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You deserve more. It's a mantra that more people should apply to just about every facet of their life, and why not? You're worth it, aren't you?

I've been thinking about that since Nissan unveiled its Micra, the first of an expected slew of $10,000 subcompacts from various manufacturers. For some, this is fantastic but there are those who feel 10 grand should return more room, more luxury, more power – more everything, really.

Sure, the Micra seems a safe bet, with a three-year full warranty. And there's that new-car smell. But in a month or two, it will be just another used car. As alternatives, these selections have proven reliable. As with every used-car purchase, it's best to take the car to a mechanic for an inspection before you fork over cash.

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Sensible

Who can argue with Honda when it comes to sensibility? You can find both the Civic and the larger Accord (both up to around 2007) under budget. However, they're both such good cars that it's difficult to find one without astronomical mileage; people tend to hang on to them for as long as possible. The same goes for the Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe, built between 2005 and 2008. A Pontiac, you say? Keep in mind that both cars ride on the same platform, use the same four-cylinder engine and were built at the same plant in California. The Pontiac came originally with more standard features, but that badge on its hood means it usually sells for less than the Toyota.

You' may have more fun driving the Mazda3, which can be found under budget up to around the 2010 model. Sedan or wagon, it offers decent power and room, good reliability and cracking handling. Or there's the 2007-08 Hyundai Sonata; the Korean brand has been putting out cars that top reliability and quality charts all over the world, and this spacious mid-sized sedan is one of the best in that regard. Look for one with the V-6 engine.

Indispensable

At its launch, the 2003-06 Infiniti G35 made the Germans sit up and take note of the Japanese car from Nissan, what with its sharp styling, crisp handling and build quality. With age, it is standing up to its European brethren. Both the coupe and sedan are still lookers, and they have shown no serious reliability issues in their lifetime – though there were recalls for defective fuel hoses and air bag sensors; a check with the dealer can see if these issues were resolved. Plus, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the car its highest "Good" rating for the offset crash test and "Acceptable" for its side impact crash test.

You may find one starting just over $8,000 with less than 100,000 km on the clock. And if it does need repairs, they'd be generally less expensive than those on the German brands. Bonus points if you stumble upon the AWD version.

The Globe and Mail Darren McGee The Globe and Mail  

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Questionable

It kills to write this, it really does. This car makes me smile, with handling so crisp it could cause whiplash in tight corners. But the Mini, and specifically the S versions, has shown itself to be a fair-weather friend when it comes to reliability, according to Consumers Reports and other sources. We're not just talking about faulty electric windows, either; major issues with the engine and transmissions could mean repair costs that amount to more than you paid for the car. If you can't resist the cute retro looks and go kart-like responsiveness, keep the transit pass handy.

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

Follow us on Twitter @Globe_Drive.

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