A VW Variant, Mazda 3 or Honda Stream?

What you need to know:

  • For many, the decision to buy a car usually depends on how much money they have. What happens when several cars are within the same price range but have different advantages and disadvantages? Baraza JM helps you choose between these three.

As usual, I went right back to the very popular car-selling website I usually visit occasionally whenever I want to inspire myself by checking how cheap used European SUVs have become, and this is what I found: these three cars all cost the same. All their pricing hovers around the Shs40m mark.

2012 Volkswagen Golf Variant
The Variant is bigger and more practical than the hatchback but costs less generally. Also Tyrone, my friend who has appeared in my column every time a Variant comes up, and thus appears again since we are discussing Variants again, sold his well-kept example to a mutual acquaintance for a fair price which I will not disclose here for obvious reasons, but the point I am making is this: private punters, especially of German cars, are an open secret as far as bargains-of-the-century go. Perhaps you need a friend like Tyrone to help you save a couple of hundred grand.

2012 Mazda 3
It is easily the cheapest car here, probably because it is the smallest, a characteristic that we will discuss shortly, but after poking around the sellers a little more, I realised that you should not pay more than Shs36.4m. Expect quotes of between Shs34.6m-Shs35.7m once you steer clear of the opportunists, but these can be negotiated down to Shs32.8m flat if you have a deft tongue in your head and a penchant for bargaining.

2012 Honda Stream
Charges lurk in the Shs40m range with a few money-hungry dealers wandering as high up as Shs47.4m. Avoid these avaricious types and pay the Shs40m that I have told you about … or, do not pay. In fact, do not pay anything at all. So, while these are just numbers, with some looking bigger than others, what do they actually mean?

Let us start with the Stream. Since I just asked you not to pay for one. I have praised Honda mills in my column, particularly those with “VTEC” written on the engine covers, but take note I was not as effusive about their transmissions, more so of the self-shifting kind.

A cursory perusal of my column’s history should provide an answer to this — we not only had the lengthiest consistent correspondence with a reader, Alice, her husband and the case of her temperamental Fit last year, but a mere two weeks ago we had two different Airwave owners both decrying the state of disrepair their transmissions had fallen into after use.

So, through guilt by association, I daresay buy the Stream if you like repairing automatic transmissions.
And now the Volkswagen. The Mk.6 estate does not actually carry Golf Mk. 6 underpinnings, it is a facelifted Mk. 5 — a peculiarity limited to the Variant derivative only from within the Golf family. That means that, not unlike Hollywood actresses, scratch beneath the surface and you discover that it is in reality five years older than it claims to be. Despite these false pretences, the other two cars still trail the Teuton in terms of premium feel, so you could still buy the Golf for its sheer Germanic solidity and not feel cheated.

Not so the Mazda. Wonderful little car that is amazing to drive, but the operative word here is “little”. It has neither the practicality and carrying capacity of the Variant nor the seven-seat versatility of the Stream yet it costs the same as them. Why? If “value for money” carried a score, the Mazda would perform poorly in this company.

Fuel consumption
None of these is particularly thirsty, but I keep saying time and again, the seven-speed DSG in the Volkswagen does wonders for its fuel economy that the other two will be hard-pressed to match, especially the Honda. If the Mazda has that SkyActiv witchcraft, then it may, just may, come within spitting distance of the German, but really, there is no matching The People’s Fuel Economy.

Overall maintenance

This will boil down to how badly you treat your car. Mazdas face allegations of having chicken’s teeth for spare parts: they are not easily found. I am not sure how much this new generation of Mazdas share with other cars, but once upon a time when I owned a Demio, I discovered that certain engine components were interchangeable with those from a Nissan Wingroad. Hardly high praise, this Wingroad link, but that means spares should not be scarce, but then again, we have the internet.

The Honda? Swap out the automatic gearbox for a manual and you are home and dry, or else be prepared to send a few messages featuring the words “jerking” and “failed to engage” to this page in future.

Adapted from Daily Nation