JOHANNESBURG - Owning a reliable car is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity, especially as more employers need graduates to have a reliable mode of transport. 

Some of the key factors to consider include fuel efficiency, value for money and reliability. Buying within your means does not mean compromising – even the smallest of cars come well equipped.

You could consider WesBank’s Graduate Finance offering that has competitive interest rates. Other banks offer competitive finance plans too, so shop around and test drive one of our four favourite cars for students and graduates:

The Graduate's Choice 1 - Hyundai Atos

The new Hyundai Atos is looking to take the fight to the popular Datsun Go and the upgraded Renault Kwid. While we appreciate them for what they offer, Hyundai’s latest arrival impresses us the most with its road manners, suave styling and no-frills approach.

The 1.1 Motion, which at R159 900 is not the cheapest new car, aims to offer the best quality and luxury at the price. It’s surprisingly well stocked, with the standard features list including a 17.8cm touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

The standard multi-function steering wheel is also a surprise addition. The car comes with comfort and safety basics like front electric windows, central locking, manual aircon, rev counter, dual front airbags and ABS brakes.

On the downside, it achieved a two-star adult occupant safety rating in its GlobalNCAP crash test.

The Atos is powered by a 1.1-litre, four-cylinder normally aspirated petrol engine, which musters 50kW and 99Nm.

It should prove economical,with Hyundai claiming fuel consumption of 5.7 litres per 100km. 

The Graduate’s Choice 2 - Kia Picanto

Some might say the Picanto is too old, but that doesn’t mean it’s not class leader.

We love the Picanto for its quirky styling and wide range. The entry-level models are appointed just well enough to not make you feel too cheated out of spec, and the range-toppers comes with everything you’d expect to find in more expensive C-segment vehicles.

Our pick of the Picanto range is the 1.0-litre entry level start model because it’s so affordable for what you get that you needn’t look elsewhere in most instances.

Powered by Kia’s venerable engine and gearbox, you can trundle along with 49kW and 95Nm, all the while sipping unleaded at a leisurely rate of less than 5l/100km.

The entry level car offers manual air conditioning and a driver’s airbag, but you won’t get ABS, which can get tricky in the rain. You can spend a little more for a mid spec and gain electric windows, a funky audio system and larger wheels. At the top of the range you can expect keyless-entry and start and Apple Carplay support.

There are many models to choose from, and with a leading warranty you can rest assured you’re covered in the unfortunate event of a mechanical breakdown.

Kia Picantos are among the cheapest vehicles to insure and service which will go a long way in keeping costs at bay.

The Graduate’s Choice 3 - Mahindra KUV100

It's not going to win best-dressed at the graduation ceremony, but it’s going to make an impression.

The Mahindra KUV100 offers bold styling, rugged engineering and an array of model choices, depending on the amount of features you’d like in your car.

With prices starting at R142 999 for the entry level KUV100 Nxt 1.2 G80 K2+ (yes, it is a mouthful), rising to R234 999 for the range-topping diesel K8 variant, you will be hard pressed not to find one in your budget and to your spec requirement.

The KUV100 works thanks to a reliable engine and drivetrain. The mid-spec models are the best in terms of value for money, coming with electric windows, aircon and ABS, but it’s the range-topping diesel that’s ideal if you can afford it.

Powered by a turbocharged 1.2-litre turbo-diesel engine, there’s enough torque (albeit in a narrow band) to keep the sailing smooth on the highway. In fact, if you drive the diesel KUVs with a reasonably light foot, you will achieve sub-5 litres per 100km.

The Graduate’s Choice 4 – Ford Figo

The Indian-sourced Ford Figo has been a hit in South Africa ever since it arrived in the early 2010s.

Whereas the previous generation Figo was the old Fiesta, the latest is a purpose-built compact B-segment player that’s sold in droves on the sub-continent.

It offers a new 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine with 88kW and 150Nm.

It’s the right choice if you want to hold onto the car you buy now for a little while longer – it offers more space and flexibility than the other cars in this feature.

Ford also strengthened its case for the Figo case further this year with a new feature-packed Titanium model, so you can really buy one with loads of “big-car” features if you have the budget.

The best thing about the Figo is that Ford has avoided the temptation to go the turbocharging route, although the engine is powerful enough to provide decent performance even at Gauteng elevations.

My colleague, Jason Woosey over at IOL Motoring, agrees that this is a perky little car, “and one that’s also fun to drive, something I’ll also attribute to the off-beat three-cylinder soundtrack, which is delightful in this Figo”, he says.

We want the range-topping Titanium, but you won’t go wrong at the entry level if that’s where you can afford to shop.

The Figos come with electric windows in the front, and the Titanium lets you pair your smartphone for full hands-free integration.

It’s not the lightest on fuel, however it’s so much fun to drive and such an engaging vehicle to live with at this price point that you might end up hanging onto it and passing it down a generation or two.

Drive360