We help choose the ideal car for your needs and your budget: this time, mid-size sedans for under R160k apiece…

Age: 30
Budget: R160 000
Status: Freelance sales rep with a young family
Vehicle type: Mid-sized sedan with plenty of bootspace

Requirements:

Our salesperson spends a lot of time sitting in city traffic and needs to transport goods safely locked away in a secure boot. They also need a vehicle that’s practical enough for family use.

The vehicle:

A three-year-old sedan with a spacious boot, fuel-efficient engine and a strong reputation for reliability. An automatic transmission is preferable.

Our choice: Toyota Corolla Quest 1,6 AT

Toyota Corolla

0 to 100 km/h: 11,10 sec
Top speed: 185 km/h
Power: 90 kW
Torque: 154 N.m
CO2: 150 g/km
CAR fuel index: 7,6 L/100 km

There is a huge number of Corollas on the roads, and for good reason. These cars represent excellent value for money, are reliable and offer ample space for five passengers on comfortably moulded seats. The ride quality is excellent, so long journeys between cities will not be burdensome.

The boot isn’t the largest here, offering 368 litres as opposed to the 384 and 400 litres of the others. Even so, it’s big enough to accommodate most things thrown its way. The rear seatbacks cannot be folded to increase packing space but that is advantageous in terms of security, providing an extra layer of protection should someone break a window in an attempt to gain access to your goods.

The Quest’s naturally aspirated 1,6-litre engine is a rev-happy unit but needs to be worked to keep it on the boil. Given its relatively high power output, fuel consumption is actually pretty good, helped out by the engine’s variable valve timing. It works well with the four-speed transmission, too, thanks to well-chosen ratios.

The ride quality is excellent and the steering, although electrically assisted, is light but not bereft of feel. Dealer support is second to none and parts pricing should not break the bank. Unlike the Ballade with its six airbags, here you get just two up front, but the Quest has all the mod-cons.

Space: 5 seats, 368 L
Safety and aids: 2 airbags, ABS/EBD/BAS
Cost of 4 tyres: R3 810
Road test: July 2014 (1,6 Plus manual)

Nissan Almera 1,5 Acenta AT

Nissan Almera

0 to 100 km/h: n/a sec
Top speed: 183 km/h
Power: 73 kW
Torque: 134 N.m
CO2: 171 g/km
CAR fuel index: 8,6 L/100 km

Although it represents good value for money, the Almera doesn’t have quite the same level of interior trim quality as its rivals here. Although cruise control isn’t standard, you do get a multi-function steering wheel and effective air-conditioning with vents for the rear-seat passengers.

Interior space is the perennial strong point of most Nissans and this Almera is no exception. Legroom is plentiful, making it a good proposition for taller folk. Boot space is close to that of the spacious Ballade, at 384 litres, but the rear seatbacks are fixed.

The vague steering and a suspension battling a bit with ridges and bumps round town are drawbacks, but these kinks are both ironed out once on the open road. The engine needs some encouragement to deliver its best, not helped by the four-speed automatic transmission.

Whereas the Corolla has disc brakes all-round, the Almera and Honda still use drums at the rear. This did not make much of a difference in our standardised braking tests, as the Honda produced the best stopping times, while the Corolla took a bit longer and the Almera placed in the middle.

The Nissan’s three-year service plan will probably have expired by the time you purchase the car but thankfully newer models have an excellent six-year/150 000 km warranty.

Space: 5 seats, 364 L
Safety and aids: 2 airbags, ABS/EBD
Cost of 4 tyres: R3 420
Road test: July 2014

Honda Ballade 1,5 Trend CVT

Honda Ballade

0 to 100 km/h: 12,0 sec
Top speed: 180 km/h
Power: 88 kW
Torque: 145 N.m
CO2: 161 g/km
CAR fuel index: 7,0 L/100 km

You may not think it at first glance, but the Ballade is underpinned by the same platform as the Jazz. This is a strong plus point as, like its hatchback relative, this design frees up impressive levels of interior space.

In typical Honda fashion, the engine is eager to rev despite the CVT and consumption is top-notch at 7,0 L/100 km for our fuel index.

While road holding, ride quality and NVH are both above average, the steering is less impressive and lacks feel. Rear leg- and headroom are impressive and the boot a voluminous 400 litres. Unfortunately, the rear-seat backrests do not fold down but, once again, this helps with security.

The level of standard equipment is far more generous than you’d expect in this price bracket. In terms of safety features, front, side and curtain airbags, as well as a rear-view camera with a kerb view system are standard. The multi-function steering wheel accommodates cruise control, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio system functionality, but it lacks reach adjustment. The CD player is complemented by two USB ports and even has an HDMI input.

Pricing when new was a touch higher than its competitors and this will likely be the case when buying a used example. A four-year/60 000 km service plan is an added plus, saving you a bit of money.

Space: 4/5 seats, 400 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ABS/EBD
Cost of 4 tyres: R3 700
Road test: July 2014 (1,5 Elegance manual)

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