SHOPPING for your first car can be a more stressful affair than stepping into a brand new job.
Those ready to take the leap will soon discover that the hunt for the right car is a whole new ball game.
Though they’re suitably more compact and not as fast as the big boys, these options here also have a thing or two to shout about on the road.
From Mini’s iconic Cooper to BMW’s sporty 1 Series, these are the best options for first-time car buyers in 2019.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” must’ve been the tagline for the 2019 Mini Cooper hatchback, because aside from nifty touches on the front bumper, a bigger touchscreen infotainment screen, and Union Jack on the taillights, not much has changed.
Offered in three- or five-door configurations, the Mini Cooper’s iconic ride with a base trim will come equipped with a 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Whichever powertrain you choose, remarkable handling is still at the heart of this car — an exhilarating experience that Mini proudly calls its ‘trademark go-kart feeling’.
Unveiled in tandem with the model’s 20th anniversary, the fourth generation Ford Focus undergoes a well-deserved update with sportier exteriors and a new emphasis on technology.
It is, after all, one of the best-selling cars in Ford’s 115-year history. Besides a base 1.0-litre Ecoboost version, the Focus will also now come with the option of a bigger 148hp 1.5-litre petrol three-cylinder engine, with the ability to close down one of the cylinders for more economical drives.
Even so, driving engagement is still very much at the top of Ford’s list for this baby hatchback, with suitable tweaks that enhance the car’s performance, even around the tightest corners.
BMW 1 Series
Despite being the Bavarian marque’s entry-level model, the 1 Series has gained traction for being practical and fun to drive even with a 1.5-litre three-pot unit strapped to it. After a mid-life facelift in 2015, the car is not only more spacious, but also comes with a range of fuel-efficient engines.
Because it is, quite unusually, a rear-wheel drive, the BMW 1 Series will feel sportier to drive than many alternatives in the market.
On the petrol powertrain front, a choice of four-cylinder, six-cylinder and three-cylinder petrol engines are available, all turbocharged for that extra kick. Creature comforts range from a dual-zone automatic climate control system and LED daytime running lights, to a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel.
The extraordinarily successful Volkswagen Polo has become something of a cult option for first-time car owners. Now in its sixth generation, the hatchback has undergone a quiet revolution to improve driving experience.
The redesign takes place mostly from within, where the updated cabin is now more spacious thanks to the car’s new chassis. It’s also more technologically adept (a plus for millennials), with systems borrowed from the larger Golf such as emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and rear traffic alert that would be useful for navigating busy city roads.
Despite being a compact ride, the Polo nails the balance between agility and comfort. Its 1.0 TSI petrol engine is tuned for efficiency, so performance is delivered alongside low running costs, making it a refined ride for those seeking a fuss-free option.
Audi A1 Sportback
The 2019 Audi A1 Sportback may be on the lower end of the Audi range, but it packs a punch well above its weight. The little Sportback comes in several different engine specifications, but two of our favourites include the 1.0-litre variant that delivers 116hp — more than enough oomph for this runaround — and the 1.5-litre, 150 hp option for those craving a little more power.
It may share its architecture with the Volkswagen Polo, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many similarities. The exterior’s sharp aesthetics are carried over to the interior, where angular finishings create a better driver-focused experience.
With seating for four adults and a sportback-style boot, the little A1 is spacious for a car in this segment and features vast amounts of tech. This includes the digital instrument cluster — which is standard across the range — and the ability to switch off half the cylinders while cruising in the 1.5-litre spec for more fuel economy.
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This article was first published on Lifestyle Asia.