Know how much you can spend on a car but haven’t made up your mind which one to buy? Each month, we recommend two sensible options, plus a quirky choice.

Requirements: Can't stretch to the new BMW 3 Series and facelifted Mercedes-Benz C-Class we recently tested? Try these used premium midsize sedans which make compelling alternatives to well-specced small hatchbacks at the same price point.
 
Sensible: BMW 320i Steptronic

0-100 km/h: 8,11 seconds
Top speed: 235 km/h
Power: 135 kW
Torque: 270 N.m
CO2: 138 g/km
Fuel consumption: 7,08 L/100 km 
 
BMW has always been the sporty brand of the German Big Three, a reputation fostered by its aircraft origins and a long history of highly prized motorcycles. In South Africa particularly, the brand has enjoyed a strong following over the decades, and none of its products more so than the 3 Series.

Buyers of BMW’s bread-and-butter model are spoilt for choice: stay with the conventional sedan; opt for a 3 Series GT for some added flair; or move across to the more flamboyant 4 Series derivatives.

The engine in our model of choice is a 2,0-litre turbocharged unit with direct injection. It’s mated with an eight-speed ZF-designed automatic transmission. There are manual versions, too, but the gearshift action is quite heavy so try before you buy. Power output is 135 kW with 270 N.m of torque from a low 1 250 r/min. As an aside, the 328i uses the same engine with more turboboost, so this is possibly the sweet spot in the range in terms of power versus fuel consumption, but they’re more expensive.

A five-year/100 000 km motorplan was a standard feature when new but most vehicles in this price range will be saying farewell to this option so do check before purchase. Many owners opt for an add-on plan but make sure you understand the fine print.
 
Space: 5 seats, 328 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags; ABS with EBD; stability control
Cost of 4 tyres: R12 020
Road test: August 2014
 
Sensible: Mercedes-Benz C200 7G-tronic

0-100 km/h: 7,95 seconds
Top speed: 235 km/h
Power: 135 kW
Torque: 300 N.m
CO2: 132 g/km
Fuel consumption: 6,72 L/100 km
 
When it comes to the Germans, most used options fall into one of two camps: Mercedes-Benz or BMW. Of course, Audi has made large inroads into this luxury stronghold with some excellent products, but there are fewer equivalent A4 models on sale. The C-Class remains an aspirational buy and the retired-driver connotation has long gone.
 
Whereas the C180 has a 1,6-litre engine, the C200 increases capacity to 2,0 litres with a turbo attached to supply 135 kW, identical to that of the BMW. Six-speed manual and seven-speed auto transmissions are available. The latter, while not as slick as the BMW’s, is preferable for daily comfort and resale value. Try to avoid the appealing AMG packages, as they firm up the ride a tad too much.
 
Fuel consumption is astounding on modern cars and the C-Class delivers economy that owners of elderly, classic Benzes can only dream of. The boot size is a class-average 312 litres and the rear seatback does not fold down.
 
The car was sold with a six-year/100 000 km maintenance plan, so it may be touch and go as to whether you will need to consider maintenance-extension options. Make sure everything works in the car and that there are no creaks. There have been many niggling issues mentioned by owners over the years.
 
Space: 5 seats, 312 L
Safety and aids: 7 airbags; ABS with EBD; stability control
Cost of 4 tyres: R11 928
Road test: August 2014

Quirky: Peugeot 508 1,6 THP AT


 
0-100 km/h: 10,29 seconds
Top speed: 220 km/h
Power: 115 kW
Torque: 240 N.m
CO2: 164 g/km
Fuel consumption: 8,52 L/100 km
 
We had one of these Gallic sedans in our long-term press fleet for a full year and it was a classy and enjoyable drive.
 
The 1,6-litre turbopetrol engine of the 508 is closely related to the previous Mini Cooper S engine and the power and torque outputs are spot-on for general use. The turbocharger provides the necessary go plus reasonable fuel economy, while the solid interior and elegant styling hold up their end of the bargain.
 
While appealing to some, the 508’s rarity value is not for everyone; parts and repairs may be somewhat trickier than with more popular vehicles. These models are usually owned by enthusiasts and are generally well cared for, while mileages tend to be lower than average. You can save around R100 000 over the Germans which means that, should you have to carry out any repairs, you should still be able to enjoy many years of service.
 
The 508 sports a spacious 400-litre boot and folding rear seatbacks so transporting large items is a breeze. A five-year/100 000 km maintenance plan was included which may help out a little before it expires. As always, check that all the features are working correctly, including wipers, heater and air-con, sat-nav and electric windows.
 
Space: 5 seats, 400/1 064 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags; ABS with EBD, ESC
Cost of 4 tyres: R7 124
Road test: April 2012
 

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