Drive Car Of The Year
Major Sponsor
carconnect – majorsponsorlogo

The Finalists:

Best Value Car 2022

We’ve crunched the numbers to tell you which cars represent the best buying value in Australia today.

How do you know if a car really represents good value? Comparing the features and equipment of the vehicles on your shortlist is a good start, but that’s only one part of a much bigger equation. 

The biggest cost of new car ownership is the initial purchase, and the second biggest cost is depreciation. Other key factors that add up over time are annual fuel costs, insurance, registration and routine maintenance.

Minimising your exposure to those costs is the key to buying smart, and it’s what the Drive Car of the Year Best Value Car award is all about.

Shopping around or waiting for a ‘drive-away’ deal can deliver big savings. As can buying a model in ‘run-out’ (the months before an updated model arrives) as dealers cut prices to clear old stock.

You will save thousands more by taking into account a car’s ability to retain its value during its lifetime too.

Strong resale performers can retain up to 75 per cent of their value after three years, whereas poor performers can fall below 50 per cent. That’s a difference of $7500 on a car originally bought for $30,000.

Then there are the running costs that regularly siphon money from our pockets, like fuel, insurance and servicing fees. These add up to thousands of dollars each year. 

To help you find out which new car represents the best value, we’ve grabbed all the data for every new passenger car and SUV with a retail price under $30,000. Automatic transmissions only, because that’s what 95 per cent of new cars are sold with.

We also set a basic safety requirement of blind-spot monitoring and autonomous emergency braking, plus fitment of Android Auto or the Apple equivalent so today’s smartphones can integrate with in-car infotainment systems and be less of a distraction. 

If you want to understand our full methodology, jump to the bottom of this article for a full run-through. For now, let’s find out the cars that represent the best value for your dollar today.

Winner: Kia Cerato S

The Kia Cerato S is not just the best value small car in Australia, it is the Best Value Car in Australia. Full stop. 

The Kia Cerato S is available as a sedan or hatchback priced at $25,990 drive-away (at the time of testing) across Australia. A mid-2021 update brought a refreshed look and new features to an already popular car. 

Blind-spot monitoring is not standard on the Cerato S, but that important safety feature is part of an affordable $1000 Safety Pack that includes rear cross-traffic alert, enhances the AEB system with cyclist awareness, fits larger rear brakes and adds a few cosmetic enhancements in the cabin, making it $1000 wisely spent. 

The secret to the Cerato’s affordability begins with that $26,990 price (with Safety Pack) combined with a solid 66 per cent retained value after three years. 

The Cerato’s comprehensive insurance premium is one of the cheapest in our survey at just $806 per year. 

For servicing costs, the Cerato is not the cheapest but it is far from the most expensive, and let’s not forget Kia’s confidence-inspiring seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Fuel efficiency is a very respectable 7.4L/100km, given the Cerato is not a hybrid or a diesel, which equates to just under $1900 a year, or around $36 a week.

Overall, the cost of owning a Cerato is just $74.25 per week for all out of pocket expenses. When we add depreciation to the equation, the true cost is $136.84 per week during the first three years. 

That’s not the smallest sum in our survey – the Toyota Corolla SX hatchback set that benchmark at $127.01 – but the Cerato’s $5490 price advantage means it will be more than a decade before the Corolla overtakes the Cerato for value.   

Finalist: MG ZST

MG’s reputation for sharp pricing and affordability is well known by canny Australians who’ve helped the reborn brand shoot up the sales charts in the last few years.

MG is well and truly inside the top 10 these days, and it’s because cars like the MG 3 hatchback and HS and ZST SUVs represent astonishing value for money. 

The MG 3 was considered for the 2022 Drive Car of the Year Best Value Car and was inside the top 10 for this award on running costs. But its lack of important safety equipment, the fact that ANCAP has not been able to crash-test it, and that MG never seems to have a test car for us to evaluate ruled it out of contention.

Not so for the MG ZST, which has a lot to offer Australian buyers on a budget. This sharply priced small SUV – $25,490 drive-away in entry-level Core specification – comes standard with MG’s Pilot Driver Assistance Suite that includes autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assistance, speed sign assistance, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist and intelligent high beam control. 

