Best cars to buy under $45k

by Nathanael Peacock

Whatever your reason for buying a new car, there are plenty of options for those on a budget. We've rounded up some examples for those of you looking for an upgrade on your car.

Here are our picks for the best buys around $40,000.


2016 Mazda MX-5 Roadster 2.0L Manual

$38,654 drive away*

Picture indicative only - actual vehicle may differ. Picture source:

Imagine an open, winding road meandering through the hills of Victoria's iconic Great Ocean Road. The MX-5 is the car you want to be driving.

With the top down and the wind in your hair, this is motoring at its best. The MX-5 has gone back to its fun-to-drive roots for the fourth generation. The light two-seater roadster has always been high on the list for thrill-seekers, but the new model now has sharper, more aggressive looks to go with its nimble handling. It's also quite practical and can fit into most people's lives as an everyday drive.

The MX-5 has been around for more than a quarter of a century, with over one million sold around the world. The 2016 model has also just taken out the World Car of the Year and World Car Design awards. Quite the vote of confidence.

If you're into a sportscar but looking for a solid roof, take a look at the Toyota 86. Or for the kid-racer in you, Ford's Focus ST has big power in a four-door hatch.


2016 BMW 118i Sport Line F20 LCI Auto

$42,894 drive away*

BMW car
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With around $40,000 to spend, you're on the doorstep of the luxury market - premium quality, without the premium price tag. The obvious contenders are the big three German manufacturers: Audi, Mercedes and BMW. Where the BMW 118i differs though is rear-wheel drive, setting it up as a well-balanced driver's car. What you'll get is a seriously well-equipped four-door hatchback that has real attention to detail and a feeling of quality throughout.

The 1.5L turbocharged engine is impressive, and when paired with the eight-speed automatic transmission, is fuel efficient - an important consideration as it runs on premium ULP. It also comes with a five star ANCAP Safety Rating for the safety conscious.

For a step down in price for an entry-level luxury car, have a look at Audi's A1 range. Or if you're after something more affordable, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is a perennial favourite.


2016 Ford Mondeo Ambiente MD Auto

Petrol $39,320*

Ford car
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For those who need more space than a hatch, there a few different ways you can go. SUVs are proving a popular option for many, while the traditional Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon are taking their last gasp. Interestingly, it's the Ford Mondeo that's being touted as the replacement for the big Australian family-friendly car.

While it's not as large as the Falcon, the wagon version of the Mondeo has ample room for most families and comes with a host of improvements.

The Mondeo is for people who spend most of their time in the city, but need the ability to pack in the family for longer trips. It's also capable of the occasional expedition into wilder terrain.

If you're after something more rugged, the Subaru Outback might be a better fit.


2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i-S S4 Auto AWD

$44,068 drive away*

Subaru car
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There's been an explosion in 4WD and SUV offerings but Subaru is still regarded as one of the best. The Forester is a seriously capable car for the money and will please all but the most hard-core drivers - higher expectations come with a higher price tag. It's a great all-rounder and, given it's a permanent All Wheel Drive vehicle, has impressive fuel economy, especially the diesel version.

Similar to its softer sibling, the Outback, the Forester also makes a great family car with the harder edge when it's needed.

Nissan's X-Trail, the Toyota RAV-4 and the Mazda CX-5 are also nice options at this price point but the Subaru Forester gets our vote - its extra off-road ability gives you more opportunity to explore.

*Listed prices are a guide only and on-road costs will vary depending on your state or territory. Contact your local dealer for more information.