In the current economic climate, many South Africans are opting to downsize. In recent years, small cars have become increasingly better, offering the refinement and amenities of larger cars in a smaller and more economical package. Still, a new, base-model Volkswagen Polo will set you back R276 100. This puts it out of reach for many consumers. Here, we look at seven excellent second-hand alternatives that you can have on your driveway for less than R160 000 apiece...

1. Ford Fiesta 1,4 Ambiente (Mk6)

Introduced in 2008, the sixth-generation Fiesta proved to be a massive hit. Not only did it have the international motoring press fawning over its dynamic capabilities, but it captivated the general public. The Fiesta proved so popular that in the first two years of its production cycle, nearly 1 000 000 units were purchased worldwide. Replaced in 2017, the previous-generation Fiesta is still a very capable little car. If you’re keen on owning a Fiesta, there are plenty of facelifted models available on the second-hand market for under R160 000. We’d stick with the naturally aspirated 1,4-litre engine. It may not be as powerful as the turbocharged 1,0-litre EcoBoost variants, but 71 kW and 128 N.m of torque are adequate outputs for a city runabout. Two airbags and ABS take care of things on the safety front, while air-conditioning and front electric windows are to be found in the cabin.

2. Honda Jazz 1,5 Elegance (GK)

Despite the compact exterior dimensions, the Jazz is anything but pokey inside. Not many cars in this segment can rival the Jazz for packing space, with the Japanese hatch offering an impressive 248 litres of boot space and a voluminous 1 104 litres with the rear bench folded down. There is plenty of space for passengers, too. Thanks to the raised roofline, the Jazz boasts a considerable 921 mm of front-seat headroom. Typically Honda, the Jazz feels suitably solid. While the interior may be lacking the upmarket touches of a Volkswagen Polo, everything feels like it has been made to last. For just under R160 000, the 1,5-litre Elegance is within reach. Later-model 1,2-litre examples with lower mileage can be had for similar money. However, with just 110 N.m of torque on offer, we’d recommend opting for the larger-engined variant. The Jazz is rather frugal; Honda claims the 1,5-litre sips just six litres of unleaded every 100 km.

3. Hyundai i20 1,2 Motion

The i20 offers almost everything the modern driver could conceivably require. While the 1,2-litre engine is slightly underpowered (it produces 61 kW and 115 N.m of torque), it is at least economical; the Korean manufacturer claims a figure just 5,9 L/100 km. The base Motion model is decently equipped, sporting two airbags, ABS, air-conditioning and a Bluetooth-compatible audio system. There are plenty of three-year-old examples for sale with relatively low mileage, all coming in under R160 000. The 1,2-litre models were sold with a two-year/30 000 km service plan, so it’s unlikely you’ll find an example with a remaining balance. Still, the little hatch is affordable to maintain. The major 60 000 km service will set you back about R4 000 at your local Hyundai dealer.

4. Kia Rio Hatch 1,2 LS

Like the i20 above, there are plenty of Rio models available on the second-hand market. However, at this price range you may have to settle for the 1,2-litre. It produces slightly more power than the four-pot fitted to the Hyundai, with 62 kW and 120 N.m of torque on offer. Like its Korean cousin, the Rio has all the features you could need. While it does without the alloy wheels and niceties of the more luxurious models positioned above, you still get a pair of airbags, ABS and air-conditioning as standard. The 1,2-litre is a rather robust little engine, so mechanical problems are very unlikely to plague the Kia. While lacking in soft-touch plastics, the interior is at least well-screwed together. The Rio shouldn’t break the bank, either. A five-year/unlimited km warranty adds peace of mind, while a claimed fuel consumption of 5,7 L/100 km won’t see you stopping for fuel too often.

5. Mazda2 1,5 Dynamic

A hugely underrated car, the Mazda2 has never quite enjoyed the popularity it deserves. Blessed with a stylish exterior and a high-quality interior, there's very little not to like about the smallest offering from Mazda. While there are fewer examples on the second-hand market than, say a Polo, there are still a few examples that would make an excellent purchase. For under R160 000, a 2016 model 1,5 Dynamic is within budget. It must be said, however, that mileages do tend to be slightly higher. Don’t let that put you off, though. The little Mazda is renowned for being an exceptionally reliable car. The 82 kW 1,5-litre engine is durable yet equally refined and economical. Interestingly, Mazda offered the hatchback with a three-year/unlimited km service plan, so there is a chance you could bag yourself one with a service left. If you opt for one that doesn't have an active plan, expect to pay around R5 000 at a Mazda dealer for the 60 000 km service.

6. Suzuki Baleno 1,4 GL

Another underrated car, the Baleno is an incredible second-hand buy. Low-mileage 2018 and 2019 models are easily attainable at this price point, meaning this is a lot of car for the money. Equipped with the brand’s peppy naturally aspirated 1,4-litre unit, the Baleno feels lively and alert. The 68 kW and 130 N.m of torque aren’t solely responsible for the rather nippy performance; the lightweight construction means this spacious hatchback weighs just 916 kg. This enables the Suzuki to sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in just 10,90 seconds. It’s frugal, too. In our October 2018 road test, the Baleno sipped just 5,5 litres of petrol on our 100 km fuel route. Two airbags, ABS, air-conditioning and electric windows are just some of the standard features of the base model GL. What’s more, with the rear seats folded down, the Suzuki provides 896 litres of utility space. Thanks to a four-year/60 000 km service plan, it will be very difficult to find an example that doesn’t have a decent chunk of its service plan left.

7. Volkswagen Polo 1,2 TSI

Perhaps it is a combination of the tasteful styling, well-built interior and great driving experience, but the fifth-generation Polo was a runaway success in South Africa. Even as used cars, they command high prices. While most examples that fall within the R160 000 price range are older, higher-mileage cars, there are a few later-model Trendline models that just make the cut. Despite the modest engine capacity, the turbocharged 1,2-litre four-cylinder produces a strong 160 N.m of torque. Power is adequate, rated at 66 kW. As with the other cars on this list, the Polo features air-conditioning and central locking as standard. As a trump card, it boasts four airbags. A service plan was optional, but expect to pay around R4 700 for the 60 000 km service at your local Volkswagen dealer.

Things to remember when buying a second-hand compact car:

1. Buy what you need

While it's easy to get caught up in frivolous things like metallic paint or alloy wheels, focus on the more important things like service history and mileage. A vehicle with a full service history and lower mileage will be a safer bet and make it much easier to sell on when the time comes.

2. Do your homework

While you may be able to afford the monthly installments, calculate what the total cost of the car will be and how that will affect your budget. Include fuel, insurance and potential service costs in the equation.

3. Do your research

Research the vehicle you're interested in before visiting a dealer. Know what the car is worth and don't overpay. Take your time and search for the right car.

4. Prioritise

Be sensible. Leather seats and an aftermarket touchscreen may be cool, but ABS and airbags are more important. Thankfully, all the cars recommended above are fitted with both.

5. Get practical

While many experts recommend you maintain your vehicle at a main dealer, it can get expensive for a car without a service plan. Finding a reputable, independent garage can save you plenty of money in the long run, while providing you with the same level of workmanship.

Original article from Car