This is the page where I post honest reviews on vehicles you maybe thinking of buying or give you a new perspective on something you hadn’t thought about. In each review, I will look at the Good, the Bad, the Essentials you need to know about the car in question, the Alternatives that closely match the car on the market, and my overall Verdict with a score out of 10.
Twin coupe’s from two different car companies? That’s right, Toyota and Subaru worked together to develop this popular model. Besides a minor front grill difference, they are basically the same car, so let’s take a closer look.
Out of Ten
Toyota 86 (Scion FR-S)/Subaru BRZ (2012-2020)
- Cool, slick retro design
- Rear wheel drive makes steering and driving a breeze
- Plenty of space in the boot – especially with rear seats folded down
- Great safety rating for occupant protection
- Hold their value due to popularity
- Plenty on the market
- Idling can be rough and cause occasional stalling due to how the car was driven in its first hundred miles which was recorded by the cars ECU (Electronic Control Unit)
- Low seats mean it’s harder to get in and out of – something to think about when doing it on a regular basis
- Rear seats ideally only for shopping or the family dog as legroom is non-existent
- Visibility can be an issue on the ‘Aero’ model which has a big rear wing on the trunk
- It isn’t a quiet car
- Not the lowest value used car on the market to buy
Ensure the model you’re looking to buy hasn’t been abused, as a lot of these have been used for either ‘drifting’ or thrashed on the streets. Tell-tale signs are rear wheels that are nearly bald and worn out while the front tires are near to new. Look at the rims for chips or kinks around the edge as these portray many tire changes in a short amount of time, as well as obvious curb-rash from poor parking. Check the exhaust for wear and tear, and excess or odd noise as this usually means holes which need to be fixed (or replaced with a new exhaust). While you’re at it, inspect the undercarriage and suspension as this car sits low on the road and is more prone to speed bumps, curb and road damage. Take a good look at the service history and ask if the correct oils were used at each service as this helps prolong the life of the car.
Hyundai Veloster (2011-2021), Mazda Miata MX-5 (Third & Fourth Generation 2011-2021)
A thorough check!!! It is essential to get a full report on the condition before taking any sale further. These cars are notoriously known for street drifting, even with lower mileage, and it’s easy to get carried away in the moment, but be practical and avoid one if it doesn’t stack up. Having said that, rear seat space is pushing it at a squeeze, but you’re buying a two-door coupe – it’s not meant to be a family car, it’s meant to carry two people in comfort – exactly what this car does well. It handles well, has street appeal, and comes in many colors with after-market racing stripes or without. Now all you have to worry about is which badge to go for – the Toyota or the Subaru?
If you’re after a fearless, sturdy off road 4WD SUV, then look no further. One of the forebears of 4 wheel drive history, the Nissan Patrol has a proven history of off road capability, with ample space for camping equipment, fishing gear, and a large ice cooler or two.
Out of Ten
Nissan Patrol (Fifth Generation 2005-2016)
- Plenty of cabin and boot space – it’s almost a tiny house on wheels
- Rugged and ready for off road adventure
- Different seated space divisions with split-fold ability in the second and third rows
- The 4 cylinder, 3 liter diesel option has more economy and better performance
- Great for towing heavier loads like caravans or horse floats
- Big areas of undercarriage and under-the-bonnet space making it easy to work on
- A solid, reliable long term option
- Available in 2 and 4 door wagons, and in a 2 door cab chassis
- There are social media fan groups dedicated to the Patrol, and they offer great insights or advice if needed
- Gas guzzler – the 6 cylinder, 4.8 liter or the 8 cylinder, 5.6 liter petrol engines will go through the gas like anything. Be sure to keep an extra tank of petrol in the back
- A lot of the earlier models lacked in creature comfort, safety, and updated features while contemporaries like the Toyota Land Cruiser kept up and put out new models each year or two
- Not built for city driving
- Parking could be an issue on inner city streets
- Automatic transmission can be temperamental at times
Make sure when looking to buy a Nissan Patrol that you check for any off road abuse. This involves a thorough check under the vehicles chassis all along the bottom as well as the wheel axles. Suspension is also a crucial check, so make sure to look at the spring mounts for cracks. Keep an ear out for any rattles or squeaking from the front end, and noises from the manual gearbox as you move through the gears.
After a long days travel or off-roading, let the engine and turbo (if it has one) cool down for a couple of minutes before turning the engine off.
