What the Drive team would buy for the average new-car selling price

Australian new-car buyers spent an average of $50,161 on their vehicle last year. Here are the new cars the Drive team would buy for the same money.

While on the face of things, $50,000 doesn't sound like a particularly affordable car, but the reality of the current motoring landscape has the average Australian new-car transaction price – how much people actually paid for new cars – at $50,161 last year.

So, if buying a car for under that figure, what would you choose?

The good news is there are lots of options across all key vehicle segments. You can choose from a number of Drive Car of the Year category winners like the Nissan X-Trail and Qashqai, Ford Puma and even the 2022 outright winner, the Kia Sportage.

There are electric cars, utes, sports cars and plenty of SUVs, plus even a few prestige brands thrown in for good measure. Basically, if the average Australian transaction price is a smidge over $50,000, you have a lot of above-average choices for below-average prices.

Here's where the Drive team would spend their money.

Note: Our responses were collated at the end of September 2023 – before some brands (including Mazda) increased prices from October 1.

Simon Halfhide, CEO – MG 4 Essence 64

It's hard to go past the MG 4, in Essence 64 specification. Not in bright orange, however.

Price: $49,709 drive-away in New South Wales (metallic paint available for $700 extra).

James Ward, Director of Content

There are some great cars here, but I was dismayed to see I missed buying a Subaru WRX manual by about $1000 based on an approximate $51,000 drive-away price in Victoria. Probably a good outcome for my family (and licence) however – the midlife crisis will need to wait.

Sensible James is picking up a sporty-looking Hyundai Tucson Elite N Line in white, with a three-year service package for $48,190. This has the 115kW/192Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine and front-wheel drive – not the peak of the Tucson drivelines, but a decent enough underpinning for a well-featured urban daily.

However, sensible James isn't always around, so I'd be pretty hard-pressed to go past the new Peugeot 308 GT Premium hatch in its signature Olivine Green for a current offer of $48,990 drive-away.

I loved my previous-generation 308 hatch, despite it costing some $20,000 less than this one, and being a Peugeot owner is in my blood. Plus it will look good next to the 405...

Lee Mason, Head of Marketplace

I’m going the dealer for a near new (demonstrator) with 1500km on the clock: a Skoda Kodiaq Style for $48,850 drive-away.

Best-value family car on the market: a seven-seater, great for hauling kids around to weekend sports, multiple driving modes, the VW Group's digital instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay. Once you have one of these you never go back – there is a seven-year warranty for peace of mind.

You can find one on Drive Marketplace, from Alto Skoda Pennant Hills.

Susannah Guthrie, Consumer Editor

I've already bought my above-average car for a below-average price when I purchased my Subaru Outback AWD for about $44,000 – and I have no regrets.

However, if I came into another $50,000 I'd probably buy a Mini Cooper because I've always wanted one and they're just pure fun. I wish the electric variants snuck under this price point because that would be my first pick, but since they don't I'd opt for the Classic five-door hatch in all black for $47,652 drive-away. On that note, does anyone have a spare $50k I can borrow?

Chelsea Arganbright: "Second Suze! Mini Cooper Hatch - but without the runflats for a softer ride."

Kez Casey, Production Editor

With a budget that has to stay in the underside of $50,000, there are plenty of practical options but not a lot of fun ones.

Without flaunting the rules like Alex, and staying in one of the most expensive states to register a new car, I've opted for a base MX-5 with a six-speed manual, fabric roof, and just one option: Machine Grey metallic paint.

With a drive-away price of $44,215 that leaves just enough budget for a little aftermarket upgrade to wheels and tyres... or maybe suspension... or perhaps the exhaust... Or maybe just some good quality SPF50+ sunblock, because the top won't be coming up unless it absolutely needs to.

Alex Misoyannis, Journalist

A Hyundai i30 N is a few hundred dollars over budget… so I've gone with a Mazda MX-5, in the Roadster soft-top body with a manual gearbox and the GT spec (which adds premium audio, keyless entry, leather seats and some other niceties).

It does require buying a house in Canberra so it can be registered in the ACT, where the drive-away price is low enough to afford the Soul Red metallic paint. But nothing in the challenge said that wasn't allowed, so…

Jordan Mulach, Journalist

Being a 20-something with testosterone in ample supply, I immediately went to look at a Subaru WRX but quickly realised it was a few hundred dollar-bucks outside of the price bracket.

After careful consideration, I decided on Subaru’s other great car – the BRZ. Specifically in the top-of-the-range ‘S’ guise with a manual transmission (is there really any other choice?).

Add in WR Blue Pearl (again, is there any other choice?) and Subaru’s STI-inspired styling pack and the purchase price comes to about $1300 under the limit. That’s enough to spend on a track day and some stronger brake pads, and it leaves more change in my pocket than a GR86 would.

Now, to talk to the missus about squeezing a car seat in the back.

Other picks

Skoda Octavia 110TSI Style wagon with options ($49,060) – Sean Foster, Photographer: "Firstly, who doesn't love a wagon? Aside from a fun driving experience; there are plenty of standard safety features, modern infotainment, boatloads of storage and even a brolly in the door."

Volkswagen T-Roc 140TSI R-Line in silver ($49,725) – Alex Hollings, Sales Manager: "I'm going Euro, like Sean, but more conservative. A five-year warranty now and the DSG is much smoother than DSGs of old. I'd also find it hard to go back from wireless Apple CarPlay."

Hyundai i20 N ($39,985.30) – Lachlan Bell, Sales Coordinator: "This leaves me a comfy $10,000 to spend on mods, insurance or pre-paid servicing. Even if I added every one of the 21 Hyundai accessories (including snowboard carrier, surfboard carrier, bike carrier & roof pod), I'd have an estimated $4277.87 left to play around with. For under $50,000, I think it would be hard to find a new vehicle more fun than this."

Skoda Kamiq 110TSI Signature MY23 with options ($49,690) – Sarah Felton, Customer Service Manager: "I don't need a hybrid as I do absolutely minimal driving on the island, it's only required for a few trips to NSW so it's roomy and spacious enough for partner, dog and luggage. Smooth ride and very responsive for a small vehicle. I added an auto tailgate, panoramic roof, Side Assist and a seven-year service pack."

Subaru Outback AWD ($47,599) – Dan Hughes, Digital Marketing Manager: "I'd buy a base model Subaru Outback – boring? Yes. Sort of ugly? Also, yes. But a great long-distance tourer with a modicum of soft-road ability? Definitely."

BYD Atto 3 Standard ($49,812) – Justin Bennett, Senior Video Producer: "I've gone electric ... Go Atto 3 and the guitar strings!"

Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid ($48,330) – Michael Cerny, TechOps Lead: "It is probably a boring choice, but we've not had many issues with Toyotas. I'm thinking of hybrid instead of fully electric because we don't have a garage, a big space to charge it, and no solar panels. We are travelling 250km on a single trip, so a hybrid is more convenient."

Kia Sorento – Dhivya Suri, Financial Controller: "The seven-seater option is great for the trips (of course with the sunroof open) with the kids and the furbaby, it sounds good to me."

Some of the team picked the same car. There were:

  • Four GWM Tank 300 Lux petrols ($46,990) – one orange, two grey and one green.
  • Two Kia Carnivals ($51,690 – just over the national budget, but under in NSW)
  • Two Kia Sportages (from $36,873)
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