We help choose the ideal car for your needs and your budget: this time, a small crossover for under R250k...

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 no older than three years, plus a left-field choice.

Requirements: small crossovers have become more and more popular to those wanting to upgrade from small hatches but who do not have the need – or the extra cash – for a midsize SUV. We select three interesting options, but we’d also recommend the Renault Captur and Duster, plus Ford’s EcoSport.

Sensible: Mazda CX-3 2,0

0-100 km/h: 9,33 sec
Top speed: 192 km/h
Power: 115 kW
Torque: 204 N.m
CO2: 164 g/km
Fuel cons: 7,32 L/100 km

This is perhaps the mildest of crossovers in the sense that it’s surprisingly sporty and feels more like a conventional hatchback than the others. On the downside, there isn’t much space in the back seats and the ground clearance is relatively meagre at 160 mm.

Those are our only major points of criticism. The 2,0-litre naturally aspirated engine produces a stout 115 kW for lively performance, but not to the detriment of fuel consumption. Living up to Mazda’s SkyActiv technology promises, it uses only slightly more than 7,0 L/100 km.

The range consists of Active, Dynamic and Individual variants and you’re likely to find more Active options at this price point. The first two trim lines use sensible 16-inch wheels on plump tyres and the Active is acceptably equipped. Dynamic is where it gets interesting, though, with such items as foglamps, auto lighting and wipers, a seven-inch display, parking sensors and leather steering wheel. The Individual spec goes further with 18-inch wheels, a sunroof, head-up display, sat-nav, Bose speakers and leather upholstery.

There was a standard service plan covering three years with unlimited mileage, so you may still have a free service in hand.

Space: 5 seats, 184/776 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ABS/EBD, stability control
Cost of 4 tyres: R6 856
Road test: February 2016 (2,0 Dynamic AT)

Sensible: Opel Mokka/Mokka X 1,4T

0-100 km/h: 10,05 sec
Top speed: 193 km/h
Power: 103 kW
Torque: 200 N.m
CO2: 175 g/km
Fuel cons: 7,20 L/100 km

Opel’s popularity has waxed and waned and it is now more of a niche player in our market; nevertheless, it offers an interesting array of six model ranges. One is the Mokka, a compact crossover with a great design that’s built in South Korea.

Recently rebranded to fit in with the rest of the firm’s nomenclature (the X was added), two trim levels are offered and both can be had either with a six-manual gearbox, or an automatic transmission with the same number of gears.

The more affordable Enjoy models have 17-inch rims while the Cosmo uses 18-inch wheels (brand-new models now have 19-inchers). The standard spec level on Cosmo models is high and includes heated seats, sat-nav, reverse camera and a 230 V outlet. Rear legroom is a bit cramped and the rear seats fold almost flat to provide decent utility space of 952 litres.

The ride quality is absorbent while the 1,4-litre turbopetrol provides punchy in-gear performance and is frugal. Because the Opel was sold with a five-year service plan (or 90 000 km), you may still have some dealer-sponsored help to come.

Space: 5 seats, 208/952 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ABS/EBD, ESC
Cost of 4 tyres: R11 400
Road test: May 2015 (Mokka 1,4T Cosmo)

Left-field: Nissan Juke 1,2T

0-100 km/h: 12,45 sec
Top speed: 178 km/h
Power: 85 kW
Torque: 190 N.m
CO2: 129 g/km
Fuel cons: 6,72 L/100 km

A very cool crossover as long as you like the opinion-splitting styling; the Juke certainly made a splash when it was unveiled in 2011.

The little Nissan was facelifted in 2015 and gained our engine of choice in the place of the naturally aspirated 1,6-litre; the newer turbocharged 1,2-litre unit is smooth and parsimonious (it’s the lightest on fuel of these three, but only if, like all units with forced-induction, you make moderate use of the throttle). There isn’t much power but enough torque sees it maintain momentum easily.

While the boot looks small, it’s bigger than that of the CX-3. In fact, Nissan redesigned the boot on this facelifted model to up the luggage capacity by 14 to 248 litres, which is sufficient for a weekend’s luggage. Legroom in the rear is in shorter supply but four adults can fit into the cabin in decent comfort. Standard specification is generous across the various Acenta, Acenta+ and Tekna grades, with the mid-tier Acenta+ as our favourite.

If you’d like more punch, Nissan offers a 1,5-litre turbodiesel with 260 N.m, plus an all-wheel-driven 140 kW/240 N.m 1,6-litre turbopetrol coupled with a CVT. The service plan spans three years/90 000 km.

Space: 5 seats, 248/1 080 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ABS/EBD/BAS, stability control
Cost of 4 tyres: R9 896
Road test: June 2015 (Acenta+)

Second hand cars for sale

See Full Mazda CX-3 Specs here
See Full Nissan Juke Specs here