We help choose the ideal car for your needs and your budget...

Age: 40
Budget: R250 000
Status: Parent of two
Vehicle type: Premium compact hatchback


Our buyer wants a premium hatchback for versatility and good looks. New, they’re now over R400 000, but our buyer is hoping that a second-hand car will save cash without compromising on reliability. We recommend some four-year-old premium-brand examples.

The vehicle

We have chosen the top three German brands whose four-year-old hatches – thanks to inflation and the weak rand – are now much more expensive than in 2013. All are impressive cars, with each having its own distinctive characteristics.

Our choice: BMW 116i 5-door Steptronic

0 to 100 km/h: 9,67 sec
Top speed: 210 km/h
Power: 100 kW
Torque: 220 N.m
CO2: 129 g/km
CAR fuel index: 6,6 L/100 km

A rarity these days, this BMW is what it says on the tin. The badge reads 116i and it does have a 1,6-litre turbopetrol engine. The first-generation 1 Series was criticised for its cramped rear seating, but that was addressed somewhat with this redesign to free up an additional 21 mm leg space and the luggage capacity was boosted to 248 litres.

New, the 1 Series cost more than the A180 below, but less than the A3 1,4T FSI. The BMW is rear-wheel driven and standard fitment includes run-flat tyres, which means there was no spare wheel is supplied. Although not standard, infotainment screens were all the rage in 2013 and most used buys will have these fitted.

An interesting difference, apart from the rear-wheel drive, is that BMW decided not to opt for more complex dual-clutch transmissions for this model. Instead, it uses a conventional epicyclic gearbox with torque converter. This eight-speed transmission works very well and is smooth and quick shifting.

Of this trio, the 116i boasts the best acceleration to 100 km/h in 9,67 seconds, while the other two were just over 10 seconds. On the other hand, the fuel consumption is the worst, but not by too much; 6,7 L/100 km as opposed to 6,6 for the Benz and 6,0 for the Audi. Issues with these cars are few but some mentioned coil packs, clutch judder and front tyre wear.

Space: 5 seats, 248/920 L
Safety and aids:  6 airbags, ABS, EBD, traction ctrl
Cost of tyres: R11 532
Road test: July 2013

Option 2: Audi A3 Sportback 1,4T FSI S tronic

0 to 100 km/h: 10,11 sec
Top speed: 203 km/h
Power: 90 kW
Torque: 200 N.m
CO2: 116 g/km
CAR fuel index: 6,0 L/100 km

The Sportback is the most popular derivative in the A3 range, and it’s easy to see why. Four doors plus a semi-station-wagon hatchback rear makes for a good-looking and practical all-rounder. Higher-powered cars with front-wheel drive tended to spin their front wheels and understeer, but this 1,4-litre has an output of only 90 kW, so it’s a good match.

This engine, coded EA211, switched from a timing chain to timing belt, and Audi has stated that this will last for the life of the engine (although some owners have said it's prudent to replace it at 160 000 km). This engine is both lighter and more economical than its predecessors and our fuel index returned a very impressive figure of 6,0 L/100 km. The vehicle was available with either a six-speed manual or S tronic transmissions and, while 16-inch wheels were standard, many examples will have larger, 17-inch rims.

The Audi’s ride quality is more refined than the other two here and that’s partly because the Benz and BMW are both fitted with run-flat tyres. Audi excels in interior refinement and the seats are the most comfortable among its competitors. It has easy-to-understand controls, with no fancy gearlevers on the steering column, no odd windscreen wiper stalk positions, and no BMW-style one-click indicator action that can often confuse.

Space: 5 seats, 280/928 L
Safety and aids:  7 airbags, ABS, EBD, ESC
Cost of tyres: R11 056
Road test: July 2013

Option 3: Mercedes-Benz A180 7G-DCT

0 to 100 km/h: 10,05 sec
Top speed: 202 km/h
Power: 90 kW
Torque: 200 N.m
CO2: 127 g/km
CAR fuel index: 6,6 L/100 km

The all-new A-Class was launched in 2013 with vastly improved styling that jettisoned the old small-and-tall city car silhouette for proper hatchback dimensions. Mercedes-Benz model codes can be very confusing and, although this one’s badge says A180, it is, in fact, a turbocharged 1,6-litre.

Output on this front-wheel drive model is identical to that of the A3, with 90 kW and 200 N.m of torque. The transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch but it’s not the smoothest. As is common on Mercedes-Benz, the steering column-mounted gearlever can be mistaken for an indicator stalk, which will leave you inadvertently selecting neutral.

The A-Class’s ride matches its sporty looks and it is on the firm side; on the plus side, though, it does handle very well. Our test car was shod with optional 17-inch wheels so the standard 16-inch variety would provide a ride more suited to coping with speed bumps; in fact, some owners warned to stay away from 17- or 18-inch rims. Like the BMW, the A180 came fitted with run-flat tyres and subsequently there is no spare wheel.

The interior is also well finished, with great driver comfort, but rear legroom is tight and the boot measures just 208 litres, which is smaller than those of many sub-compact cars. In our search through the classifieds, the Three-Pointed Star A-Class commanded the highest prices.

Space: 5 seats, 208/912 L
Safety and aids: 7 airbags,  ABS, EBD, ESC
Cost of tyres: R12 280
Road test: July 2013

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