Holden’s Astra is great value at the moment. Picture: Mark Bean.
Holden’s Astra is great value at the moment. Picture: Mark Bean.

Which hatchback should I buy?

THE QUESTION

I am looking to upgrade my wife's super-reliable 2006 Subaru Forester with a new or near-new modern five-door hatch. I like the new Ford Focus and the Holden Astra has had good reviews. She works at the local school and it's a one-way trip of only a tick over 2km. Do you think this is an issue? Will I be stuck with normally aspirated cars like the Mazda3 and Honda Civic? We would like to stay under $25,000 and are looking at something comfy as we will take a few interstate trips to visit family.

Dale Keher

THE ANSWER

No car enjoys trips as brief as your wife's commute to school. Nothing gets properly up to operating temperature, which means the engine and transmission oils take a pounding and the emissions gear can fail to reach the correct temperature and clog. Even the brakes and aircon are not at their best. The old Forester is a sturdy workhorse but even it is probably suffering. Almost anything new will be fine for your needs and the budget is fine for a sensible small car. Talking engines, modern turbos are more focused on economy than performance so one would generally be no more troublesome than non-turbo rivals in the same class. The real question for you: what's fit for the purpose? You could easily get a baby runabout for the school run each morning, bank the rest of your budget and use the proceeds to hire something special - perhaps a Benz or BMW - for the holiday runs. Or keep the Subaru.

The Ford Focus is a good drive. Picture: Supplied.
The Ford Focus is a good drive. Picture: Supplied.

CHOICES

FORD FOCUS, from about $24,490 D/A

The Focus is comfy, drives very well and is less confusing inside than in the past when the dash was riddled with switches. It still trails the class leaders unless you go for performance spec in the ST and RS. It's also more costly than its rivals with less chance of a bargain.

The Holden Astra is going for a song, if you want a 2017-plate car. Picture: Mark Bean.
The Holden Astra is going for a song, if you want a 2017-plate car. Picture: Mark Bean.

HOLDEN ASTRA, from about $19,990 D/A

Over-priced at first, the born-again Astra is a good car with great deals now on hundreds of 2017-plated cars. The R+ auto hatch gets along well with a 1.4-litre turbo and has impressive safety kit including AEB and lane assist.

The Hyundai i30 has a new cheaper model in the line-up. Picture: Mark Bean.
The Hyundai i30 has a new cheaper model in the line-up. Picture: Mark Bean.

HYUNDAI i30, from about $20,990 D/A

A new starter car, the Go, has been added to the i30 line-up and, with only satnav and alloy wheels deleted, it is great buying. The 2.0-litre Active auto is the one that does the best job, with a classy drive and impressive equipment, with a drive-away price that just comes in under your $25,000 budget.

If size isn’t important, the Kia Picanto is worth a look. Picture: Supplied.
If size isn’t important, the Kia Picanto is worth a look. Picture: Supplied.

WILDCARD

KIA PICANTO, from about $14,390 D/A

The tiny Kia is ideal for the school run, has four-star safety and plenty of standard equipment including satnav. Best of all, the running costs are also tiny. The car costs less than $15,000, or $16,000 with an auto, economy is 5.8L/100km and it has a seven-year warranty.

VERDICT

The Astra is on your shortlist and the latest deal, including a five-year warranty and three years of free scheduled servicing, makes it unbeatable. Buy now and you won't be disappointed, by the car or the value package.



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