Why settle for a basic small car if similar money could get you something that will make you smile?

You’ve decided that it’s time to upgrade your car, but, according to the CHANGECARS finance calculator, your income limits you to the R 250 000 to R 300 000 price range. That translates to a monthly instalment up to R 6 000, provided you don’t take any balloon payment option and qualify for an interest rate around 13.5% over 72 months. Should you buy a new basic small car and get the advantages of a fresh warranty and service plan for this outlay, or should you rather get something older but more interesting and fun to drive?

We looked at various used options in this price range listed on CHANGECARS, and came up with these enticing alternatives. These cars are all enjoyable in their own ways, and offer something different in a sea of small SUVs and hatchbacks, but some caveats apply to each choice in this list. If you’re not overly bothered by these concerns, these cars will all put a smile on your face without carrying an excessive entry price.

1. Audi A5

You could get an older A5 far below our target price bracket, but those examples should rather be avoided due to their very high mileages. Look for a 2014-up A5 with the 2.0 TDI with around 100 000 km on its odo instead, as the later (facelifted) models have been thoroughly debugged and should be fairly trouble-free for a while yet. If you need space for a family, the A5 Sportback is very practical, spacious, and attractive, but the coupe body looks even better. Many were also optioned with the uprated Audi MMI infotainment system which offers most of the functionality we demand in the modern era.

Opting for the 2.0 TDI makes sense on various levels, with outstanding fuel efficiency and plenty of effortless torque being the star attractions. This engine is also pretty robust, and even the final, upgraded third-generation "0AW" version of the Multitronic CVT used in later examples has a good reputation for longevity. The even more robust S-Tronic DCT was available with the quattro AWD system, but those cars tend to be too pricey to fit within our budget limits. In all cases, check for a complete service history, with those important engine- and transmission services carried out as required. Add an extended warranty to the deal when you sign on the dotted line just in case something big does go wrong.

Get a beautiful new or used Audi A5 in this excellent selection on CHANGECARS.