Sedan no longer means big Aussie, nor even medium Japanese. Smaller cars can haul big butt, though not all rate well.
Aussies love a big boot in the backside. It was what made big Ford and Holden sedans a fixture in the driveways of plus-two-kids suburban families. Â
Some of us, though, have only one child. Or none. Some of us simply need the space and security a boot provides. Some just don’t like hatchbacks.
And we want it all without resorting to a big Aussie sedan or paying big-car money.
Your mid-size sedans â€” Mazda 6, Honda Accord Euro, Subaru Liberty, to name the pick of them â€” each provide a powerful argument to downsize.
Downsize a half-size further, and you find even greater variety and â€” generally â€” greater fuel economy. And you can do so without sacrificing bootage.
Sedans of this size once looked like what they were: malformed hatches conceived as an afterthought.
Although each of our selection today has a five-door sibling, they’re also designed, built and function as legitimate four-doors.
Ford Focus GhiaPrice:$30,990 auto (top-spec)
Engine: 2-litre four, 107kW/ 180Nm
Economy: 8litres/100km (91 RON unleaded)
Boot: 510 litres
THE Focus is a real driver’s car, with precise, German-influenced handling and dynamics matched to a sweet chassis and a strong engine.
The Ghia is the only sedan in the Focus range, and is the top-spec model.
It gains the typical luxuries of six-stacker CD, dual-zone climate control, luxury seats that are fantastically supportive, and 16-inch alloys to jazz up its relatively plain exterior.
A four-speed automatic is the Ghia’s only transmission choice, but it does have a sequential shifter and produces good fuel-consumption figures.
Honda Civic VTi
Price:$20,990 man/$22,990 auto
Engine:1.8-litre four, 103kW/ 174Nm
Economy: 6.9litres/100km (91 RON)
Boot: 376 litres
INSIDE and out, the latest incarnation of the Civic is a far cry from the familiar hatch on which the nameplate was established. In Australia, it comes only as a sedan.
Past the polarising nose and into the cabin, the mix of materials and focus on driver aids and vision is outstanding. With Honda reliability a given, resale value is excellent.
Although the drive is smooth and refined, the base model’s engine could be a little stronger.
Stepping up to the more expensive two-litre Sport model, however, costs $29,990 â€” as much as an entry-level Accord.
For green thumbs, the Civic comes in a petrol-electric hybrid for $31,990 and sips acclaimed 4.6litres/100km.
Unlike Toyota’s Prius, it also looks and drives like a proper car.
Mazda 3 Neo
Price:$20,990-$29,600 manual, $22,990-$31,860 auto
Engine: 2-litre four, 108kW/182Nm, or 2.3 four, 115kW/203Nm
Economy: 8.2/100km (91 RON)
Boot: 413 litres
STILL the best smallish sedan for the money. The 3’s responsive drivetrain and driver-oriented interior offer one of the best drives in the business, with smooth, balanced handling and a responsive feel through steering wheel and pedals.
Thanks to its styling, the popularity of the 3 sedan far exceeds that of the hatch. A recent mild facelift includes optional stability control, suspension upgrades and a cut in fuel use from the same peppy two-litre engine.
Move up to the excellent SP23 flagship ($29,600) for a 2.3-litre engine, some sporty mods and six-speed manual or five-speed auto transmissions.
Subaru Impreza 2.0i AWD
Price: $23,990 manual, $25,990 auto
Engine: 2-litre four, 92kW/ 184Nm
Economy: 9.4/100km (91 RON)
Boot: 401 litres
THE cheapest way to get into an all-wheel-drive car, with the bonus of a five-star crash rating.
The Impreza’s styling is a love-it-or-leave-it proposition, as is the spartan interior, and transmissions are a cog short of contemporary.
The Soob’s all-paw drivetrain means it drinks more than its FWD rivals. It also lacks mid-range power, but the handling and ride are superb, the drive and dynamics enjoyable, and the safety credentials and excellent resale value are undeniable.
Watch for limited-edition models with extra standard kit.
Volkswagen Jetta FSI
Price:$32,990 manual, $35,290 auto
Engine: 2-litre four, 110kW/200Nm
Boot: 525 litres
ALTHOUGH the diesel and turbo petrol models are taking it successfully to the three Japanese medium sedans, the entry-level Jetta is (just about) price-competitive with this lot.
The Volkswagen Golf is one of the best premium hatches on the market, and the Jetta shares its platform, drivetrains and generous equipment.
The latter includes dual climate-control aircon, rain-sensing wipers, rearparking sensors, no fewer than six airbags, stability program and a five-star safety rating.
The Jetta, 35cm longer than a Golf, has an enormous, Falcon-beating, 527-litre boot and a full-size steel spare.
Although not as involving a drive as the Golf, it’s close.
Price:$17,690 manual, $19,190 auto
Engine: 1.5-litre four, 80kW/ 141Nm
Boot: 474 litres
THE last small car Toyota booted â€” the Echo sedan â€” typified this misbegotten breed. By contrast, the Yaris has been designed in sedan form instead of having a boot tacked on. And it works.
Despite a scarcely believable luggage capacity, the button-nosed Yaris looks leaner and sleeker in stretched sedan form and produces surprising pep from its 1.5-litre powerplant.
Safety and equipment levels are high, as is resale value, while the price is supremely competitive. Not an involving drive, but with typical Toyota value and reliability, and quirky styling.
Normally the nameplate for Euro-built reliability and drivability, Holden’s current Barina has been reincarnated from the unmourned ashes of the Daewoo Kalos. And Karma has not been kind.
Though standard kit is good for the money ($14,990), an old Korean chassis and crummy tyres compromise the ride. The gearbox is like stirring a bowl of porridge.
Worse, the Barina recently copped a lamentably sub-standard two-star crash rating. It looks quite cute, but there is nothing sweet about this sugarcoated pill.
Nissan’s Tiida is another case of replacing an excellent nameplate with something worse – a silly name. The renowned Pulsar was always going to be a tough act to follow, but the new car isn’t a patch on the old one.
The four-speed auto is ancient (though the six-speed manual is lovely) and the 1.8-litre engine is gutless. Both sales and resale are looking grim, something matched by its looks – the Tiida appears to have been squeezed down a narrow alleyway.
Then there’s those two old perrennials – the Toyota Corolla and Mitsubishi Lancer.
It isn’t that the Corolla is a bad car – you don’t sell more than 4000 bad cars a month. But as both cars are due for replacement early next years, you’re best to wait for the runout deals – or the new car.
Â Toyota Yaris: safety and equipment levels are high, as is resale value, while the price is supremely competitive. Not an involving drive, but with typical Toyota value and reliability, and quirky styling.
Volkswagen Jetta FSI:the Jetta, 35cm longer than a Golf, has an enormous, Falcon-beating, 527-litre boot and a full-size steel spare.
Subaru Impreza 2.0i AWD: the Impreza’s styling is a love-it-or-leave-it proposition, as is the spartan interior, and transmissions are a cog short of contemporary.
Â Mazda 3 Neo: the 3’s responsive drivetrain and driver-oriented interior offer one of the best drives in the business, with smooth, balanced handling and a responsive feel through steering wheel and pedals.
Honda Civic VTi Hybrid: past the polarising nose and into the cabin, the mix of materials and focus on driver aids and vision is outstanding. With Honda reliability a given, resale value is excellent.