The dilemma

For the past eight years, Susie has owned a 1999 1.4 litre VW Polo and it's served her well, but the rising cost of servicing and WOF requirements means she wants to update.

"I'm keen just to replace the Polo with another second-hand one - I know European cars can be costly but I love the Polo," she says.

"But I'm also interested in a Suzuki Swift, although they are becoming a very common sight on our roads and I do like to drive something a little bit different."


She lives in inner-city Auckland and just needs her car for the school run and to her job in the CBD.

Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with a European car but you have to accept and be prepared to spend more on general repairs. It's not a criticism of the Euros, ask your local garage and they will tell you it potentially costs more to keep a European car on the road than it does a mainstream and well serviced Japanese vehicle especially one in your price range. Often they are higher spec'd vehicles and therefore, there is more to go wrong, but you only have to look at reliability surveys done around the world to confirm ownership costs can be higher.

The budget: $10,000
The shortlist

That gap is closing but with the older fleet we have on our roads now, the potential for high ownership costs with a Euro valued at around $10K are higher than the mainstream cars from the Japanese manufacturers.

VW Polo

If you really like the Polo then the trick is to find one that has been well serviced and has had the big ticket maintenance items done, much like you would when looking to buy a mainstream Japanese, Korean or Australian-made vehicle. For added piece of mind, a New Zealand-new example may reduce risk.

Suzuki Swift

You should at least have a look at the Swift but be a little careful. Many of the used imports have the smaller 1.3-litre engine which may struggle a little on the open road and the New Zealand variants in your price range may have travelled well over the 100,000 km barrier. Interior space, particularly in the rear, needs to be compared with other options also.

Ford Fiesta

Its 1.6-litre engine is a step up in engine size from the Polo, which you may actually appreciate on the occasional trip out of town. The five-door hatchback has the European styling you are looking to retain even down to the indicators being on the 'wrong' side of the steering column.