Toyota Land Cruiser (2005-2020), Mitsubishi Pajero (earlier models until 2006 unless imported)
If you’re looking for top notch comfort or the latest in technology, then look elsewhere as this isn’t that sort of vehicle. Unlike the trend towards city orientated SUV’s, this is a tried and tested straight forward 4 wheel drive that is aimed at the adventure-driven person for going off road, towing caravans, or hauling boats. As long as you get a thorough check done, and that the vehicle has a proven, comprehensive service history to show it has been treated well, you should be able to pick up an older model with even a few more miles on the clock that will last you a few years more as long as you keep it well maintained.
Want a car that turns heads? Then look no further. This classy, chic Audi A5 coupe has plenty of space, reliability, and is still being made today.
Out of Ten
Audi A5 Coupe (2007-2016)
- Solid, well-built Audi design
- Comfortable quality interior, and enjoyable to drive
- A variety of engine sizes to choose from
- Cabriolet option available
- Six airbags for great safety
- Quattro versions offer more control on slippery roads
- Turns heads – expect compliments on your ‘nice wheels’
- Great adjustable seating position with adjustable steering wheel height and reach
- Wind, road, and engine noise is kept low due to the well-insulated interior
- Large trunk that will swallow up a couple of suitcases and rear seats fold down
- Plenty of space in the front seats
- 2.0T (Turbo) has great fuel economy
- Comes with parking sensors and rear parking camera
- Check out no less than 10 speakers that accompany the stereo…enough said
- Available as a four door coupe as well for extra rear passenger seat space and accessibility
- Like most two door coupes, there is limited head and legroom in the rear seats – but it’s a coupe!
- Visibility from different angles can be hard
- Not as reactive as a BMW 4-Series on steering, but still a safe and solid car
- Cabriolet version only comes in a soft top
- Not the fastest kid on the block, but get the top end 6 cylinder 3.2 liter version, and you’ll feel some power underfoot – even if it costs a little more in fuel
Sit in the drivers’ seat (which is quite low) and check out all angles from the rear view and side view mirrors to decide if you can confidently handle and park this beauty. Also, do your research on the various engine sizes, body kit and accessories, and which model would suit your driving style. Make sure if buying a convertible to test out the soft top, and when down, check out the room left over in the trunk for luggage or shopping. This car comes with a great stereo and 10 speaker system, so make sure you test it out, checking all speakers work and are in awesome condition.
Mercedes Benz CLK Class (2007-2010), Mercedes Benz E-Class (2010-Present), Infiniti 350GT (2003-2007), and the BMW 4-Series (2014-Present)
While there are coupes around that react faster, the Audi A5 has nailed it when it comes to stylish good looks, luxurious comfort, and being a safe, solid choice – due to the great Audi reputation for producing quality cars. Having driven on the Autobahn, I have experienced first-hand how this car can open up to great speeds. In fact, most of the fastest cars on the Autobahn were Audi’s. When you think about it, how often would you really be taking a car to the limit – especially when there are so many speed restrictions in place. Take one for a test drive – you won’t regret it.
We still see many examples of this well-produced car on the roads, and this sturdy little beast is fun and reliable. Aside from a few little niggles, as hatchbacks go, this is one of the better choices on the market.
Out of Ten
VW Golf (Fifth Generation 2004-2009)
- Common service items such as brake discs, pads, oil and fuel filters tend to last longer than other rivals in this group
- User-friendly, comfortable interior quality is better than its contemporaries
- The updated multi-link rear suspension makes the handling fun to drive
- Popular model meaning there are plenty on the roads and plenty of parts around
- Seats four people easily and comfortably, but five is pushing it unless they are wafer thin
- Reliable and easy to navigate into parking spots
- You can choose from the economical 1.6 liter or more spirited 2.0 liter petrol engines, or the 1.9 or 2.0 liter turbo diesel versions. Or if you’re cashed up, go for the sporty GTI Pirelli
- Manual drivers have the choice of five or six speeds, a six speed automatic with tiptronic shifting, or a six speed DSG auto shifting manual
- Awesome safety rating featuring front, head, and side airbags
- The Golf comes with traction control, emergency brake assist, and ABS braking
- Available in three or five door hatchback versions
- The six speed DSG version is prone to problems such as erratic changing and changing to neutral at the worst possible times such as passing another car or taking off on hill starts
- The 1.9 liter turbo diesel engine not only sends a lot of vibration through the pedals, but can be noisy as well
- Door handles and locks are known to fail and can cost a few hundred to fix
- Check window regulators work smoothly, as these are known to fail
- Can be expensive to fix if major mechanical problems appear
Make sure you get a VW specialist mechanic to check it out thoroughly before purchasing. They will know what problems to look out for when conducting a pre-purchase examination and test drive. One of the common problems of a misused Golf is the cracking of the rear springs. It’s not a major problem or too expensive to fix with the right mechanic, but if you notice a creaking sound when driving, or it appears to be sitting low at the rear, then this will most likely be the problem.
