Which car is safe for my P-plater?
Our 17-year-old son has saved more than $14,000 working after school and weekends to buy his first car. He'd like something second hand and we're encouraging him to look at models with superior safety and reliability. He'll mainly do short trips to school and eventually university, with the occasional trip up the coast. What are your suggestions?
Great to see parents taking keen interest in the safety of their child's first car - there's nothing's more precious than family. Simply put, new and nearly new cars have better crash structures and more active and passive safety features than ever before. Your son's $14,000 allows many choices, especially as he'll need nothing larger than a city car for his intended uses. These models are all about $14K.
2016 VW Golf 92TSI
The leader in terms of driver enjoyment and cabin class. The Golf Mk7 hasn't suffered the automatic gearbox reliability issues of previous versions, while the manual gearbox is a gem. Your son will love Apple CarPlay/Android Auto (it certainly lessens the temptation to use one's phone) and there's a 6.5-inch screen with rear camera. The Golf has five-star crash rating, seven airbags, driver fatigue alert and it applies the brakes after an accident to prevent further collisions. There's decent rear and boot space, 5.4L/100km thrift but it needs premium fuel. It'll be virtually out of its three-year warranty.
2017 Suzuki Swift GL Navigator
They look funky, are a hoot to drive and drink only 4.8L/100km with continuously variable transmission. You get five-star safety, six airbags, cruise control, seven-inch screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, satnav and rear camera, plus alloy wheels. A parental contribution of $1000 would buy a used GL Navigator with safety pack, adding autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane departure warning and weaving alert. Servicing is cheap but frequent - every six months. Find one that's been serviced on time with Suzuki and the warranty is five years, backing up Suzuki's solid reliability.
2017 Skoda Fabia 81TSI
Let's not forget your son is 17 and image is important. Sports cars and hot hatches aren't great first cars (think insurers and speed cameras) but how about something funky but still rock solid? The Fabia's a solid choice, has proven reliability and it can be had with Colour Concept - where the body colour contrasts with its roof and wheels. Black with yellow or grey with red work well together. There are five-star safety, AEB, rear camera and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Find a wagon version and you get more cargo space than a Mazda CX-5 SUV.
2018 Kia Picanto S
Can I tempt you into a new car? The Picanto S is the best city car around, has a seven-year warranty, is cheap as chips to run and has AEB, seven-inch screen, reverse camera and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto - safety rating is four stars, however. Find a 2018 plate car that has lingered in a dealership, or an ex-demo with a few thousand on the clock, and your $14,000 buys that new car smell. The Picanto handles highway trips comfortably enough.
There are no poor choices here but it's hard to look past the Suzuki Swift as an ideal blend of style, safety and running costs, still with warranty remaining. Just make sure it's been serviced correctly.