HERE'S the scenario. The budget is restricted to $20,000. Do you opt for new or enter the used market?
Australia's fastest growing mainstream brand, Kia, has been offering an enticing deal now for a few years via the Cerato.
Sitting in the bargain basement is the Cerato S, which you can have on the road with a plain-Jane white colour scheme for $19,990 drive-away.
Backed by Kia's industry leading seven-year warranty, there is ample peace of mind for those looking to get ultimate value for money.
But surely there are compromises at that price?
There are no better options in this class.
Servicing is annual or every 15,000km, with an average price of $354 over seven maintenance visits. Meet the servicing requirements and the Cerato is also covered for roadside assist over the same period.
Those who can cope without some colour get "clear white" without having to delve further into their wallet, but any other hue attracts a $520 premium.
For those than can stretch $500 we'd advocate investing in the "AV" derivative, where you get the slick Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear view camera, as well as a seven-inch colour LCD touchscreen.
Those extras provide some much-needed personality to a basic interior. It's what you'd expect of an entry-level car, with a lot of black plastics, punctuated by the red-on-black stereo display which was trademark Kia before the latest crop of vehicles.
Standard equipment includes front and rear parking sensors, steering wheel mounted controls for cruise control and stereo, Bluetooth streaming for audio and phone partnered to a six-speaker stereo, air con and driver's multifunction trip computer.
Everything looks and feels hard wearing, but the driver's display is reasonably modern. There is the large tachometer and speedo flanking the digital display which has a range of useful information, like distance to empty, average fuel consumption and a digital speedo.
Honest and serviceable, the Cerato is a reliable runabout. Don't expect to be pushing quarter mile personal bests or slalom your way down a mountain with your right foot at the firewall - this is domestic bliss.
Feeling at home in traffic, in tight car parks and along suburban streets, the Cerato possesses an air of all-round confidence.
It's certainly no slouch when it comes to handling dynamics. There is ample ability when changing direction at speed, soaking up the lumps and bumps nicely.
Sitting on 100km/h at 2000rpm, it never feels like the Cerato is overworked, it's just not super quick off the line. Most drivers will find its consistency and dexterity good value at this price point.
Comfort levels are high despite the hatch falling within the small segment, with reasonable space in the back ensuring accommodation can handle four adults.
As you would expect the interior materials are dictated by the price - they feel hardy and ready for the long haul.
Five-star safety was awarded in 2014 with anti-lock brakes, stability control, hill start assist and six airbags. There is no automatic lights, or fancy gear like blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert or forward collision warning.
Strong standard standard features and inoffensive looks ... they just won't get the heart racing.
Love the value proposition. It may not set the world on fire for sporting ability but it you are chasing athleticism you're in the wrong price bracket.
MAZDA3 NEO ($23,490 DRIVE-AWAY)
It's a long-time favourite with Aussies, is good to drive and has a classy feel.
TOYOTA COROLLA ASCENT ($22,990 DRIVE-AWAY)
Reasonable equipment, underrated driving performance and a rock-solid reputation for longevity.
SUBARU IMPREZA 2.0I ($25,190 DRIVE-AWAY)
Impressive new platform, and good equipment levels... but it comes at a price.
HYUNDAI I30 ACTIVE ($22,990 DRIVE-AWAY)
Launched this year, great little performer with outstanding technology.
AT A GLANCE
Kia Cerato S Hatch
PRICE $19,990 drive away (brilliant)
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol 112kW/192Nm 6sp auto FWD (serviceable)
THIRST 7.2L/100km (ok).
DIMENSIONS 4560mm sedan/ 4350mm hatch (L), 1780mm (W), 1435mm/1450mm (H), 2700mm (WB)
WEIGHT From 1770kg
SPARE Full-size steel (steel on base model)
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