Shopping around for an entry level car?

You’re in the market for a small, entry-level car – one that’s not going to cost you a fortune to buy or run.

Wynter Murdoch
Entry-level car
Small car
Affordable car
Budget cars

Here’s a selection of four contenders available from Imperial Auto dealerships that you can buy new or used at affordable prices. Be aware however – from a safety perspective, not all the models offer anti-lock brakes and dual airbags.



Following its recent introduction to South Africa, Renault’s Kwid has proved to be a popular seller in the entry-level market, the company claiming that as many as 800 units move monthly off showroom floors.

The model is manufactured in India and, though perceived to be spacious and well styled – and offering an array of attractive standard features such as air-conditioning and Bluetooth connectivity – it has drawn criticism for its lack of safety systems; the absence of airbags and anti-lock brakes among the chief denunciations.

Addressing this point, Renault South Africa has indicated that the items will be added to models imported from next year. 

On the positive side, the Kwid’s naturally aspirated 1,0-litre engine is light on fuel, using a claimed 5,6 litres per 100km in the combined cycle. Transmission is to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox. The car is well-suited for city journeys, its compact proportions making it easy to manoeuvre through traffic. Steering is light.

However, on the open road the vehicle doesn’t fare as well in coping with challenges, its light weight and high sided, SUV-type flanks making it susceptible to wind shear. Also, the engine – a three cylinder unit – is noisy at high revs.

The Kwid offers five seats and a boot that swallows 224 litres of cargo – expanding to 840 litres when the rear seat backs are folded flat.




From a safety perspective, Datsun’s Go hatchback is slightly better equipped than Renault’s Kwid, offering a driver’s side airbag though still lacking anti-lock brakes.


Also, it has a bigger engine than that of the French-badged stablemate, a 1,2-litre, three-cylinder unit that produces slightly more torque – 104Nm as opposed to 91Nm – and a similar amount of power, 50kW. Again, transmission is to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox. Fuel consumption is rated at 6,2 litres per 100km. 


Like the Kwid, the Go is manufactured in India – but at a different facility to that which produces the Renault. Based on a Nissan Micra platform, the model offers four comfortable seats, a boot that holds 200 litres of cargo – or 760 litres when rear seat backs are folded flat – and air-conditioning as a standard feature.

Styling is perceived to be a little old-fashioned compared with that of some contemporaries – the Go’s lines are far less SUV-like in their appearance – but the model is thoroughly modern in terms of its ability to manoeuvre through traffic.

Controls are light and easy to use, steering is accurate – but the lack of ABS is likely to remain a concern for any safety conscious motorist.    



Kia’s entry level Picanto finds itself in a similar position on the safety front to the Datsun Go – while it lacks anti-lock brakes, it does feature a driver’s side airbag, along with air-conditioning and Bluetooth connectivity.

It is propelled by a normally aspirated, three-cylinder engine that displaces 1,0-litre to produce 49kW and 95Nm – similar outputs to those of its competitors. And, as in those cars, drive is to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox, with fuel consumption in the combined cycle rated at 6,0 litres per 100km. 

Perceived as trendy in terms of its look and with good elements of refinement in its cabin, the Picanto is one of the most popular sellers in the entry-level segment. 


However, if you can afford an additional R15 000, I’d recommend the Street version, which offers anti-lock brakes along with a passenger-side airbag.

The Picanto seats four people in comfort – and five at a pinch – but offers a smaller boot than either the Kwid or the Go – 144 litres of cargo space with rear seat backs in place; 728 litres when they’re folded down.



This model gets my vote as the pick of the entry-level selection. In my book, recent improvements to Hyundai’s already capable little car makes it a winner. It may appear to be comparatively expensive compared with rivals, but in my book it is well worth the extra money.

Importantly, the vehicle features airbags for driver and front passenger and anti-lock brakes. Air-conditioning, central locking and a trip computer are standard features, while remote controls on the steering wheel include buttons for Bluetooth connectivity.

An integrated microphone at the front is another enhancement, while under the front passenger seat is a handy storage tray. Additionally, the driver’s seat belt shoulder mounting point is height-adjustable.


Power is provided by a normally aspirated three-cylinder engine that produces 48kW and 94Nm. The unit drives the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. Fuel consumption is a claimed 6,5 litres per 100km.

On the road is car is stable and easy to manoeuvre – despite being bigger than the i10, the vehicle it has superseded. Boot space measures 256 litres, with up to 1 202 litres cargo volume available when rear seat backs are folded down.

In my view, in terms of what you get for your money on the safety front – along with good engine performance and perceptions of quality in the cabin – the Grand i10 ticks far more boxes than its contemporaries as the car that’s well worth considering in the entry level segment.