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2010 Honda Civic DX-G. See this listing on autoTRADER.ca

Article by Brendan McAleer, photos courtesy autoTRADER.ca

As the least expensive new car in Canada, the Nissan Micra starts at just $9,998, plus freight and PDI, and the ever-present environmental levies. That makes a grand total of just under $11,500.

But hang on a second, here comes the Mitsubishi Mirage with a massive discount that exactly matches the little Nissan’s MSRP. Could this three-cylinder economy-based micropod challenger mark a new kind of cheap Canadian motoring? Is a new arena of price wars opening up, bringing bargains not seen since the days of the Hyundai Pony and the Yugo?

Everybody just calm down for a second. While the Mirage and the Micra are certainly cheap and (mostly) cheerful, the true bargains in the automotive sphere are where they’ve always been: the good used car. Or, if you prefer a euphemism, the nice previously enjoyed vehicle.

While the Micra and the Mirage offer warranties and the chance to choose your own paint shade, you can still get a deal on something a little better-equipped than these price-leader basic cars. Assuming that you might have to get some financing for part of the purchase price, let’s cap the age at no older than four years, and have a look across the country at eight alternatives to the least-expensive new cars in Canada.

Honda Civic

What better way to kick things off in a Canada-wide search than with Canada’s favourite passenger car? Now midway through its second decade as the bestselling car in Canada, the Honda Civic provides a blend of efficiency and reliability that’s produced a generation of shoppers that won’t even consider anything else.

Still, Hondas often have a fairly high resale value, so tucking one under the $11,500 mark without a huge number on the odometer was a little tricky. We found this 2010 model in St. John’s, at a Toyota dealership, with just 30,000 km on the clock.

DX-G model specification means that it’s got air-conditioning and a few other goodies – stuff missing on your bargain Micra. There’s a five-speed stick shift transmission for a little extra driving enjoyment, and as this is a previous-generation Civic, it’ll actually handle quite nicely. It’s also considerably bigger than either of our two pea-pod hatchbacks, both in passenger volume and cargo space.

The popularity of the Civic is a double-edged sword, making them a bit costly in the used market, but relatively available. Shop hard for one of these, but if you find the right one, snap it up quick. You’re likely not the only one on a hunt for this Honda.

Search for Honda Civic on autoTRADER.ca

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2010 Mazda3 GX. See this listing on autoTRADER.ca

Mazda3

Another popular compact sedan, we came across this dealer-certified 2010 Mazda3 in Val-David, QC. It’s a GX, which means nothing fancy, but the mileage is good at 33,000 km, and it’s an automatic.

Of course, the combination of “Quebec” and “Mazda” means that a discussion of Mazda’s rusting issues is going to raise its ugly head. True, earlier cars are problematic, and anything short of a garage-queen Miata can soon turn into Hiroshima-built Swiss cheese on Eastern roads. A more modern Mazda like this should do as well as any car, assuming it’s been properly cared for.

With the Mazda3, you also have the option of hunting around for a hatchback instead. Bumping the budget up to fit the Sport version in your driveway is well worth it, as it has both a better resale down the road, and more flexible cargo-carrying capacity. Zippy and fun to drive, the Mazda3 is a bit tighter in the back seats than some of its rivals.

Search for Mazda3 on autoTRADER.ca

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2010 Toyota Matrix. See this listing on autoTRADER.ca

Toyota Matrix

While somewhat aged if you’re looking at a new one, the Matrix is still a solidly built little hatchback that provides Corolla-like reliability and a very flexible cargo area. One of the few small hatchbacks that actually offers a true flat-folding rear seat, it can accommodate all kinds of gear and makes for an even better trailhead explorer than something like a Subaru Impreza.

Granted, the interior is pretty plastic-fantastic, and a hard-used Matrix can soon start looking pretty scratched up and worn. Happily, the mechanicals are quite stout, and you know it’s got a long resale life in front of it, simply because of Toyota’s reputation.

This particular example is a clean-looking basic model found in Chatham, Ontario, and was possibly traded in at this Kia dealership for something like a Rio with a better feature load out. Sure, it doesn’t have much in the way of glitz, but in the needs-not-wants spirit of our two econoboxes, it’s a solid buy.

Search for Toyota Matrix on autoTRADER.ca




About Brendan McAleer

Brendan McAleer is a Vancouver-based automotive writer, a member of AJAC and a ginger.