Low small-car prices despite advances
2012 Toyota Corolla Levin ZR. Supplied picture

We have not only seen a flood of new models come into the small-car market in the past few weeks but more often than not they are cheaper than the cars they are replacing.

Both Toyota and Nissan have set their starting prices in the sub-$20,000 bracket, a move that will not only put pressure on their rivals but place further stress on the second-hand market.

And it is not just the entry level of the segment that is seeing competition increase and prices fall. Mercedes-Benz used the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney to reveal plans to re-enter the small-car segment with an all-new C-Class hatch.

The new Merc is not only considerably more appealing in looks than the car it replaces but is priced low enough to be shopped against more mainstream European brands, such as Volkswagen and top-end Japanese models.

The latest model influx started with VW revealing its seventh-generation Golf at the Paris Motor Show earlier this month. The new hatch introduces a host of new technologies, including cylinder deactivation to reduce fuel consumption - a system not previously seen at this end of the market.

And when the new Golf arrives in Australia early next year, VW has promised pricing will remain very close to the current model.

Also in Paris, Skoda announced it would increase its model range in Australia with the new Rapid, a small sedan that looks more like a hatch. In typical Skoda style, this is a car that offers much of the same technology and features you will find in Audi and VW models, only packaged in a more economical way.

Toyota also used the Paris auto show to reveal the latest iteration of the world's most popular car, the Corolla.

But the giant car maker waited until this week's Sydney expo to announce that it was also winding back pricing, with its entry-level model starting at $19,990 - making it $1000 cheaper than its less-credentialed predecessor.

In fact, all four specification levels of the new Corolla are either the same price or cheaper than the model it replaces.

This year we have also seen new-generation models of the Ford Focus, Hyundai i30, Kia Rio, Opel Astra and Subaru Impreza launched here.

While it underlies why Australia is regarded as the toughest car market in the world, with more manufacturers, more models and more variants than most other countries, the small-car market now offers prospective buyers more options and better cars than ever before.

The West Australian

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