the blanks and additional benefits for all models when you visit the showroom but it appears the Jazz wins with a better overall specification list. Is it enough to dislodge a couple of well-proven, sporty-looking and fun cars to drive?

- NZ Herald

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