CAR DOCTOR: Have car prices gone berserk?

Justus Visagie.
Justus Visagie.

This week Justus Visagie answers questions about buying an SUV on a tight budget, the price of a medium-sized hatchback and the BMW X5

CK: After an amazing 525 000km, it’s time to say goodbye to my faithful 1998 BMW 320i auto. I would like to replace it with a powerful, automatic SUV that is light on fuel. My budget is R150 000.

I’m afraid you might be trying to buy Champagne with beer money.

If you can raid another R25 000 or R50 000 from your piggy bank, or afford a higher instalment, you could get a 2016 Ford EcoSport 1.5TiVCT with less than 100 000km under its belt.

Do buy from a reputable dealer (like Ford) and purchase a warranty too.

Remember: If the car gives trouble, the dealership has one shot at fixing a specific problem. If you get it back and the problem reappears, the Consumer Protection Act states that you may then return the car for a full refund.

If you can stretch your budget to about R240 000 – a big ask – you can buy a 2017 Renault Duster 1.5 dCi EDC or a 2016 Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GLX with low mileage. If it’s power you want, the Duster dCi delivers in spades.

Lastly, if you can live with a manual gearbox, consider the manual Ford EcoSport 1.0 turbo or 1.5 turbo-diesel. They have a lot more go than the 1.5 auto and it won’t be hard to find a cherished specimen for under R160 000.

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JOHANNES: I see the price of the new Toyota Corolla Hatchback is far beyond R300 000. Not long ago, that used to buy a BMW. Have the car companies gone mad?

I believe it’s the taxman that’s fleecing us, not the car companies. Profit margins on cars are quite slim, especially on entry-level cars.

The other reason why a medium-size hatchback like the Corolla might seem expensive, is because car prices have increased considerably overall, thanks to all sorts of ridiculous taxes and an increase in VAT.

Take the top-of-the-range Corolla Hatch 1.2XR (automatic) that sells for R367 000. The equivalent Peugeot 308 costs R369 900, the Opel Astra is R391 500 and the VW Golf is R394 600.

So, measured against its peers, it’s not expensive.

And it is as refined, safe and comfortable as they are, if perhaps not as swift.

The gearbox is of the CVT variety, which means it’s a pulley system, similar to a scooter’s gearbox.

It provides no driving pleasure, but the turbo engine is a willing performer without being heavy on the fossil juice.

The similarly priced Peugeot 308 1.2 Allure auto offers a more satisfying gearbox and better engine performance, but it lacks Toyota products’ rock-solid reputation.

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