Kia Cerato, VW Polo, Hyundai Venue: cheap cars for young families


Our first child’s due and we’re seeking a new car. We don’t want second-hand dramas, so need something new, available now, reliable, safe and able to carry baby paraphernalia.

It’ll be a second car for my wife for town and short highway trips. She’s not bothered about brand or style, but wants something easy to park with an auto gearbox that costs about $30,000. Please help!

Michael Saxby, email

ANSWER

Babies and toddlers are car wreckers. They vomit, spill milk bottles, smear windows and wipe/drop food everywhere. It’s good to consider different car types: SUVs seem the default, but sedans and hatchbacks are fine for one or two young kids. Safety is important, as is ride comfort, easy child loading and pram space.

CHOICES

KIA CERATO HATCH S SAFETY PACK, $30,290 DRIVE-AWAY

New parents are entitled to go ultra-sensible and Kia’s Cerato hatch is pragmatism personified. It’s attractive yet bland, the cabin has basic cloth seats and equipment, and while the drive’s never thrilling, it’s comfortable and competent. The four-cylinder petrol’s thirsty at 7.4L/100km, and $2031 for five services isn’t cheap.

So why recommend it? It has a seven-year warranty, great visibility, vast rear space with air vents, easy-use ISOFIX points and a large boot. It’ll easily fit a folded pram plus shopping, while the boot floor’s a good height for nappy changes. Option the $1500 safety pack, which has radar cruise control, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. It’s a fuss-free safe all-rounder ready for the child tsunami.

VOLKSWAGEN POLO 85TSI LIFE, $31,990 DRIVE AWAY

A brilliant city car with Euro style, a zesty three-cylinder engine and simple, well-engineered cabin. This generation Polo’s properly grown up, quiet on highways and fun in town. It’s expensive – $31,990 drive-away for MY23 Polos – but feels more solid than the Cerato. I bought its sister car Skoda Fabia when our second child arrived and never needed more space. The Polo’s rear seat’s surprisingly roomy, ISOFIX points are easy to access and the boot, while smaller than the Ceratos, handles a folded pram.

Standard gear includes alloy wheels, LED lights, a digital driver’s display, auto emergency braking, lane-keep assist and a decent sized infotainment screen. But there’s no rear air vents nor advanced safety.

The engine drinks just 5.0L/100km (but needs premium), the warranty’s five years and services are stupidly expensive – $3233 for five. It’s polished, but pricey.

HYUNDAI VENUE ACTIVE, ABOUT $30,500 DRIVE-AWAY

The quirky Venue’s not the best city SUV, but better rivals bust your budget. It’s best not to stretch yourself with an expensive baby coming.

The Venue’s boxy shape translates to decent interior space, and as it’s a higher-riding SUV, loading bub in is less backbreaking. The boot’s roughly the same size as the Polo, with a two-tiered floor. Keep it low when the pram’s in, or lift it up for boot nappy changes. It’s fun and easy to drive, but its four-cylinder petrol is sluggish and relatively thirsty. The warranty is five years and a five-year service pack’s a reasonable $1817.

The Venue lacks crash-avoidance tech aside from auto emergency braking and lane-keeping assistance. Included is an 8-inch infotainment screen, wireless phone charger, wireless CarPlay/Android Auto, 17-inch alloys and durable cloth seats.

WILDCARD

SSANGYONG KORANDO ELX, $31,990 DRIVE-AWAY

Let’s try something larger. Of the circa $30k medium SUVs, this SsangYong’s my pick. The Chinese MG HS and Haval H6 are tempters, but the drive experience lets them down. The Korean Korando looks sharp, has 5-star safety, a seven-year warranty and an easy, quiet and reasonably comfortable drive experience. It’s no sports car through the corners but it has vast rear space, easy child loading and the biggest boot of this group by a large margin. There are 18-inch alloys, heated front seats and an 8-inch infotainment screen. Safety includes auto emergency braking, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert. There’s no radar cruise or rear air vents and real-world fuel use is higher than the quoted 7.7L/100km. Servicing’s cheap at $1475 the first five, but resale’s an issue.

VERDICT

I’d take a punt on the Korando, but if it’s too large or left field, the Cerato wins.