Cheap Should Not Equal Unsafe

Rapid Finance on 9 May 2017

If you're in the market for a small car that is cheap and reliable, you may be considering a second-hand model to help save some pennies, particularly if you’re a first-time buyer or on a budget. While value for money may be your top priority, have you given any thought to safety features? Ooh, they sound expensive and chances are they’ve been relegated to your ‘would be nice but not essential’ list.

Consider these statistics—in 2016, more than 1,300 people died on Australian roads: 384 in New South Wales, 292 in Victoria, 250 in Queensland, 193 in Western Australia, 89 in South Australia, 38 in Tasmania, 45 in the Northern Territory, and 9 in the ACT. They are big numbers.

There’s no point choosing a car because it’s cheap and looks good if its stand-out safety feature is a seat belt and the chassis is less structurally sound than cellophane. This is where you should consider buying a new car instead of second-hand, and you may be surprised by the number of options that are priced under $20,000.

The Australian small car market is saturated, so while striking metallic paint and flashy alloy wheels thrown in at no extra cost may seem attractive, take the time to understand the important safety features each manufacturer offers. Not only will they help you be a better driver, but they’ll reduce the risk of serious injury or save your life if you’re involved in an accident.

What safety features come standard?

These days most of the popular marques sold in Australia boast a spec sheet full of safety features that come standard with their base models. Cheap should not equal unsafe, so be cautious if you’re buying a car that does not include the following as standard:

  • Five-Star ANCAP Rating
  • Anti-Lock Braking (ABS)
  • Brake Assist
  • Vehicle Stability Control
  • Traction Control
  • Airbags – the number of airbags can differ between manufacturers
  • Reversing camera and/or parking sensors

In an attempt to gain a competitive edge over their rivals, many manufacturers offer additional safety features at no extra cost, which is good news for buyers.

We’ve singled out five of Australia’s favourite small cars priced under $20,000 which come with some not-so-common safety inclusions. These are the cars you should consider buying:

Honda Jazz VTi

2016 Honda Jazz VTi Courtesy of caradvice

Image courtesy of

Whiplash Mitigation

One of the most common injuries sustained in car accidents is whiplash and it can cause serious muscle and ligament damage in the neck. To minimise the severity of this injury, Honda includes Whiplash Mitigation technology in their base model Jazz. The springs in the front seatbacks are designed to absorb the occupants impact more evenly in the event of a collision.

Emergency Stopping Signal

The Jazz also comes standard with a nifty little feature called Emergency Stopping Signal (ESS). If you brake heavily the car recognises the emergency situation and warns the cars travelling behind you by flashing the hazard lights—this helps reduce the chance of a rear-end collision.

Kia Rio S

kia rio courtesty of car advice

Image courtesy of

Hillstart Assist

You no longer need to fear stopping on a hill because Kia has included Hillstart Assist in both their manual and automatic Rios. This is a particularly useful feature if you’re a learner or recently licenced driver. Hillstart Assist prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards once pressure is taken off the brake pedal.

Impact Sensing Auto Door Unlock

While it's not widely advertised by Kia, we found a neat feature that comes standard in the Rio. The car senses when the airbags have been deployed and automatically unlocks the doors allowing passengers to escape quickly and safely.

Barina ls courtesy of holden

Image courtesy of

Holden Barina LS

Cruise Control

Hands up if you have you’ve had a speeding ticket? Cruise control isn't a new feature, but it’s a handy device that helps control your speed and avoid run-ins with the officers in blue. It usually comes standard in larger, more expensive vehicles but Holden has it fitted to their base model Barina.

Toyota Yaris Ascent

Pre-collision and Lane Departure Alerts

Yaris Ascent Beach2

Image courtesy of

While we’ve been looking at standard safety features in small cars, it is worth pointing out the option to purchase Toyota’s Safety Sense with the Yaris Ascent, which includes the Pre-collision Safety System (PSC) and Lane Departure Alert.

PSC predicts collisions with other vehicles and obstacles and triggers a series of intelligent safety features to lessen the potential impact and damage.

Lane Departure Alert warns the driver, with audio and visual alerts, when the vehicle deviates from its lane. It detects the vehicle's position to white or yellow line markings and activates the signal when necessary.

Ford Fiesta Ambiente

Ford Fiesta courtesy of whichcar3

Image courtesy of

Chassis Safety

While many small car chassis are made from high-strength steel, the Ford Fiesta boasts the use boron steel which is an ultra-high strength steel. It’s lighter and four times stronger than high-strength steel, so not only will it help protect the driver and passengers in a crash but it will save you money with improved fuel economy.

If you’re in the market for a new car, it’s well worth taking the time to research and understand what your money can buy. There are plenty of new car options no matter how big or small your budget is. Making the right choice may just save your life.

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