Whatever demographic you fit into, economic running counts for a lot.

The budget:


The dilemma
Retiree John is a Buyers' Guide fan, especially our recent story recommending the Ford Fiesta (Driven June 30).


"It could have been written precisely for my wife and I and your point about a new vehicle is well taken," he says. "We were, however, thinking of a vehicle with a little more internal size and you mention the Ford Focus which would meet that requirement. Is there any chance you will be doing an article considering the next size up vehicles such as the Focus?"

Well, your wish, John, is our command. I reckon your budget should still allow for a near new vehicle still covered by the remainder of the manufacturer's new car warranty programme (around three years or 100km, whichever comes first).

Because you are looking at used vehicles you need to look carefully into safety features as some makes may have better spec'd models than others.

Side curtain airbags, electronic stability control should be priorities while driver comforts and aids such as cruise control, Bluetooth and parking sensors are also nice to have.

Try to find the latest model possible also that fits within the budget as midlife model upgrades often mean a big difference in specification and safety levels.

The shortlist
Ford Focus
The 2-litre Duratec engine is well proven and this model comes with a 20,000 service interval programme which helps reduce on-going maintenance costs. Overall fuel consumption is around the 8l/100k mark. Ford has a reputation for producing a very good "drivers" car with excellent road handling manners. The Focus will be no exception.

Toyota Corolla
The Corolla has been one of NZ's biggest selling vehicles for many years. Numbers are boosted by huge on-going rental and business sales, which no doubt are negotiated with healthy discounts. However, purchase would also be made with reliability and safety as a high priority. The 1.8-litre hatchback is a hard car to fault as an overall package without being overly exciting in any one area. Claimed fuel consumption is 7.4 l/100km. You can pay a little more for the badge due its well-known reliability but there is a limit to just how much more you should pay (if any) in comparison to other mainstream vehicles.

Arguably, this hatchback is Mazda's most successful mass produced vehicle to date. It has what the Corolla lacks, which is instant attraction or as Mazda NZ calls it 'zoom-zoom' appeal. Like the Corolla, it has been a very popular choice of vehicle for both businesses and private buyers alike for many years. Fuel consumption for the 2-litre is where it loses ground (claimed combined figure of 8.2 l/100km) to the others and around town on short cold runs that will only increase. If, however, you buy a model still covered under new car warranty, you should pick up on the free servicing programme Mazda NZ have in place during the remainder of the warranty period, which can be a huge saving on its own.