Prestigious but practical used compacts for less than $15,000

  • Last Updated:
  • May 27th, 2015 3:49 pm
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Feb 26, 2004
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Prestigious but practical used compacts for less than $15,000

[QUOTE]You’re sensible, aren’t you? You don’t need a big car, especially if you live in the city. A small car makes more sense, for its ease of parking and frugal fuel economy. And yet, you like the room a hatchback affords; it’s just so much more versatile when it comes to hauling cargo. You like having options. But being sensible doesn’t mean being boring or cheap; why not a bit of luxury with that small car? Instead of a hatchback from Honda or Ford, you want a leather interior, a nice sound system and a premium badge for cachet at the office. Don’t worry, for up to $15,000 we can look to Europe and even the Far East for that little hatch with the big luxury name.


For 2005 and 2006, Saab built the compact 9-2X all-wheel-drive hatchback. Well, it didn’t really build it; the 9-2X was basically a Subaru Impreza, with a Saab front end, more sound deadening and slightly more luxury inside, a weird combination born from when General Motors owned Saab and a bit of Subaru. Having the Impreza as a platform isn’t a bad thing, it was a capable handling and reliable car, but for real luxury, this may not impress; its saving grace may be that it can be found for less than $10,000. Recalls involve air bags and a front lower control arm that could break.

Want a newer car? Volvo made the small C30, which can be found up to 2011. It’s a handsome though conventional design, the most distinctive part being its large, all-glass hatch. A 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine supplies the power and decent fuel economy; inside is Volvo’s unique – and cool – floating centre console, and there should be leather seats and, being a Volvo, a generous host of safety and convenience features. The drive is comfortable if not exciting and, for cargo room, the C30 only comes as a two-door, so it’s limited. Plus, it had a slate of serious recalls, including a possible structural defect in a frame member, a defective sat/nav, a loose gear shift stud, leaking power steering and a faulty brake master cylinder.

How about a three-pointed star on the hood? Mercedes-Benz is in the small hatch game with its B-Series, which we can find up to 2011. Something after its 2009 refresh is best, with upgraded materials and options. The B200’s 2.0-litre engine pumped out 134 horsepower but, for added zip, get the Turbo version with 193 ponies; its CVT, however, was recalled for the possibility of its drive belt failing. Other recalls include those for defective wiring and incorrect software configuration, depending on the year. Interior space was good, but it’s worth buying a version after 2012, which was a complete redesign for a more luxurious car. However, that involves a budget stretch.


For luxury, performance, cargo capacity and nameplate cachet, look to the Audi A3, up to around 2009. There’s the front-wheel drive and a strong 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, but the 3.2-litre, 250-horsepower V-6 with standard quattro all-wheel drive is better for winter, not to mention spirited driving. Plus, there’s an available direct-shift gearbox that lets you zip through the gears on your own. Inside will have all the high-lux materials and safety and convenience features expected from the German brand, and cargo room is the best of the lot here. Recalls deal with a faulty transmission module, a fuel tank ventilation valve and an air bag issue.


The Acura RSX – which can be found up to its final year of 2006 – is a hatchback, and certainly fun to drive with sharp handling. But if cargo space is needed, forget it. This is more of a 2+2 with a big trunk door and little space behind the front seats. More importantly, if cachet is important, the RSX is less junior executive and more boy racer; not exactly how to impress the boss. ... e24635248/

Which one would you get?
9 replies
Deal Fanatic
Dec 24, 2005
5360 posts
I've owned a few of those cars on that list actually because i'm a huge fan of this class. ('premium hatch')

I would get the A3 or a GTI

The Volvo could be great if it had an extra pair of doors....what's the point of a utilitarian hatch missing the utility?

The 9-2X is just a WRX ... it's too old to be nice now.

The RSX is too slow unless you get the type-S ... and then it's manual only.
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Oct 5, 2008
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The C30 in T5 trim is pretty sweet.
Deal Addict
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Jun 10, 2011
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B200. Its a benz afterall.
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Jul 14, 2009
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durrsak wrote:
May 27th, 2015 11:56 am
b200. Its a benz afterall.
b200t ftfy
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Oct 8, 2014
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Unionville, ON
GTI is the best, you can get an APR tune that boots power to close to 300 hp
Pentium 1 166 Mhz | 32 Mb Edo Ram | Seagate 1.4 Gb Ide Hard disk | 3dFX Voodoo1 Pci Video Card | 250W PSU | SoundBlaster Pro sound card | 14" SVGA Monitor
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Oct 13, 2009
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Iqaluit, NU
For prestige nothing compares to b200, in any class
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Jul 19, 2013
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Facelifted RSX Type S. Not fast but quick and fun, cheap to run :) Hard to find near stock examples though.
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Jan 17, 2002
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A3, GTI or C30.. But not prestigious in the least.