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Home  /  April 2018  /  Reviews

Today, we present five performance cars under $35,000 that don’t say you are a brown cardigan wearing ­accountant of either or all sexes.

Under $35,000 (be prepared to negotiate) in no particular order:

The 2018 Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo manual: A bit slower than a VW GTI for $12,000 less. Hyundai and Kia have the best build quality of any car in the world. For $30,000 you get a car that fits your family and some luggage, goes quick, handles really, really well and has an SR badge on the back. You will need to buy a decent set of tyres and have someone upgrade the brakes. Don’t go for the blazing yellow, phoenix orange or red trim. Any of these three are dead giveaways that you are a plonker trying to look like someone from the pages of The Rake magazine.

Toyota 86 GT manual: I absolutely love this car. I have tracked it and roaded it and I love it even more than the Mazda MX-5. Better still, it’s also rear-wheel drive. It’s slower than the Elantra but who cares? It is what classic sports cars like MGs and Sprites used to be and it handles better than you can drive it.

Ford Focus ST: This is the car Ford wouldn’t let me drive but my real friends did. For $27,000 you get a little machine that both handles like a supercar and lets you know you are alive. It has 134kw under the little bonnet and I think it will soon have 150kw. Top Gear rated the old Fiesta ST their 2013 car of the year, beating the ­McLaren P1. Tell your partner it seats five, then when you get it never let the kids or rellies near it.

Honda Civic VTi-L: It’s here because it’s $28,000 (and the Honda you should look at is the Type R but that’s $50,000). The 1.5l turbo has plenty of grunt; the handling is great; it has lots of room and the resale is super.

Mazda MX-5: This was my original love before I met the Toyota 86. Men are so fickle, aren’t they? But if you want a soft top, the 1.5l manual for $33,000 is a real sports car for not much money.

We will be talking Ferrari when we talk cars over $350,000, but there’s a US lawsuit looking at suing the Bahrain F1 winner on behalf of owners, for rolling back the speedos of used Fezzers.

The lawsuit alleges that on certain Ferrari models even a speedo rollback of a few hundred kilometres could increase the car’s value by more than $1 million. And to make things worse, in Modena at least two New York law firms are looking at suing the company itself for securities fraud. On news of the February 28 internal company memo that Ferrari would stop the speedo rollback function, the stock price dropped from $US129 to $US120. Ferrari has been selling on a price to earnings ration of 34, which is higher than Microsoft, Apple and Facebook.

And make sure you enter the Santa Vittoria Acqua Minerale competition to win your choice of a Fiat 500C, or one of 20 beach packs comprising one beach tote bag, one beach towel, one beach umbrella and one 500ml still Santa Vittoria PET bottle.

To help you in your choice, here’s what Wheels, Australia’s greatest motoring mag, says about the Fiat 500: “Awkward driving position; ‘Dualogic’ robotised box is appalling, cabin lacks storage.” And on the 500C: “Paying nearly $4000 to put the 500’s roof down and the body flex when you do.” Yup, I’d go for the beach pack.

In really big news, The Weekend Australian Rally Team (WART) is the new major promotional sponsor of RAW (Rural Alive & Well) for this week’s Targa Tasmania. RAW is a not-for-profit that helps men, women and communities in Tassie deal with the scourge of suicide. Tasmania has the second highest suicide rate in Australia, the highest rate of youth suicide and the highest rate of female suicide. RAW has 10 people going around rural Tassie sitting down with people over the kitchen table, being available 24/7, demonstrating genuine care and providing ongoing physical and emotional support.

As you would expect, there is nepotism involved: the RAW president is none other than Ian McMichael, brother of the poor man’s answer to male menopause and co-driver of the WART BMW, Michael. We’ll have RAW stickers on what is quaintly called a car; we’ll be handing out leaflets on how to contact them; and generally spreading the word.

If you want to donate, go to www.givenow.com.au/raw. If you are troubled by this report or experiencing a personal crisis, you can contact RAW on 1300 4357 6283 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Now on the eve of our greatest triumph, Targa Tasmania, we received some unexpected bad news. Hidden in the Beginner’s Guide to Competing is the sentence “a navigator has to be immune from motion sickness and be able to issue clear instructions under pressure”. Why didn’t they tell us that before? The keen-to-try-his-new-skills neurosurgeon, nude faith healer, BMW materials scientist specialising in nanoparticles, Rake centrefold and Coopers taster specialising in Coopers Session Ale which he says displays citrus aromas, subtle fruity overtones, mild bitterness and the estery flavours of Coopers Ale yeast, Michael McMichael and I both talk to Bill and Bert on the big white phone whenever we look down in a car. Even if it’s stopped.

Fortunately, I was able to buy a 1969 Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania and Caltex Oil (Aust.) Pty Ltd tourist map of Tassie which I have stuck on the inside of the passenger windscreen. No issues there.

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