New cars are getting more expensive. Once upon a time you could bank on being able to bag a new set of wheels, complete with a factory warranty, for less than $20,000 drive-away.
On an even tighter budget? In 2013 you could buy a Chery J1 for $9990 drive-away, and as recently as 10 months ago you could get your hands on a Mitsubishi Mirage for $17,990 drive-away.
In 2022 though, pickings are slim for budget buyers who want a new car. Brands are moving away from classic city cars in the face of low demand, and some of the city cars that remain Down Under no longer meet Australian Design Rules.
Only two brands offer more than one car below the magic $25k mark in Australia: MG, and Kia.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the MG 3 and ZS are strong sellers in their respective classes, offering an alternative to more expensive Japanese, Korean, and German stalwarts.
While the Kia Rio is outsold by the MG 3, the Kia Picanto competes in a class of its own. It’s crushed the micro car competition since debuting Down Under. The Stonic narrowly sneaks in below $25k, although it’s manual-only at that price.
The list below has been collated using a combination of nationwide drive-away deals, and drive-away prices gleaned from manufacturer websites. All drive-away prices were calculated using the postcode for Melbourne.
The Picanto has a starting price of $18,490 drive-away around Australia, making it one of very few new cars to sneak below the $20,000 marker in 2022.
Two engines are offered: a naturally-aspirated 1.25-litre four-cylinder engine with 62kW and 122Nm, mated to either a four-speed auto or five-speed manual, or a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with 74kW and 172Nm, mated exclusively with a five-speed manual transmission.
The MG 3 might be slightly pricier than the Picanto, but the Chinese car has a leg-up on its Korean competitor. Where the Picanto’s bargain basement starting price is for an unfashionable manual, the MG 3 is an automatic.
It’s available with one powertrain: a naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine producing 82kW of power and 150Nm of torque, mated exclusively to a four-speed automatic transmission.
The MG 3 is a strong seller in Australia. With a whopping 10,189 deliveries to date in 2022, it owns 35.2 per cent of its segment, and has close to double the sales of its nearest competitor.
The Rio is the Picanto’s bigger brother, and has long been one of Australia’s cheapest cars.
Unlike some of its rivals, it doesn’t have just one stripped-out variant priced below $25,000 drive-away – the whole line-up barring the range-topping GT-Line sneaks below our cut-off.
The Rio range comes with a choice of two engines. The S, SX and Sport use a naturally-aspirated 1.4-litre four-cylinder with 74kW and 133Nm, mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
The range-topping Rio GT-Line has a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with 74kW and 172Nm. It’s mated exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The MG ZS is the biggest car on our list, and is the cheapest new SUV on the market in Australia at the moment.
It’s powered by a naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine producing 84kW of power and 150Nm of torque, mated to a four-speed torque-converter automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.
The ZS is a strong seller, although it’s worth noting its figures are bundled in with the updated ZST, and the electric ZS EV on VFACTS.
Combined, the ZS range has 13,072 deliveries to date in 2022, good for 16.5 per cent of the hotly-contested small SUV segment.
The Suzuki Baleno is dead for Australia, and the Swift now costs more than $25,000 drive-away. You can still get a Suzuki on a (relative) budget Down Under, though.
The Ignis city SUV starts at $23,490 drive-away for the base GL manual. That’s up $3000 on the pricing announced at the start of 2022, but still low enough to make the Ignis one of Australia’s cheapest cars.
Powering the entire range is a 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder producing 66kW of power and 120Nm of torque. It’s sent to the front wheels through a choice of a five-speed manual or a continuously-variable transmission (CVT).
Kia’s third entrant on the list is the Stonic, a Rio-based city SUV. The cheapest model in the range, the S manual, scrapes in below the $25,000 mark.
The Stonic S and Sport both use a naturally-aspirated 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol with 74kW of power and 133Nm of torque, mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
The range-topping Rio GT-Line has a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with 74kW and 172Nm. It’s mated exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
With 6130 sales to date in 2022, the Stonic is the second-best selling car in its class behind the Mazda CX-3. It outsells the Venue and Ignis that also feature on this list.
Hyundai’s cheapest car in Australia is no longer the Accent, it’s the Venue city SUV. Only one model in the range sneaks in below the $25,000 marker; the base Venue manual.
Every Venue is powered by a naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine producing 90kW of power and 151Nm of torque.
There’s a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions on the base and Active variants, with the flagship Elite coming only as an auto.
With 5039 deliveries to date in Australia, the Venue is narrowly outsold by the Stonic locally.
The Suzuki Baleno is no longer available to order in Australia, but dealers still have stock of the car at $19,990 drive-away. The final batch landed in Australia in May, so if you’re keen to snap one up you’d best be quick.
The entry-level Mazda 2 manual has a drive-away price of $25,167, narrowly disqualifying it from this list.