We choose the ideal car for you within a budget: this time, a second-hand sedan for less than R150 000…

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

Requirements: this buyer needs a sedan with seating for two adults and two teenagers, plus sufficient luggage space for the youngsters’ sports gear.

Sensible: Honda Ballade 1,5

Honda Ballade

0-100 km/h: 10,56 sec
Top speed: 185 km/h
Power: 88 kW
Torque: 145 N.m
CO2: 140 g/km
Fuel cons: 7,08 L/100 km

We first considered the Honda Civic sedan but prices for three-year-old examples are outside our budget so we downscaled to the Ballade. Built in India and based on the Jazz platform, it nevertheless misses out on the clever fold-flat rear seats from the small hatchback. This means no utility-space measurement but the boot is large at 400 litres. If you are tech-savvy, look out for the Elegance model instead of the Trend, as this has a well-designed seven-inch touchscreen, two USB ports, a CD player and even an HDMI port.

In true Honda tradition, the 88 kW engine is free revving. Two small criticisms are that the gearshift is not as slick as on most Hondas and the steering is slightly vague at speed.

In our road test in August 2014, we found the fuel consumption was excellent, with an index figure of just over 7,0 L/100 km and a return on our fuel route of 6,3 L/100 km.

The engine features both variable valve timing and lift. This complexity needs good-quality lubrication to work effectively, so stick to the 15 000 km service intervals and use the best quality oil.

Both models feature six airbags plus ESC, while a four-year/60 000 km service plan might still save you some cash at the dealer (although many may have reached the mileage limit).

Space: 4/5 seats, 400 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ESC
Cost of 4 tyres: R4 168
Road test: August 2014

Sensible: Volkswagen Polo Sedan 1,6

Polo sedan

0-100 km/h: 11,10 sec est
Top speed: 190 km/h
Power: 77 kW
Torque: 155 N.m
CO2: 143 g/km
Fuel cons: 7,2 L/100 km

As with the Honda above, we first looked at the Volkswagen Jetta, only to find that, for our budget, cars are a lot older than three years. So we chose the Polo Sedan instead. Even here, prices vary considerably, so take your time finding reasonable value for money.

Available in two spec levels, namely Trendline and Comfortline, the Polo is refined and a pleasure to drive. Engine options include 1,4- and 1,6-litre petrols, and a 1,6-litre turbodiesel. Since the 1,4 produces only 63 kW, we would look at the 1,6 boasting 77 kW. Like the Honda, this engine has a d-o-h-c with four valves per cylinder but, unlike the Honda, no variable valve timing. The upside is these engines are proven. Quality all-round is good and so is resale, notwithstanding the market trend of preferring hatchbacks.

With a boot measurement just 16 litres shy of the Honda’s, the Polo allows the handy choice of increasing load space to 944 litres by collapsing the rear seats. Four airbags were fitted but only the 1,6 TDI had stability control as standard.

Service plans were optional, so remember to ask if one was specified when new. If cruise control, a decent audio system and steering wheel controls are important to you, note that these, too, were often optional (mainly on the Trendline models).

Space: 4/5 seats, 384/944 L
Safety and aids: 4 airbags, ESC
Cost of 4 tyres: R4 752
Road test: None

Left-field: Lexus IS250

Lexus IS250

0-100 km/h: 9,08 sec
Top speed: 224 km/h
Power: 153 kW
Torque: 252 N.m
CO2: 175 g/km
Fuel cons: 10,0 L/100 km

Lexus sales in South Africa are conservative but there is nonetheless a sufficient number of IS models on the used-car market to justify its inclusion here. As well engineered as their Toyota cousins, Lexus models up the ante when it comes to quality and luxury, even in this entry-level sedan with its 2,5-litre, longitudinal V6 engine coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Depending on the year, standard luxuries included electric seats, satellite navigation, a touchscreen display and as many as ten airbags.

We spotted some IS250 examples from the early-2010s that fell within our budget. With the modern trend towards smaller engines, the V6 was more recently swapped out for a 2,0-litre turbo. However, if you’re willing to compromise slightly on fuel economy, the sound and progressive performance of the V6 easily compensate for the higher running costs. Better still, this Lexus is rear-wheel driven and, as such, a compelling alternative to a 3 Series and C-Class.

Our road test way back in 2007 pegged the fuel index at 10,0 L/100 km, which is easily achieved with conservative driving.

The boot is smaller than the others’ and, like the Ballade, the rear seats are fixed. A four-year maintenance plan was included but that would have long since expired.

Space: 5 seats, 336 L
Safety and aids: 10 airbags, ESC
Cost of 4 tyres: R6 328
Road test: November 2007