We choose the ideal car for you within a budget: this time, a second-hand city runabout for less than R120 000... 

Know how much you can spend on a car but haven’t made up your mind which one to buy? Here we recommend two sensible options no older than three years, plus a left-field choice.

Requirements: Our buyer wants a city runabout that’s light on fuel, reliable and inexpensive to insure.

Sensible: Suzuki Celerio 1,0 GL

0-100 km/h: 16,10 sec
Top speed: 145 km/h
Power: 50 kW
Torque: 90 N.m
CO2: 110 g/km
Fuel cons: 5,64 L/100 km

Twice a winner of the Budget Car category in our annual Top 12 Best Buys awards programme, Suzuki’s Celerio continues to impress with its combination of great pricing, safety features, standard specification and low running costs.

As a used buy, this GL model has few peers. Boasting such nice-to-have features as Bluetooth and USB, air-conditioning, electric windows, keyless entry and a multifunction steering wheel, it makes urban commuting less of a chore.

The 50 kW 1,0-litre triple plays its part, too. Sure, acceleration to 100 km/h takes a languid 16,10 seconds, but close-set gearing means it gets up to 60 km/h briskly. A light clutch and direct five-speed manual gearbox are a doddle to use and suspension that’s been set up to absorb the surface scars of urban environments make it comfortable, too.

With a measured 648 mm of rear legroom, it’s easily one of the most spacious cars in the class and the boot offers a useable 168 litres of packing space, perfect for the weekly grocery shopping.

GL models boast a two-year/30 000 km service plan from new; do some industrious hunting and you might find one that has a free second service left (intervals are 15 000 km).

Space: 4/5 seats, 168/864 L
Safety and aids: 2 airbags, ABS
Cost of 4 tyres: R3 184
Road test: February 2015

Sensible: Toyota Aygo 1,0

0-100 km/h: 13,83 sec
Top speed: 160 km/h
Power: 51 kW
Torque: 93 N.m
CO2: 102 g/km
Fuel cons: 5,30 L/100 km

Launched towards the tail-end of 2015, this second-generation is an exuberantly styled city hatch replete with trendy dual-tone paintwork on X-Play derivatives that is well equipped – four airbags are still a rarity in this segment – and surprisingly punchy in its performance. Add Toyota’s enviable track record for reliability and aftersales service and the Aygo makes a great used buy for urbanites.

While not quite as refined as the most grown-up vehicle in this segment, Volkswagen’s Up (examples of which are available at this price point but with higher mileages), the Aygo nevertheless boasts sturdy materials and takes a decent stab at highway cruising thanks to the torquey 1,0-litre engine.

Standard specification levels are strong, with items such as a full bouquet of connectivity options, electric windows at the front (the rears open a smidge), air-con, height adjustment for the driver’s seat and leather trim on the steering wheel standard.

Be aware, though, the boot is smaller than some and rear legroom of 580 mm is more suited to kids than adults. At launch, Toyota didn’t offer a service plan, but a three-year/100 000 km warranty was standard.

Space: 4 seats, 128/640 L
Safety and aids: 4 airbags, ABS with EBD
Cost of 4 tyres: R3 276
Road test: December 2015

Left-field: Mini Cooper

0-100 km/h: 9,67 sec
Top speed: 199 km/h
Power: 90 kW
Torque: 160 N.m
CO2: 136 g/km
Fuel cons: 6,96 L/100 km

Launched in 2007 as BMW’s second stab at reviving the Mini brand, this F56-generation three-door introduced a more refined drive and a bigger cabin without affecting the fun-to-pilot attitude Mini owners find so endearing.

A world apart from the Celerio and Aygo in terms of road manners and perceived quality, a number of second-generation Coopers are available for R120 000 without scary mileages on the clock.

Under the bonnet is a punchy 90 kW 1,6-litre engine co-developed with PSA. Hitting 100 km/h in just 9,67 seconds, the Cooper does a passable impression of a warm hatch. Allied with quick steering and a snickety six-speed manual transmission, threading the Mini through traffic is a joy. And it gets even better on the open road, where it tackles corners with aplomb.

Reliability appears sound but there are reports of timing-chain and air-con evaporator failures, which can be costly to fix (especially the latter, which requires access through the engine bay). Look for a vehicle with a full service history.

Most examples are on run-flat tyres and they’re generally more expensive to replace than normal rubber, so factor that into your budget.

Space: 4 seats, 136/592 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ABS with EBD
Cost of 4 tyres: R8 044
Road test: September 2007