If you are thinking of purchasing a model with the DSG gearbox, then get it thoroughly assessed for the problems mentioned above in ‘The Bad’ point ‘1.’.
Ensure all the service records have been kept up regularly and that body is in good condition. Check tires for curb scratching and poor driving.
Ensure you follow and fill up with the recommended ‘Premium Unleaded’ for petrol models, as using lesser, cheaper petrol alternatives can cause serious internal damage to the engine.
Ford Focus (2004-2011), Toyota Matrix/Corolla (2003-2008), Chevrolet Astra (2004-2010)
While the Golf’s nearest rival (the Ford Focus) is just as fun to drive, it isn’t as comfortable as the Golf. Its predecessors are proof that this engineering classic is here to stay.
The BMW i3 is an electric car with head-turning, futuristic good looks. It has great eco-credentials and is a must for anyone looking to purchase a second hand model. Just be aware you will pay more for the pleasure compared to other electric cars on the market.
Out of Ten
BMW i3 (2013-Present)
- 100% Electric cars don’t need constant engine and radiator checks and top ups
- Great for the environment
- Quiet compared to a combustion engine
- The updated model released in 2016 can travel up to 186 miles on a single charge
- Fun, funky, and spacious interior
- Smooth, powerful take off
- Charging stations are popping up at shopping precincts everywhere so you can partially charge while you shop
- Also available with a range-extending engine (REx version) but then has an engine also
- The rear ‘coach’ doors open backwards allowing more space to get in or easy access to adjust the front seat and pack/unpack shopping with ease
- The owner’s manual has a ‘worst case charging scenarios’ section – an essential read!
- Low running costs
- Great technology
- Recycled materials have been used for the interior panels
- Range is only 80-112 miles on early models (2013-2015)
- If you like the grunt of a powerful engine and exhaust, this isn’t the car for you
- If left sitting for long periods of time, the overall battery life can diminish
- Back seat passengers can’t open the doors easily
- Unlike petrol powered cars that take minutes to fill, electric cars like the i3 take hours to fully charge depending which model year and battery pack strength you are looking at buying
- Be aware you will need to purchase a level 1 or level 2 iWallbox electric car charging station at your home which can set you back a couple of thousand dollars with installation and labor included.
- Some states also require a permit which costs anywhere from $50 to $200 as well.
- Charge range drops considerably in cooler weather
- The i3 has a lightweight carbon body shell which if damaged needs a specialist repairer
While there is no engine or radiator, or all the traditional elements used in combustion cars, you still need to do a thorough check of the tires, steering, and undercarriage before you consider putting a deposit down on one.
You need to do your homework on charging times for the cars battery pack, and do some research around your living/working area and shopping centers for charging stations should you need one. Also do your research on local laws regarding permits for charging stations to install at home.
Finally check for any recalls online for the particular model you are looking at, and ensure the recalls have been addressed.
Nissan Leaf (2010-present), Volkswagen e-Golf (2015-present), Chevrolet Volt (2010-2019)
Overall, the BMW i3 has awesome futuristic city styling and an impressive interior along with ‘Green’ credentials and great visibility. The main tip I will give you is to do your research for hidden costs before buying any electric car.
If you crave attention or want your presence known, you will definitely get a head-turning reaction as you drive down the street in this cool classic.
Out of Ten
Infiniti 350GT / Nissan Skyline Coupe (2003-2007)
- 6 cylinder engine with plenty of grunt
- Dirt cheap to pick up for a high performance car
- Features front, side, and curtain airbags (curtain airbags deploy from the ceiling)
- Has a timing chain instead of a rubber belt, so no need for regular replacement
- You can find either leather or fabric optioned seats on the market to suit your preference
- The ride quality is more comfortable than most of its rivals
- Great responsive timing – easy for overtaking
- Twin rear exhaust tips that produce an awesome throaty rasp
- Cool coupe styling
- Thirsty on fuel, cruising well only on Premium Unleaded
- Limited visual range and poor visibility out the back window making parking difficult
- Headlight covers susceptible to yellowing and becoming cloudy lessening night visibility
- Tight space in the rear seating area unless you want the sedan version
- High cost to insure as they consider it a high risk sports car
- As imports, the Sat Nav and DVD Player are only in Japanese (Good if you speak it)
- High risk to be stolen
- Prone to be pulled over by the cops
- Expect to drop down into the seats as they sit low compared to most cars
- Rear seats are small – not so great for taller or wider people
- If the timing chain ever needs replacing, it’s a costly exercise due to the removal of most of the equipment from the engine bay to get to it
You will need to check the smoothness and alignment of the doors opening and closing and the door hinges themselves for wear and tear. Check service history and get a professional mechanical check done for signs of past damage as these were known for being ‘thrashed’.
