BUYING USED: Four compact minibuses for under R160 000

Decades ago, station wagons were “in” and sedans with bench seats could accommodate six passengers. Then SUVs took over and compact minibuses filled.

Toyota Avanza

Space: 7 seats, 128-430/1 424 L
Safety: 2 airbags, ABS
Cost of four tyres: R 4 736
Road test issue: May 2012 (1,5 TX)

0-100 km/h: 12,30 seconds Top speed: 164 km/h Power: 76 kW
Torque: 136 N.m C02: 168 g/km Fuel consumption: 8,64 L/100 km

The Avanza became a top seller almost immediately, mainly because it was a tough and reliable Toyota. Well, a Daihatsu actually, but then they are the same parent company. As a compact seven-seater, the Avanza soon found service as a people-mover for those who needed more than a hatchback but didn’t need a full-size Quantum. More suited for shorter distances and speeds of around 100 km/h owing to the lowish power and gearing that required over 4 000 r/min to do a true 120 km/h on the open road.

The styling has been tweaked over the years with curves and angles that give the impression of sportiness, which was not warranted. On purchase, look carefully at mileage, service history, signs of accident damage and interior wear as many have been extensively used and may be ripe for maintenance that will add significantly to the budget. One we spotted had close to 600 000 km on the clock. Fortunately, there are enough available to ensure a solid purchase.

While there are two engines on offer – a 1,3 and 1,5-litre – we would look for the more powerful versions for family use especially if being used for long holiday road trips. The fuel consumption of earlier models was listed as higher than later ones but expect around 8,00 L/100 km in the real world.

Suzuki Ertiga

Suzuki Ertiga 1,4 GLX MT
Suzuki 1 With great space utilisation and a small but perky powerplant, transporting people is a cinch in the Ertiga

Space: 7 seats, 80-400/1 496 L
Safety: 2 airbags, ABS, EBD
Cost of four tyres: R 5 644
Road test issue: November 2014 (1,4 GLX MT)

0-100 km/h: 12,08 seconds Top speed: 170 km/h Power: 70 kW
Torque: 130 N.m C02: 156 g/km Fuel consumption: 7,92 L/100 km

The Ertiga arrived in 2014 to join this growing market for compact people movers and quickly became another of Suzuki’s sales successes. Although the facelifted version was released in 2019, the original has less fussy styling and most agree it is quite attractive for this type of vehicle. The 1,4-litre engine is strong enough and offers good low- to mid-range torque with a quick gearshift (only five forward ratios) to allow for an enjoyable driving experience. Cloth seating is comfy, the second row is adjustable and there is good space in the last row. With all seats occupied, don’t expect much room for luggage though. The base GA model has no electric windows or audio system versus the higher-specced GL and GLX, but all have dual airbags and ABS. The GLX has alloy wheels and steering wheel controls included as standard.

A four-year service plan helps but you may have run out of services if the mileage is over 60 000 km. If you can find a GLX model, you will enjoy the added convenience features. There are only a few on offer within our budget so you may have to look at financing options to cover the gap. Mileages already covered tend to be lower than is the case with the Toyota Avanza and Honda BR-V and this only adds to the desirability.

Honda BR-V

Space: 7 seats, 192-440/1 344 L
Safety: 2 airbags, ABS, EBD
Cost of four tyres: R 4 050
Road test: August 2016

0-100 km/h: 10,92 seconds Top speed: 155 km/h Power: 88 kW
Torque: 145 N.m C02: 151 g/km Fuel consumption: 7,60 L/100 km

The BR-V took over from the Mobilio in late 2016 as Honda’s compact seven-seater conveyance. Three spec levels were introduced – Trend, Comfort and Elegance – with additions of alloy wheels and leather seating, neither of which detract from a solid overall package. Decent ground clearance and the added practicality of roof rails add to the appeal. Access to the third row is easy and the middle row is adjustable as with the Suzuki. The engine is familiar to Honda fans in its 1,5-litre form delivering 88 kW and 145 N.m of torque. A new six-speed gearbox was introduced and would be our choice above the CVT alternatives. The engine can be a bit buzzy at freeway speeds but fares better than the Avanza with its higher power and lower revs.

Suspension offers a good compromise for passenger comfort and a useful luggage capacity of 192 litres even with all seats in use. Pricing tends to be above our upper budget limit so a careful search may be necessary and the mileage already covered could be above 150 000 km … not ideal for a four-year-old car. A two-year/
30 000 km service plan was offered on only the higher specced models; it is critical you inspect the service book for
adequate maintenance history.

Nissan NV200

Space: 7 seats, 360-736/1 792 L
Safety: 4 airbags, ABS, EBD
Cost of four tyres: R 4 304
Road test: January 2014 (1,6 Combi Visia)

0-100 km/h: 12,54 seconds Top speed: n/a Power: 81 kW
Torque: 153 N.m C02: 169 g/km Fuel consumption: 8,76 L/100 km

From every single angle, it does look like the van from which it is built, but don’t be put off by the slabby styling and tinny quality.
This NV200 has the sprightly 1,6-litre Nissan engine and a quick-shifting five-speed gearbox. At 81 kW, it makes it one of the most powerful among this quartet but being larger, it also weighs more than the others. As with the Avanza, and with only five forward gears, the engine revs are high at 4 000 r/min at 120 km/h so a sixth ratio would have helped. A 66 kW diesel version is available for the hypermilers out there. A great help for loading goods, the sill height is a low 513 mm. Further aiding loading ability, the third seat row can be removed entirely by undoing just four bolts. The height provides lots of headroom that doubles as space for large goods when the rear is not being used for passengers.

With the large body, the 14-inch wheels do look a bit too small. The spare is fitted under-body and the windows are fixed apart for those up front. Comfort is tops and there is even additional packing space under the seats. No service plan was included when new, unfortunately. If it’s maximum space and decent drivability you are looking for, at a reasonable price, do include this NV200 in your search.

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CAR magazine