Looking for a new car? Here are five underrated vehicles you could buy in SA right now

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article

The local vehicle industry is slowly but surely trying to recover from the dire situation the global pandemic has caused. For months no new cars were sold, and automakers continue to battle as the economy fights financial difficulties.

However, most car plants have returned to full production and new vehicles have found their way to South Africa.

There's a been a few vehicles which have passed through the Wheels24 test garage and left a good impression. While sporty good looks are still a priority for me, as a mother, safety features, fuel consumption, and loads of space, and sufficient power figures take top priority. Of course, affordability is also vital.

Here a few cars which tick all the right boxes, with prices brackets ranging from affordable right up to the higher end; something for everyone's budget, in no particular order. 

1. Suzuki Ignis - from R188 900

Not only is this little Suzuki as cute as a darn button, but it's one of the most frugal cars I've driven all year. I spent a week driving my husband to work, and back, during the lockdown equating to about 80km a day, and I still had half a tank left. 

Priced from R188 900, this hip little car will get you through traffic in a breeze, and make you look like a hero-level driver parking even in the tightest gaps. 

The Ignis has unique proportions, striking wheel arches and black alloy wheels which all makes this little urban city car stand out from the crowd.

Suzuki ignis
2020 Suzuki Ignis GLX.

The 1.2-litre engine makes 61kW and 113Nm with a claimed 5.1-litres/100km on the five-speed manual gearbox and 4.9-litres on the auto version. Its bold persona will leave your eyebrows raised. For such a small car, it has a whole lot of soul and a fire in its belly that will make you always want to get in and go somewhere. It's perfect for younger drivers, or for the older driver, like my Mom, who needs a reliable little car to get safely to work on frugal fuel budget.

2. Kia Seltos 1.5 CRDI from R421 995

Earlier this year, the Korean automaker added a diesel model to its local line-up. I am a big fan not only because of its evidently good looks, but because of the incredible fuel consumption you get off a rather large vehicle. If it's a frugal car you're after, this diesel derivative is a top pick in my books. Strangely enough, the Seltos is rather popular, but most consumers go for the petrol version.  

The new 1.5-litre diesel derivative is about R30 000 more than the 1.6 EX models (prices start from R380 995 for the base unit). But when you think about all the money you'll be saving in fuel bills, this price is a bargain.

The 1.5 CRDI turbodiesel engine delivers 86kW and 250Nm, and if you're interested in it's zero to 100km/h figure, it will do so in 11.5 seconds.

Kia Seltos
2020 Kia Seltos

Kia reckons it's combined fuel consumption for the diesel model is rated at 5.1-litres, but I have seen local claims of 4.7-litres/100km on the long road. I managed a best of 5.2-litres/100km, and that's still pretty incredible. 

The diesel is available in two versions: an EX available with a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic gearbox, or the EX+ with a standard auto transmission plus more spec for your bucks.

It's also available in six funky body colours and two two-tone options. The additional punchy orange or two-tone punchy orange with white roof options are on special order only. 

3. Volvo XC60 - pricing from R771 400

I know the XV60 is a stunning vehicle to look at from the svelte Swedes, but I often forget just how good-looking this medium-sized SUV is until I park it at a shopping mall, or anywhere else. "That's a beautiful car, may I please take a look inside?, "Gorgeous car!", and so it goes on.

And while this SUV might be on the higher end of the pricing scale, there's a whole lot more to like about it. It's packed with safety features, and all the bells and whistles you'd expect in the tech department. 

It's i-Pad-like massive touchscreen in the centre becomes more easy to use displaying a large navigation map to constantly show where you're driving at any given time. It also allows you to control the air conditioner and heatable seats. But probably one of my favourite things about the reverse camera is that the bird's eye-view remains on screen while you're backing out of a tight parking spot, and for quite some time if the cameras pick up any additional objects such as oncoming vehicles or items which might cause a fender-bender.  

Volvo XC60
Volvo XC60 T6

4. Toyota Corolla - pricing from R380 200

Okay, so this isn't an underrated car, but we still think it belongs on this list and here's why - as an older-generation Toyota Corolla owner, it has been challenging to approve of the new models. Especially since I own a 1998 'Blacktop' 20V RSI version, probably one of the best sportier cars Toyota had built in that time. New Corolla models after that have been for a more mature audience, and quite frankly, lost its thrill factor. Nothing could replace that feeling when VVT-i 'kicked-in'. And for the longest time, I was no longer a fan.

Enter the 2020 Corolla model, and suddenly that feeling of nostalgia is close at heart. It's definitely one of the better-looking versions, if not the most striking Corolla ever made. And it might not be a 20V, but the driving dynamics, especially in the manual version, sure brings that same feeling of enjoyment. 

Toyota Corolla Quest
2020 Toyota Corolla Quest

It's such an easy, comfortable drive; gear changes are seamless, and it's quick off the mark when needed. It's been a long time since a Corolla has turned heads the way this one has. And although my Corolla is now more than two decades old, I feel this new model is for the 20V-owner who has finally grown up.

It's also very comfortable for passengers, and there's more than enough legroom all around. Another winning feature is that mega boot. The vehicle looks short and small from the exterior, but pop open the luggage area and there's enough room to go grocery stock-piling during a pandemic.

The 2.0-litre XR might come across as pricey at face-value, but when you factor in all the standard goods and the peace of mind motoring, it's all value for money. 

5. Mahindra XUV300 - pricing from R249 999

After living with the Mahindra XUV300 for a couple of months, the general consensus of the public is that the quality of the Indian-built vehicle would probably begin to show its cracks. Safe to say, this isn't the case. In fact, the XUV300 has become even more reliable and frugal since the engine has been run in after a good few thousand kilometres. Fuel consumption remains easy to maintain at a steady 5.7-litres/100km as a daily driver.

Mahindra XUV300
2020 Mahindra XUV300 1.5TD W8.

It's boot might look small from the outside, but it's a lot bigger than one might think. Because it's quite deep, you can pack quite a lot in the cargo area, and if you need even more room, you could remove the lightweight, easy fit "shelf" to give more height for larger items.

It's still a nippy little car, and that 1.5-litre diesel engine is never lazy to drive whether you're on the long road up the West Coast, or bustling around town. And, because it's pretty compact, parking is easy too, especially with its reverse camera on a busy day at the shopping mall parking lot. Not even the Cape's wind can deter this vehicle on the road, and it can hold its own in more ways than one. 

Please note: These are just five vehicles Wheels24 has test driven during the past few months. Please add your suggested good buys in the comments section below. We'll do a few more lists during the next few weeks.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24