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Look, front-wheel-drive cars have their advantages. They’re generally cheaper to produce (and buy), they tend to be more fuel-efficient and they help to maximise interior space.
But sometimes, what you really want is a rear-wheel-drive machine (cue dramatic shots of the tail hanging out, with the obligatory plume of tyre smoke). However, if you don’t have cash spilling out of your pockets, your choices (on the new market, at least) are rather limited…
Here are the five cheapest rear-wheel-drive cars you can currently buy in SA. Some are (mildly) exciting and some are plainly not – but there’s no disputing the fact that these are the cheapest. Take note that we’ve excluded light commercial vehicles like bakkies and panel-vans, as well as MPVs and SUVs.
1. Smart ForTwo: R174 900
Rear-engined and rear-wheel drive doesn’t always translate into dynamic talent. And the Smart ForTwo is a case in point. This tiny city car is powered by a naturally aspirated 1,0-litre triple, worth 52 kW and 91 N.m, and isn’t exactly fun to drive fast (although, for some added dough, you can lay your hands on a Brabus version). The saunter to 100 km/h? Some 14,4 seconds…
2. Smart ForFour: R179 900
The second cheapest rear-wheel-drive car in SA is the larger ForFour, which shares much with the Renault Twingo (sadly not available locally). The four-door model employs the same powerplant as its smaller ForTwo sibling, but the extra lard means it takes an additional 1,5 seconds to reach three figures. Again, no real handling excitement here…
3. BMW 1 Series: R411 742
That’s quite a jump in price from two to three, isn’t it? Well, the entry-level model in the 1 Series range is the 118i, which features the 1,5-litre turbo-triple used in other compact BMWs and Minis. The engine makes 100 kW and 220 N.m, allowing the hatchback to reach 100 km/h from standstill in around 8,5 seconds. Not exactly tyre-melting stuff, but the 1 Series is at least more dynamically poised than the Smart twins.
4. Toyota 86: R434 100
If you came here looking for something to drift, this may well be the first car that catches your eye. Powered by a free-revving, 2,0-litre naturally aspirated flat-four (worth 147 kW and 205 N.m), the 86 is a lovely thing to drive, and is the second-quickest vehicle here, reaching three figures in 7,6 seconds. But there’s an argument to be made that that’s not quite quick enough…
5. Mazda MX-5: R441 700
Like the Toyota above, the lightweight Mazda MX-5 eschews forced induction and draws its urge from a decidedly old-school 2,0-litre engine, which in this case provides the rear wheels (via a six-speed manual gearbox) with 118 kW and 200 N.m. The obligatory 0-100 km/h sprint is done and dusted in 7,3 seconds.
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