Whether you're looking for your first car, or looking for an economical small car for your commute to work. These ten vehicles should fit the bill. They tick all the major boxes, with strong safety credentials, up-to-date connectivity options, low running costs and easy everyday driving.
It shouldn’t actually be here, in this top 10, as prices start at $290 above our $15k threshold. However, Toyota is recognised as one of the best makers of small cars. The Toyota Yaris offers a five-star ANCAP safety rating. It’s made in Japan, making it the only real Japanese car here. And being a Toyota you get the company’s renowned reliability. Another Yaris advantage is that it runs on regular unleaded petrol. You get a four-cylinder 1.3-litre engine with 63kW and low fuel consumption of 5.8L/100km. Warranty is three years or 100,000km, whichever comes first.
Priced from just $14,190, the cute little Picanto is the little car that could. That can, actually. Its 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine develops 62kW, which is very close to the Yaris’s 63kW from its larger 1.3. This means fuel is merely sipped, at a rate of 5.0L/100km. It also runs on 91 RON regular petrol. Perhaps the most attractive element to the Picanto, aside from the fun-loving drive character, is that it’s covered by Kia’s new seven-year warranty program with seven years capped-price servicing. Seven years. That’s more than enough to cover your earlier years if you’re a young driver, or well into retirement if you’re at the other end of the hill.
You might not have guessed it but the Accent is the most popular vehicle in the compact car class at the moment. It’s also one of the biggest, coming in hatch and sedan form. Power is sourced from a 1.6-litre engine with an average fuel economy of 5.9L/100km (manual). Standard features for the $14,990 Active manual include a six-speaker stereo with Apple CarPlay connectivity, multiple airbags, and stability and traction control. This all accumulates to an honest and user-friendly proposition that buyers obviously warm to.
This is perhaps the most versatile option in this entry-level class. Honda prides itself on practicality with the Jazz, with its clever ‘Magic Seats’ rear bench that folds and flips in a number of ways. In fact, if you fold the rear bench into its most compact and out-of-the-way state, you’ll be presented with 1492 litres of cargo space. Not only that, the latest model comes with a range of standard goodies, such as a touch-screen interface and even a rear-view camera.
Kicking off from $12,990, the Celerio is one of the cheapest cars currently on the new car market in Australia. And we know what you’re thinking, it probably comes with no amenities, right? Wrong. You get Bluetooth, power windows, air-conditioning with pollen filtering, and stability and traction control. It just misses out on the full five-star ANCAP safety rating, with four stars, but it can be difficult to design a car this small and still pass stringent crash tests. Measuring just 3600mm long and 1600mm wide, this is very easy to park and dart around in the city. And tall windows with excellent vision make it perfect for first-time drivers.
Welcome to the most affordable new car on the market at the moment. Priced from just $12,250, the Mitsubishi Mirage is a serious bargain. Unlike the Suzuki Celerio above, this micro machine comes stamped with a five-star ANCAP safety rating. It also comes with a decent array of mod-cons, such as air-con, Bluetooth, an adjustable steering column, and a selection of bottle and cup holders. The Mirage’s cabin is bigger than you’d expect, with great visibility and decent driving dynamics. Fuel economy is rated at a miniscule 4.7L/100km with the manual.
Yes, an MG. You might recognise this brand from the past. It used to create classic British sports cars back in the day. Now, it’s a Chinese-owned company that builds affordable and well-packaged vehicles. And the MG3 is the smallest in the Aussie range. Power comes from a willing 1.5-litre engine developing 78kW, placing it near the top of the class. There have been some efforts to bring through some of the traditional MG driving dynamics, but overall it does fall short of some rivals listed here. If you want to stand out though with something a little different, this could be your car.
The base model Holden Barina LS scrapes in priced from $14,990 with five doors and a 1.6-litre four producing 85kW of peak power. It delivers five stars on safety and seats five. At this price it’s a five-speed manual only and it consumes 7.2L/100km on the combined cycle fuel test. The Barina is made in South Korea, and warranty is three years or 100,000km, whichever comes first. For the latest model Holden has applied a sharp and modern design to give the city car chic and modern flair.
Coming in as one of the most modern and most attractive packages in this class, the latest Mazda2 follows in the footsteps of the outstanding Mazda3. The Mazda2, too, is outstanding in almost every area. Whether it’s standard features and value, driving dynamics, engine power and efficiency, the Mazda2 should be on your shortlist if you’re in this space. Mazda offers customers both hatch and sedan format, and automatic and manual for pure versatility. The base model comes in at a lick under $15k, priced from $14,990.
Rounding out this top 10 is the Spark. It’s the little brother to the Barina, borrowing a similarly smart and sharpened design, while kicking off from an attractive $13,990. It has been awarded five-star ANCAP safety, coming equipped with six airbags, stability and traction control, and even cruise control as standard. There’s also a touch-screen media interface – one of few in this class – with Apply CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. If you’re a technology buff and like to stay connected and up-to-date, this is the city car for you.
So there you have it, our top ten new cars available under $15,000. No matter which one you choose, you'll be treated to a 5-star ANCAP rating.