Audi A5 (2007-2013), Mercedes Benz CLK-Class CLK240 (2002-2010), BMW 3 Series 335i E92 (2004-2013)
Overall, this machine has real street presence with an engine to match. It handles well, has all the bells and whistles for its age, and is a cheap sports car/coupe compared to a lot of others on the market. Factor in the cost of insurance when laying out your hard earned cash, and if your only option is to buy an import (some countries like New Zealand and Australia), take into account the infotainment will be in Japanese and it’s hard to get any radio signals without buying a band expander.
Want something reliable and affordable with comfort and luxury touches? Then look no further. There are a variety of shapes and the convertible models come in extra fun colors.
Out of Ten
SAAB 9-3 (Second Generation 2002-2010)
- Smooth, comfortable driving in city or interstate travel
- Back seats fold down in the sedan and hatch to allow for more storage space
- Reliable and responsive – known especially for their 2.0 Turbo
- Also available in a convertible with more color options
- One of the cheapest entry level luxury cars on the market
- Has a unique aircraft inspired interior
- Tons of boot space in the trunk of the sedan, hatchback, and wagon
- Excellent handling gripping the road and taking corners with ease
- Heated seats with height and spatial adjustment
- Great fuel economy for this class of vehicle
- Quiet engine
- Key ignition is in the center console reducing the possibility of someone reaching in to take your keys or turn off the car
- Has a timing chain instead of a rubber belt which won’t need to be replaced for many miles
- Not the easiest to navigate under the bonnet. Replacing a headlamp bulb takes some effort
- Any major service should be done by a mechanic who knows how to service a SAAB
- Not much room in the trunk of the convertible
- SAAB no longer exists unfortunately
SAABS are value for money, so keep an eye out for one with low mileage.
Keep your SAAB serviced regularly and it will last you many years in comfort.
For someone who used to change cars three times a year at one point, I have been driving this little beauty for more than five and a half years now without the need to look elsewhere.
Volvo S40 or S60 (2004-2012), Peugeot 407 (2003-2010), Alfa Romeo 156 (1997-2005)
I have thoroughly enjoyed the ride and luxury perks the SAAB 9-3 offers. The turbo engine is great to use when needed, and its sporty good looks haven’t dated it like other cars. You’d be hard pushed to find another car that’s value for money for a luxury brand.
If you love the unique design and interior features of this little fashion statement, this could be the car for you.
Out of Ten
Fiat 500 (2008-Present)
- Great styling
- Easy to park
- Corners well
- Comes in a variety of fun colors and limited editions
- Plenty on the used car market to choose from (but they get snapped up quickly)
- Receptive to city driving or country cruising
- Visibility is fantastic
- Second hand parts are easy to find
- Plenty of room in the front seats to get comfortable
- Great car to learn and become confident with driving
- Boot space is a bit tight (although the back seats fold down for extra space)
- Rear seat leg space is even tighter (unless you want the not-so-cute 4-door 500X)
- Not as economical as some of its rivals (but still better than a mid-size car)
- The 1.2 liter perhaps not as gutsy as the 1.4 liter or the 0.9 liter turbo
- The 1.3 liter diesel model can cause issues and is noisy in comparison
- Its light weight can be an issue in icy or snowy conditions
Condition is the number one focus here
Being such a small car, if it’s been in an accident, the overall stability and safety will be easily compromised
Check the pedals for wear as this is a sign of a car that has been thrashed
When test driving, do a sharp u-turn where safe to check for any knocks or odd noises in the steering
You maybe a little confused when first searching for one of these gems as there are a few different versions. The 500 is the main overall model, but then you get the ‘Pop’ (which is the basic model in some fun pastel shades), the 500C (which stands for Cabriolet or Convertible), the ‘Rock Star’ (which usually comes in a 2 cylinder 0.9 liter turbo engine), the ‘Sport’ (which has a 4 cylinder 1.4 liter engine, rear spoiler, and fog lights), and the ‘Lounge’ (which comes with Bluetooth, a leather bound steering wheel, and a glass roof). If it’s a brand name to match your wardrobe, then go for ‘by Gucci’, the 500C ‘Collezione Fall/Winter Edition’ or 500C ‘Dolce Vita’. There is even a 2020 Giorgio Armani model coming out. If you want one with ALL the bells and whistles however, this will cost quite a bit more, and it has its own brand name – ‘Abarth’ in either a 500, 595, or 695 model with 1.4 liter turbo engine. There are more variants and editions, so it’s well worth checking them all out.
