Back in July, we picked what we felt were South Africa's best cars for under R125 000, but it was never our intention to leave it at that.
Our Best Buys series returns this month and this time the spotlight shines on the fancier side of the small hatchback neighborhood. Here the hatchbacks tend to be more modern and are intended to be more than just A to B commuting devices that you'd think of in the same light as a washing machine.
Our team of five motoring journalists at the Independent group have never reviewed a washing machine or tumble dryer (although some cars have blurred those boundaries), but between them they have been behind the wheel of almost every new car on the market.
To democratically elect the best hatchbacks on sale for under R200 000, each was given 40 points to divide among no less than five and no more than eight of the cars in the price range above R125 000 but below the 200 mark.
When the scores were tallied up, five cars rose to the top:
1 - VW POLO
The top scorer, by a narrow margin, was Volkswagen's locally-built Polo.
A great all-rounder, the Polo's classy looks continue inside the cabin, where it's well-built and looks and feels like a far more expensive car.
It also performs better than its engine outputs would suggest and it is satisfying to drive in almost every respect.
It's a feel-good car in so many ways and the Polo is also safe, with EuroNCAP having awarded it a five-star safety rating and a 90 percent score for adult occupant safety.
Most of the models in the range fall below the R200 000 mark and our pick is the 1.6 Trendline. Buyers must just beware of its deceptive list price of R176 100. Once you've added the air conditioning and radio, which is a given, the actual retail price is R189 960.
Service intervals are pegged at 15 000km, and you'll have to pay extra for a service plan (R7864 for 60 000km) and the warranty is valid for just three years or 120 000km.
The Polo might be the best car, but the steep pricing does work against it and if you are seeking more features for less money, the two Korean cars on the podium will probably be more up your alley…
2 - KIA RIO
Like its Korean sister brand Hyundai, Kia has been launching some very attractive new products of late and the new Rio is a case in point.
The latest hatchback is stylish, safe (five-star EuroNCAP with 92% for adult protection), roomy and refined and it doesn't come with an exorbitant price tag.
The 1.4 hatch is the one to go for (at R164 995) and it comes well kitted with air con, electric mirrors and windows, six-speaker sound system and alloy wheels. We would have preferred a 1.6-litre engine option, but the 1.4 still delivers reasonable steam with 79kW and 135Nm on tap.
However, one of the downsides that prevented the Rio from taking top spot was that it performed poorly in the latest Kinsey parts pricing survey. The only consolation is that it does at least come with a four-year/60 000km service plan and five-year/100 000km warranty.
3 - HYUNDAI i20
Despite being a bit smaller than the Rio, the Hyundai i20 remains a popular choice in the segment and with good reason.
Besides offering an easy and comfortable drive for a reasonable price, the recent facelift has given it more sculpted look from the front. It's actually quite spunky.
Both the Fluid and Glide models offer good value for money and come with features like Bluetooth connectivity, front and rear electric windows and even rear park assist. Sadly, the 1.6-litre engine has been dropped from the range, but the 73kW/136Nm 1.4 does a good enough job and is mated to a six-speed gearbox.
Prices start at R164 900 and this includes an industry-best five-year/150 000km warranty as well as a three-year/60 000km service plan. The i20 is also a member of the five-star EuroNCAP club.
4 - FORD FIESTA
Like the VW Polo, the Ford Fiesta is priced well above its Korean rivals, but that can't completely take away from the fact that it's one of the better cars on the block.
We suspect most buyers will be attracted into the fold by its bold, sporty styling but what attracts us most is that the little Ford is more fun to drive than anything else in the segment.
It isn't lacking on the comfort front either and safety is in good order too, the Fiesta being worth a five-star EuroNCAP rating.
There are just three models to choose from below R200 000 (1.4 and 1.6 Ambiente and 1.4 Trend) and we'd say the 1.6 Ambiente offers the best value in relative terms. All models also come with a four-year/60 000km service plan and four-year/120 000km warranty.
Early next year the Fiesta will be treated to a facelift and engine upgrade so you might want to hold out for that one.
5 - HONDA JAZZ
If you're looking for a pair of sensible shoes then you're not really going to do any better than the Honda Jazz 1.3 Trend at R159 900.
Not only does it come with Honda's rock-solid reputation for reliability but if you have a young family you'll also like the fact that it's the roomiest car in the segment, thanks to its MPV-like design.
Though nothing extravagant is on the menu, the Trend model does come will all the basic comfort and safety features and its 73kW/127Nm 1.3-litre i-VTEC 16-valve engine delivers acceptable performance, even at altitude.
By no means the coolest car in the parking lot, the Jazz is still a very sensible buy, complete with a five-star EuroNCAP rating, although its 78 percent adult protection score is below that of its rivals here.
The Jazz also lacks a standard service plan, so you'll have to fork out for that every 15 000km. The warranty is valid for three years or 100 000km.