Buying a used car is a much different experience than that of buying a new car. When buying a new car, issues like reliability and cost of maintenance are not major contributing factors because those are issues that are likely only going to come up a few years down the road, or not at all for people who buy new cars every few years.
However, with a used car, that time cushion is already used up. So, it becomes imperative to the buyer to find a used car make and model that has a good track record for maintenance and costs to make repairs, as well as how well the used vehicle was treated by the previous owner or, in some cases, owners. Other factors, which are similar to that of new cars, include vehicle cost, safety track record, petrol consumption, available options, comfort and functionality.
In the South African car market, all of the global brands are represented, and there are many options available from which to choose, including style (such as coupe, sedan and convertible), colour, engine size, transmission type and seating capacity. However, there are a number of different models that, for a number of different reasons, stand out above the rest for South Africans looking to purchase a previously owned vehicle.
The Toyota Corolla, which was first manufactured in 1966, has been one of the best selling cars in the world since 1974. As a result, there are often many different model years and colours available of this compact car (which was considered to be a subcompact car until 1991). The Corolla is a front-wheel drive, sleek-looking four-door vehicle. Historically, the Corolla has been underpowered for its size, but what it lacks in performance, it more than makes up for in safety features and cost-effectiveness. Recent models of the Toyota Corolla, such as the 2013 model, feature 1,6-litre engines mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic transmission that achieves 90 kilowatts (kW) of power at 6 000 revolutions per minute (rpm) and 154 Newton metre (Nm) of torque at 5 200 rpm.
The later versions of Corolla feature Toyota's Star Safety System, which is a series of airbags located strategically in front and to the sides of both driver and front-seat passenger, along with stability control and an antilock braking system (ABS) that features brake assist. The Corolla traditionally gets high marks from safety organisations for its safety measures. Recent models of the Corolla average around 4,9 L/100 km on the highway, which keeps petrol stops to a minimum.
A subcompact car with a lot of pep, the Ford Figo is a five-door hatchback that is ideal for small families and those who need a little extra room when on the go. This front-wheel drive car has been around since 2009, so the number of used cars is somewhat limited. The South African version comes either as a 1,4-litre petrol engine or a 1,4-litre diesel engine, each mated with a five-speed manual transmission. The 1,4-litre Duratorq diesel engine is capable of 47 kW at 4 000 rpm and 16 Nm of torque at 2 000 rpm while the 1.4 Duratec petrol engine reaches 62 kW at 6 000 rpm and 13 Nm of torque at 4 000 rpm. Most models come with dual airbags and have solid crash ratings. The 2011 model was the runner-up in the South African Car of the Year awards.
One of the top-rated BMW 3-series sedans available is the 320i. On the more luxurious end of the used car spectrum, the BMW 320i has been in production since 1975. Recent incarnations of the 320i feature a 2,0-litre turbo engine that achieves 134 kW at 6 250 rpm through its four-cylinder, fuel-injected, turbocharged and intercooled, dual overhead cam (DOHC), 16-valve power plant. In this configuration, the 90 Nm of torque is reached at 1 250 rpm. Most models are available with an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual shifting mode for sports car enthusiasts.
As a luxury car, the BMW 320i often comes loaded from the factory, with upgraded leather seats, automatic everything, GPS, Bluetooth capability and upgraded stereo systems. The 320i ranks higher end for fuel consumption, coming it at around 6,8 L/100km highway, and safety ratings, featuring six airbags, electronic stability control, brake assist and traction control.
Volkswagen Polo Vivo
A relatively new vehicle on the scene, Volkswagen introduced the Polo Vivo to the South African market in 2010. Since that time, it has become the nation's best-selling passenger car. Another capable 5-door hatchback, the Polo Vivo has one of the lowest costs of ownership of any of the available cars in its class. The Polo Vivo comes with two different engine packages: 1,4-litre engine and a 1,6-litre engine. The 1,4-litre engines are capable of 55 kW at 5 000 rpms and 132 Nm of torque at 3 600 rpm while the 1,6-litre engine reaches 77 kW at 5 250 rpm and 155 Nm of torque at 3 500 rpm. All engines are mated to 5-speed manual transmissions except for the 1,4-litre Trendline model, which is paired to a 6-speed Tiptronic transmission.
There are a number of standard safety features on the Volkswagen Polo Vivo, including driver and passenger airbags and ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution. The extra-urban (highway) rating for the Polo Vivo averages about 5,1 L/100km.
Another fairly new model, manufactured since 2002, the Chevrolet Aveo is a slightly roomier subcompact that is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. Both seat five passengers comfortably. Three powertrain setups are available on recent models, including two 1,6-litre five-speed manual transmission models and a 1,6-litre four-speed automatic transmission model. All are front-wheel drive and feature inline 4-cylinder DOHC petrol engines. All are capable of 77 kW at 5 800 rpm and 145 Nm at 3 400 rpm.All models feature driver and passenger airbags, ABS with EBD and side impact beams for greater stability in a crash and can reach up to 6,4 L/100km in extra-urban driving.