This makes the ZST the best value SUV for active safety on the market. The only blot on the ZST’s safety record is a four-star ANCAP result when tested in 2018.

The ZST secured second place in the Best Value Cars ranking with a weekly running cost of $78.96, less than $5 a week more than the Cerato. Adding depreciation costs raises the true cost to $142.18 because the ZST’s 61 per cent retained value is not as strong as the Kia’s.

That said, the ZST’s fuel consumption claim of 6.9L/100km means you will use less fuel, and servicing costs are lower over three years despite requiring a service every 10,000km. But those savings are offset by a higher insurance premium ($1122.43 per year).

Still, the numbers don’t lie: the MG ZST is the most affordable SUV to own in Australia, and the peace of mind of MG’s seven-year warranty is just icing on the smart shopper’s cake.

Finalist: MG HS

Hot on the heels of the MG ZST is another MG, this time it’s the bigger HS SUV. And just like the ZST, the HS’s strengths lie in its sharp drive-away price – $29,990 – that also includes the MG Pilot Driver Assistance Suite.

The MG HS enjoys a lower insurance premium than the ZST of just $1007.82, but its desire for premium unleaded and higher fuel consumption mean you will spend just over $2036 a year feeding this machine, or just under $40 a week.

Add registration, insurance and servicing to the equation – MG’s 10,000km servicing intervals mean you will visit the dealership more often, but commendably low pricing keeps it competitive in this regard – and the MG HS will cost owners $80.68 per week to keep fed and fit.

The MG HS’s retained value of 62 per cent after three years is not the equal of other medium SUVs from brands like Mazda and Toyota, but the sharper purchase price means you’ll lose less money than if you’d bought a more expensive rival.

For the record, the true cost of ownership including depreciation works out at a very palatable $153.49 per week. 

ModelDrive-away priceRunning costs per monthRunning costs first three yearsTrade-in value after three yearsTrue cost of ownership
Kia Cerato S$26,990$74.25$11,615$17,200$21,405
MG ZST$25,490$78.96$12,352$15,600$22,242
MG HS$29,990$80.68$12,620$18,600$24,010

How we identified our finalists

We started with all 42 cars that had a recommended retail price under $30,000 as of Feb 1, 2022. Then we applied some basic safety requirements – autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot detection and a minimum four-star ANCAP rating – because safety should not just be for the rich. 

If a base model does not offer AEB and BSM, but a higher-priced variant does (such as Kia Seltos Sport+), we allowed that variant in. We also allowed vehicles with option packs that add BSM and AEB, as is the case with the Volkswagen Polo, but of course, we added the option pack cost to the retail price. 

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also prerequisites because mobile phone use in cars is a proven safety hazard.

Any car with an ANCAP rating from 2017 or earlier – which means the model is therefore deemed largely unchanged from that time – is dropped from our list. 

There are two reasons for this. First, ANCAP’s testing procedures took a big step forward in 2018, so any car that hasn’t been tested since then cannot be considered the equal of a car tested since. 

Secondly, car production processes and assembly techniques are always evolving, so any vehicle whose fundamentals are five years old or more cannot in our opinion be considered the equal of a modern car.

After applying all those requirements, we were left with just 11 vehicles from the original 42. We make no apologies if you think we’re being harsh. Drive Car of the Year considers the safety and wellbeing of Australian new car buyers of paramount importance. 

How 11 became three

From there we turned our attention to ownership costs – from the amount you pay to buy the car to how much it should sell for after three years. 

We then worked out running costs: registration, CTP and comprehensive insurance for three years, plus fuel and servicing costs over 45,000km. 

Why 45,000km? The Australian Bureau of Statistics says Australians drive 14,500km per year on average, and we’ve added a small 500km buffer for good measure. 

We also took a car’s preference for regular or premium fuel into account because there is a significant price difference at the pump. 

When it comes to insurance costs, we used a 35-year-old male living in Chatswood, NSW, with a clean driving record, no demerit points and full no-claim bonus as our yardstick. This means we have consistency across the field.

Chat with us!

Chat with Agent