Top 12 Winner, Budget Car: Chevrolet Spark Campus

The Spark Campus had to fight harder than ever to retain its crown, but its combination of safety features (ABS and two airbags are standard), lively 1,2-litre engine, mature road manners and extensive warranty – not to mention the clincher, its price – was enough to fend off the biggest pretenders to its throne, the Suzuki Swift DZire and perennial favourite, Ford’s Figo. Out of the running was the Datsun GO due to a dearth of safety features (our main criteria here, besides a base price below R145 000, is that contenders must have at least one airbag and ABS), while the new Citroën C1 is far too expensive (kicking off at R168 900). Almost sneaking onto the podium was the Toyota Etios 1,5 Xi (good specification level, punchy engine and standard service plan) and the excellent-value Suzuki Celerio (tested last month). But none usurped the Spark. Will Volkswagen’s Up! (below) manage the feat next year?

Runners Up:

Suzuki Swift DZire 1,2 GA
Replacing the Honda Brio Sedan as our favourite small four-door, the DZire could do little wrong in the eyes of the CAR team when we compared the two vehicles in May 2014. At R132 400, the GA model represents stellar value for small families. It rarely feels like a budget car and is almost always a pleasure to drive.

Ford Figo 1,4 Ambiente
Still the dynamic benchmark, the Figo is both cheap and cheerful. The spec is good for the price (R134 700) – ABS, two airbags, sound and air-con are standard – and cabin space generous. It perfectly illustrates how a re-engineered vehicle (it used to be a Fiesta) can be ideally suited to an emerging market.

ALSO CONSIDER

  • Honda Brio Sedan 1,2 Trend
  • Toyota Etios 1,5 Xi
  • Suzuki Celerio 1,0 GL

LOOK OUT FOR

One vehicle will matter more than any other in this segment in 2015. After years of deliberation (no doubt influenced by unfavourable exchange rates), Volkswagen will finally launch the highly lauded Up! in South Africa. Rumour suggests it’ll be cheaper than the Vivo and offered only in three-door form. Expect it to sell up a storm.