Safety on a budget: Can it be done? It most certainly can. Plenty of used cars now carry five-star safety ratings. With prices that have dropped below the magic $10,000 mark on the second-hand market, used car buyers have never had it so good. Or safe. So what are some of the bargain-priced safest sedans in Australia, most likely to look after you?
Four Safest Sedans In Australia Under $10,000
KIA CERATO (2013 – Present)
The current-shape Cerato was blessed with good timing. It arrived just at a time when the world of cheaper, compact cars was becoming increasingly safety-oriented, so, despite its modest brand-new price, it has some standard gear that a similar car of even a couple of years earlier would almost certainly have missed out on.
So, aside from the usual stability control, braking aids and six air-bags (including side-bags that covered both front and rear passengers) the Cerato also features a standard hill-start function and interfaces its ESC (electronic stability control) with the electric power-steering to offer computer-controlled steering inputs to help prevent a loss of control.
The Cerato has also proven itself reliable and durable, and owners have reported that overall running costs are low, adding to the value-for-money equation. Even insurance companies seem to admire the Cerato’s qualities, and premiums should be relatively low, stretching your motoring dollar even further.
A face lift in 2016 saw all Ceratos bar the base-model gain blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert, but our $10,000 budget doesn’t really stretch that far. Unless, of course, you find a facelift example with high-mileage or a history with a fleet operator as its first owner.
SUBARU LIBERTY (2009 – 2012)
The Liberty sedan that launched here in 2012 brought with it the usual braking, traction and stability aids. As well as plenty of passive safety tech including seven airbags, including side-curtain airbags that covered the entire length of each side of the car’s passenger compartment. That was enough to give it a five-star safety rating.
But what makes the Liberty sedan a really good choice for safety is the fact that it’s a bigger size than a lot of relatively new $10,000 cars, and more size (generally) means more crumple-zone protection.
But the real deal-maker here is that the Liberty is also an all-wheel-drive car. This gives it huge grip and is of most advantage when conditions are at their worst.
While plenty of other cars fit into the ‘safest sedans’ category and have the tech to keep you safe if a crash occurs, the Liberty has the grip to increase your chances of avoiding a crash scenario in the first place.
Beyond that, the Liberty has a great reputation for reliability and maintaining value. It’s definitely worth paying a bit extra for a Subaru sedan with a complete service history. Subaru engines are tough, but don’t like a lack of maintenance.
VOLKSWAGEN JETTA (2012 – 2017)
The sedan version of the evergreen VW Golf is a bit of an overlooked car (everybody wants the trendy hatchback), yet it has great safety credentials starting with its five-star Euro NCAP rating.
Six airbags and the braking and stability aids we’ve come to expect are joined by active front-seat head-restraints.
And while it has standard traction control, the Jetta goes one better with an electronic front differential that can sense when a front (drive) wheel is slipping and apply the brakes to that wheel, restoring full grip and control.
The Jetta also features a slightly longer wheelbase than the Golf to which it is so closely related, and as any crash-test engineer will tell you, more interior space is never a bad thing in a crash.
Although the Mark 6 Jetta we’re dealing with here was built down to a price (in Mexico) for a world market, Australian-delivered cars are still nicely presented and feel like they were made from quality materials.
But be sure to buy only a sedan with a full service history. A neglected Jetta can suffer long-term reliability hassles. An example with the manual transmission is the preferred option for those who are suspicious of VW’s double-clutch ‘DSG’ gearbox technology.
HOLDEN VE COMMODORE (2006 – 2013)
As a rule of thumb, a large car will usually perform better in a crash than a small car. It’s all about physics and it means that a bigger sedan has a bit of a head-start on a smaller one once a crash has become inevitable.
Purely on that basis, the late-model Holden Commodore VE sedan must rate as a safest sedans contender, because it’s about as much car as this budget will ever buy.
Beyond the usual active and passive safety gear, the Commodore from 2006 on also has an impressive level of grip and stability. Even though it’s rear-wheel drive, the way the V6 engine develops its power and the relatively sophisticated rear suspension combine to give loads of traction.
It also features tactile steering and is agile enough to help a determined driver avoid crashes in the first place.
The fact that this safe sedan is huge inside, also means that it’s a more relaxed place than a small sedan with a big family on board. That’s got to be a factor in driver fatigue and distraction.
A big car like this is also one of the safest sedans to use for towing. The fact that it was engineered specifically for our conditions is a pretty good indicator that it will be reliable in the long term.