Looking for a used car around five years old? Here are some models from 2015 that I happen to like, from four manufacturers.
BMW 3 Series
BMW makes some outstanding automobiles, no question. But for driving pleasure, value, and accessibility, the 3 Series takes some beating.
The base version was actually less expensive than the smaller 1 Series, and you could get the 3 in a wide range of body styles and performance levels, including a lovely touring wagon and cabriolet.
There was also all-wheel-drive availability and BMW still offered something many other upscale manufacturers seem to be walking away from: a manual gearbox.
As ever, the in-line six-cylinder engine is a model of refinement and civility; even in base trim, it has more than enough oomph around town and is superb on the highway.
Within the 3 Series lineup, if I had to choose, I would go with the Coupe, which gets my vote as one of the smartest looking cars on the road. This is a stunningly beautiful automobile, cleanly styled and loaded with presence and panache.
As ever, BMW’s 3 Series is one of the strongest lineups in the industry.
Runner-up: Z4 roadster.
Kia Optima Hybrid
This is a fine-looking automobile. But throw in the fact that it has a smooth and thrifty hybrid drivetrain, and it becomes even more attractive.
Around town, the Optima Hybrid will return fuel economy of less than 5.0 litres/100 km. On top of that, this is one of the few hybrid models that does not feature a continuously variable transmission (CVT). It has a conventional six-speed automatic transmission and that makes all the difference when it comes to driveability.
No wonder it’s won a handful of awards since its introduction, in 2011, including the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada Best Family Car over $30,000.
Equally important, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has this one on its Top Safety Pick list for 2013 and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives it a five-star safety rating, the best there is.
With the same engine as a Toyota Corolla and the dimensions of a small mini-van, this box on wheels is as handy as a tool box. Fold the seats down and you can carry almost 12 cubic feet (339 litres) of cargo.
The very definition of urban cool, the xB has also carried home its share of awards, including a Best Buy recommendation from Consumer Reports and the highest ranking possible from marketing researcher J.D. Power, for initial quality and vehicle dependability. Not to mention a bunch of safety kudos from the NHTSA and the IIHS.
And as a bonus, it can be enhanced with various Toyota Racing Development accessories, such as alloy wheels, stabilizer bars and a big brake kit.
Toyota Prius V
Toyota is all about practicality and nothing is more practical than a Prius.
Toyota actually classes this one as a station wagon and in addition to delivering the best fuel economy in its category, the Prius V is also the roomiest. It can be had with a plethora of convenience features, including leather interior, heated seats, backup camera and so on.
While far from being a hot rod, the V offers more power than any of the other Prius in Toyota’s stable and makes a decent highway cruiser while delivering a remarkable 4.8 litres/100 km fuel economy. It’s almost redundant to add that Natural Resources Canada has awarded the Prius its ecoEnergy award for fuel economy 12 years running.
But here’s the best part: since its introduction in 1999, the Prius has also proven to be one of the most dependable automobiles on the road, hybrid or otherwise. That’s why so many cab drivers choose them.
Runner-up: FJ Cruiser.
Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).