Best small car under $35,000

Solid results in design and function and on the road gave the Volkswagen Golf 90 TSI Trendline an unassailable lead in this year’s awards.

Golf earned top marks for safety and environment and almost perfect scores for comfort and ergonomics, thanks to comfy but enduring seats and switchgear that falls easily to hand. Performance shares top billing with the Mazda 3 diesel and the Mitsubishi Aspire as best in class.

Volkswagen is on a roll, as evidenced by the number of best cars award categories the company has won in the past couple of years. One of the secrets to its success has been the excellent handling characteristics VW has been able to incorporate across the range.

Little wonder then that Golf’s handling and ride package is matched only in this category by the sports version of the Ford Focus, with the pair achieving identical on-road scores.

The jewel in the crown is the car’s 1.4-litre inline, direct injection, turbo-petrol engine. Volkswagen has done a great job of matching the seven-speed DSG to the engine’s power delivery, with crisp shifts all the way through the gears. One minor failing is the DSG’s lack of smoothness in engagement as the car moves off.

Australia's Best Cars Best Small Car under $35,000 VW Golf 90 TSI Trendline

Manufacturer’s List Price: $27,490

Criteria out of 10 – VW Golf 90 TSI Trendline


Value for Money   Rating 
Pricing  5C
Depreciation  7M
Running Costs  4M
Fuel Consumption  8C
Warranty and dealer access   5M
Insurance  6L
Standard Features  7M

Design and Function   Rating 
Safety  10C
Environment  10C
Comfort  9M
Space  7L
Practicality  6M
Ergonomics  9M
Build and Finish  9H

On the Road   Rating 
Performance  9M
Ride  9M
Handling  10M
Braking  9H
Smoothness and Quietness   8L

Note: Level of weighting importance for each score: L = Low, M = Medium, H = High, C = Critical.