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buying used

I’m looking for something that can fit my stuff (I like to camp and snowboard) but that isn’t a pain to park. I was thinking of the Honda HR-V. I don’t need AWD and I’m fine with a standard. What can I get used for $20,000 or, ideally, a lot less? – Britt, Halifax

These days, size really does matter – the smaller the better.

There’s a newer wave of wee CUVs that can be found used under $20,000 or new for close to it – including the Mazda CX-3, Nissan Qashqai and Honda HR-V.

If you stick to the base model and front-wheel drive, a brand-new Qashqai and CX-3 both start at $19,988, before freight charges and rebates.

But because they’re all relatively new – the Qashqai’s first model year was 2017 ($19,098 used, Canadian Black says – it’ll be tough to find any of them for much cheaper.

But if you want to keep the price to the mid-teens, there are other small CUVs that have been around a few years longer – such as the 2015 Kia Soul ($13,993 for FWD base), 2015 Nissan Juke ($14,050 for FWD base) and 2015 Chevy Trax ($15,487 for FWD base).

Here, we’ll pit the 2016 HR-V against the 2016 CX-3. Both seat five.

2016 Honda HR-V LX

2016 Honda HR-V.Honda/Honda

  • First generation: 2016-present
  • Average price for base: $19,875 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Original MSRP: $21,350
  • Engine: 141-hp, 1.8-litre four-cylinder
  • Transmission/drive: Six-speed manual, CVT/front-wheel, all-wheel
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.3 city, 7.0 highway (FWD, manual); 8.3 city, 6.7 highway (FWD, CVT); 8.8 city, 7.2 highway (AWD, CVT)

Think of the HR-V as a Fit that can fit more.

“If you need maximum space and utility in a small, fuel-efficient CUV, the HR-V has no equal,” Globe Drive said. “It’s also smooth, light and easy to drive when you’re not in any hurry. Just don’t expect to have much fun along the way.”

The Fit-based HR-V came in three trims: LX, EX and EX-L. On the base LX, expect to add around $1,000 for the CVT version and another $1,000 for AWD. The top-dog EX-L, with navigation, goes for $27,514 on average.

Consumer Reports called the HR-V “extremely practical, with roomy seating and plenty of cargo space” and it liked the standard rear camera and the LX’s simple controls.

But it said the HR-V “felt cheap with lots of engine noise, stiff ride and tinny-sounding doors.”

Consumer Reports gave the HR-V four out of five for reliability. It suggests sticking with the LX to avoid the “infuriating-to-use” touch-screen radio.

Technically, this is the second generation of the HR-V. There was a previous version sold in Australia and parts of Asia from 1998 to 2006.

The 2016 HR-V had no recalls.

2016 Mazda CX-3 GX

The Mazda CX-3.Handout

  • First generation: 2016-present
  • Average asking price for base: $18,300 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Original MSRP: $19,998
  • Engine: 146-hp, 2.0-litre four-cylinder
  • Transmission/drive: Six-speed automatic/front-wheel, all-wheel
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.2 city, 6.7 highway (FWD), 8.8 city, 7.3 highway (AWD)

The Mazda CX-3 isn’t for off-roading – or for hauling all that much of your stuff on the road.

“Think of the CX-3 as a sharp-looking, smart-handling sports hatch with the bonus of available all-wheel drive,” Globe Drive said. “It’s a nifty, likeable little car – it’s just not a utility vehicle.”

The CX-3 had less cargo room than average for the segment.

“Surprisingly, the seats-down volume claimed by Mazda Canada is relatively competitive – only 8 per cent less than HR-V,” we said. “Our own eyeballs (and tape measure) say the real volume is substantially less.”

There were three trims: GX, GS and GT. For the base GX, you should be able to find the AWD for a similar price to the front-wheel drive version. The GT, with AWD and navigation, goes for $24,258, on average.

Consumer Reports said the CX-3 was fuel-efficient, fun to drive and had a lower ride height than most SUVs. It griped about a snug interior and noisy cabin.

It gave the CX-3 four out of five for reliability.

There were two recalls, including a lift gate stay that could corrode and potentially break off.

Send your used-car questions to with the subject: “Buying used.”

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