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buying used

I'm looking for a compact car for $10,000. What should I get?

We compare the 2015 Nissan Micra S and the 2014 Kia Rio LX sedan

I am 80 years old and drive a 2008 Subaru Forester. I am thinking of replacing the vehicle with a small car, since my driving needs are minimal and almost only in the city. My budget is $10,000. I was thinking along the lines of a Nissan Micra or something akin. – Baily, Ottawa

Canada has three cars that, technically, cost under $10,000 new.

But, chances are, to get those same cars under $10,000 used, in a version you'd enjoy driving, you'd have to go back at least a year or two.

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For example, the Nissan Micra is Canada's cheapest new car. The base S is $9,988 new before taxes, freight and fees. And for that you get four doors but no automatic, air conditioning, power windows or power locks.

It's a bare-bones door crasher special – a car to get you into the dealership.

The automatic starts at $14,124, after a $1,250 cash discount. Used, you're likely looking at 2015, the Micra's first year since 1992, to keep it under your budget.

The average asking price is $10,883 for the S with a standard – but there are 2015 Micras out there for less.

The Chevy Spark is advertised as new under $10,000, again before taxes and fees. Used? The base Chevy Spark runs an average $9,825 for a 2015. There's also the Kia Rio ($9,750 for a 2014), Hyundai Accent ($9,664 for a 2014), Mitsubishi Mirage ($7,501 for a 2015) and Nissan Versa ($9,888 for a 2015).

Best bets? The Micra and Rio. But the Spark and Accent are worth checking out, too.

2015 Nissan Micra S

2015 Nissan Micra.

  • Second generation: 2015-present (sold in Canada until 1992, fourth generation worldwide).
  • Average asking price for base: $10,883 (Canadian Black Book).
  • Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder transmission/drive: Five speed manual or four-speed automatic/front-wheel drive.
  • Fuel economy (litres/100km): 8.6 city, 6.6 highway (manual), 8.8 city, 6.6 highway (automatic).

The base Micra S is a good deal – but, unless you get the automatic, the S is for sweltering. "After driving this model in Montreal's sticky heat last week, a certified used car with air seemed a smarter buy," Globe Drive said.

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The S with manual doesn't include air conditioning, but the S with automatic does (along with cruise). On average, the average asking price for the S is $11,157. Cruise and air are standard on the higher SV and SR trims.

Nissan kept the base cheap by cutting extras, although it did include rear-seat heating ducts and 60/40 split rear seats, which are optional in other countries.

"It comes with more power than most in the class … and it feels especially peppy with the five-speed manual," we said. "It's far from whisper quiet; with wind noise drowning out conversation at highway speeds, yoga-worthy contortions were required to wind up the slightly open rear window in the base model."

For a new model, prices climbed – to more than $20,000 – as you added options. As Micra-managers, we suggested that buyers stick to the base. But used, you may be able to find loaded Micras in your price range.

Since the Micra isn't sold in the United States, Consumer Reports doesn't have reliability scores. There were two recalls, including one to fix trim near the gas pedal that could catch the driver's foot.

2014 Kia Rio LX sedan

2014 Kia Rio.

  • Third generation: 2012-17.
  • Average asking price for base: $9,750 (Canadian Black Book).
  • Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder transmission/drive: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic/ Front-wheel drive.
  • Fuel economy (litres/100km): 8.7 city, 6.3 highway (manual), 8.7 city, 6.4 highway (automatic).

The base Rio LX is pretty basic, but it has AC, and plenty more, going for it.

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"The typical ride, noise and space limitations – expected from a subcompact car – count against it," Consumer Reports said. "However, benefits include nimble handling, a smooth transmission, simple controls, and plenty of equipment for the price."

Power locks and windows were optional on the LX but standard on the EX and top-of-the-line SX. All were also available in a hatchback. The loaded 2014 SX hatchback with navigation has heated seats and a rear camera. It costs about $13,322, on average.

"Inside, the Rio is well trimmed, with nice-quality surfaces and a livable level of standard equipment, even in the base model," Edmunds said. "On the move, the Rio feels quick for a subcompact, and it's fully capable of keeping up in expressway traffic."

But the ride can get bumpy on rough roads, it can get noisy with the wind and handling is "competent but not a bit sporty," Edmunds said.

Consumer Reports has no reliability scores for the 2014 Rio. There were no recalls.

Trying to decide on a used car? Send your questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.


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