The obvious alternative and competitive rival (even back in the 1960’s) is the Mini (2002-Present), the Ford Ka (2008-2016), and the Volkswagen Up! (2011-Present)
If you’re after a car for one or two, then this is a great car to own. It’s awesome around bends, and picks up really well on the 0.9 liter turbo and 1.4 engine models. I drove around England on open roads and in city driving, and I would recommend test driving one at the very least. People I’ve spoken to (and I agree) who own one say it’s such a fun car, stylish and a head turner, and puts a smile on their face. It would easily accommodate a stylish dog like an American Eskimo (German or Japanese Spitz) to sit on the back seat staring out at the world around it – laugh out loud.
Have your heart set on a Mazda RX8?
Ever wondered why the Mazda RX8 is so much cheaper than its predecessor, the RX7?
Well, I’ve done the hard yards and found out what makes the RX8 dance to a different beat.
Out of Ten
Mazda RX-8 (2002-2012)
- They are excessively cheap to buy compared to the previous RX7
- It has an awesome design like no other
- It has extra half doors either side to help people or shopping get into the back seats
- Has a light, agile chassis
- Lockable rear seat mid port to the trunk
- Ideal for Manual drivers
- The updated model 2008-2012 has increased acceleration and performance
- It’s a thirsty beast requiring oil and petrol on a more regular basis
- The shelf life of the rotary engine is much shorter than a combustion one
- Seats won’t hold you through corners, so replace with the R3 version seats
- No cruise control
- It has a different rotary engine to the RX7
- Automatic version provides more problems and is sluggish
- Not overly fast (you wouldn’t want to drag race anyone)
- You may lose your phone down the gap between the seat and back
- While there is room for cargo, the opening is quite narrow to get luggage in
Remember to have funds to top up the liquids
A piggy bank fund for the eventual rebuild of the motor
Let the car warm up when you start it and let it rest when you’ve turned it off
Check oil levels at least once a week if you are driving daily
A tell-tail sign the engine is wearing out, is by the oil smoke coming out of its exhaust
When buying, ask for the service history and how the car had been treated
Also check the pedals and seats for wear and tear (the seats because of the jolting about from side to side if it’s been raced hard)
The cost of a newly comprehensive rebuilt motor will set you back thousands of dollars (or pounds). In fact, a friend of mine had his engine done for a total cost of US$4,500 (or 3,500 Pounds if you live in England). This price did however include a new engine gasket kit and manifold, rotor bearing, oil pump and filter, new street port, water seal kit, apex seals and springs, resurfaced housing, new e-shaft, new front and rear irons, and a new clutch. This list doesn’t cover everything, but gives you a general idea how big a job it is, and how much you need to put aside – unless of course you buy one that has had this work done recently (within the last 6,000 miles or 10,000 km’s) and all the paperwork has been provided.
Check out the Alfa Romeo GTV or GT JTS, Nissan 350X, Audi TT, Mazda MX5 Roadster Coupe, BMW 1 Series 135i Sport, Hyundai Veloster, and Chrysler’s Crossfire. All have combustion engines.
Looking to buy a Mazda RX-8, then think again. If you sincerely want to learn the intricacies of how this rotary engine works and have pots of cash to top up the oil, then it should last you a few years. However, more often than not, these rotary engines don’t last the distance, and are a costly exercise to replace. Also bear in mind it takes a specialist mechanic to do the work as well, and they don’t grow on trees. In fact, it would be wise to research where in the state or country they are and roughly how much it would cost to replace. Always check the service history and ask if the engine has been changed (and by whom) if the mileage is high, even before checking it out in person. Budget is usually a key factor when purchasing a car in this price range, so check out one of the combustion engine alternatives listed above as a comparison if you’re after a cool looking sports car before handing over your hard earned cash.