Budgeting upgraders must choose - looks or grunt?

The dilemma

Prue is a self-confessed "independent single woman who enjoys driving", in particular her 2005 Audi A4 convertible.

"It has given me trouble-free motoring for two-plus years and I've been really happy with it," she says. But the car has 142,000km on the clock so she's looking for an upgrade.

"I do have a leaning towards European cars - I love the styling and the image. Ultimately, the budget will depend on the trade-in I get as it's really about 'cost to change'."


Well, Prue, you have picked the right time to move the car. As well as the age factor, the higher that odometer climbs the less the car is going to be worth - especially if you are looking to trade the car in with a dealer. It may, in fact, be the sort of vehicle that sells well at auction.

If you're all cashed up and ready to purchase, the buying process certainly becomes a lot more transparent. Another consideration is vehicle and engine size. In general, the bigger and more powerful the vehicle, the more you are gravitating back towards older vehicles with higher odometers.

I suggest you look at new or near new makes and models and have, therefore, provided a couple of smaller, less powerful recommendations aimed at more "show" than "go". All would still provide an overall element of fun, excitement and eyebrow-raising from family, friends and work colleagues.

The budget: $30,000
Mini Cooper

So many models in the Mini family to choose from, which can create confusion, so I suggest you look initially at the Mini Cooper. New retail prices start at $36,200 so you're within reach of buying (new or ex-demo) the latest model and have that extra comfort of new car warranty. It's almost a bigger head-turner now than it was when the first new generation BMW Mini was launched over 10 years ago.

Audi A1 (above)

Sold new as a five-door these days (apart from a limited edition Huffer range). However, some Audi dealers are advertising NZ-new, used, low mileage, three-door variants for around the $30,000 mark.

As you well know there is something special about getting behind the wheel of any Audi. The front grille portrays a strong brand image but picking the right colour may create the biggest wow factor.

VW Golf GTi

A very worthy consideration. However, in your price range you will be looking at older and higher mileage vehicles that are out of any new car warranty protection. You are also paying for extra engine size and power, which you may never use.

Our pick

Try them all but staying loyal to the Audi brand shouldn't disappoint.