Five small cars for Hongkongers who can no longer afford electric vehicles

BMW’s Mini Cooper outstyles rivals as KIA’s Morning upgrades and Ford’s Fiesta flaunts award-winning engine

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 July, 2017, 7:31am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 10:04pm


Smaller cars make more sense in Hong Kong. After all, they are now comfier, easier to park, cheaper to run and pollute less. Electric versions are arguably even more eco-friendly, but higher taxes have made them more costly here since April 1. So, here are five little gas guzzlers for eco-minded or budget-conscious Hongkongers who can no longer afford to buy electric vehicles.

The new Mini Cooper (from HK$273,800/US$35,000) is arguably the best small car in Hong Kong. Volkswagen fans might point to the safety of the new Golf, but the Mini Cooper rewards fresh graduates and delights grannies with a compact look, a more pedestrian-friendly bonnet and short overhangs – and good all-round visibility for traffic and parking. Its 1.5-litre, three-cylinder Mini TwinPower Turbo engine delivers 136 horsepower and 100km/h in under eight seconds, the marque says, and that is probably all the power anyone needs in increasingly crowded Hong Kong. This Mini is also hip, with chrome-ringed headlights and an attractive, gadget-friendly dashboard for music and Bluetooth hands-free functions. The marque now offers optional head-up display, changeable ambient lighting and a range of driving modes, from Green to Sport “if you feel like burning some rubber”. The 1,085kg three-door’s fuel consumption is about 4.5 litres per 100km for 105g/km in carbon dioxide emissions. Go for the saloon version in Hong Kong until Mini improves the rear view of its convertible’s hood.

The 1.5-litre Toyota Spade (US$179,480) is boxy and seems tinny and cheap, but it might make space for tall people and fat dogs. Dealer Crown Motors presents the Spade as an affordable drive for active youngsters, but this 3.99-metre poor man’s multi-purpose vehicle might do for oldies who largely drive on quieter roads and potter to out-of-town shopping hubs such as Sai Kung, Tai Po or Mui Wo. The Spade’s weird door design might even work in town because the sliding door on the pavement side is wide, just 300mm off the ground and more inviting to people with limited mobility. There are two normal doors on the driver’s side, and the Spade seems spacious in the back when the front passenger seat folds forward into a table. Bigger people might test the lean-back substance of the rear seats, however. The Spade seems a gentle 107hp drive with 16-valve VVT-iE engine that has a stop-start system and consumes about 4.5 litres per 100km. The dashboard’s plasticky, but it will do for trips to the vet and Sai Kung.

In 2015, the Hyundai i20 (from HK$168,000) won both the Golden Steering Wheel and the Red Dot car design awards but still seems just another South Korean car in Hong Kong. It is worth a second look. Dealer Hyundai Hong Kong’s website reveals the i20 as an attractive five-seater and a potentially comfortable commute. Fitted with a 98hp, 1.4-litre engine and a four-speed automatic gearbox, the 4.04-metre hatchback promises 100km/h in about 13.2 seconds and consumes a combined 6.4 litres of petrol per 100km for 149g/km in CO2 emissions. The car offers lots of storage, connectivity and an attractively blue-lit dashboard – and could be the hatchback to watch as rising interest rates affect household motoring budgets.

KIA’s new 1.25-litre Morning seems more comfortable, more fuel-efficient and safer than its predecessor, but do not be seduced yet by its price. Available in two models, the Morning LX (HK$108,000) and the Morning Sport GT (HK$128,000), the compact has a bolder front, new cabin materials and more leg and headroom on 15mm longer wheelbase, at 2.4 metres. The third-generation model is more comfortable with better soundproofing, fully adjustable headrests and a 250-litre boot that can fold back to a competitive 1,010 litres. KIA has upgraded the previous Morning’s 1.25-litre multi-point injection engines with new friction-coated piston rings, better timing and power tweaks up to 82hp and 122Nm of torque. As a result, the latest Mornings run smoother and with 2g/km less CO2 at 104g/km, the South Korean marque says. KIA has worked hard on the new compact’s safety, with stiffer roll bars, tighter steering and “double the proportion of advanced high-strength steel compared to the outgoing model”. The 3.6-metre compact also has six airbags and active stability, braking and optional tyre-pressure-monitoring electronics. Impressive, but let’s see how the Morning performs in international crash tests.

Until then, you can spend similar money on a low-mileage, second-hand compact with internationally rated five-star protection. Look for a Volkswagen Golf or Polo, or the one-litre Ford Fiesta, which was offered online this week for under HK$100,000. They are worth a look because the Fiesta’s three-cylinder 998cc 1.0 EcoBoost has just won the International Engine of the Year awards’ Sub-one-litre category for the sixth consecutive year. The block offers combined fuel economy of 5 litres per 100km and 114g/km in emissions with 123hp and 170Nm of peak torque. This 3.98-metre compact might make a difference to your household budget and offer more protection from Hong Kong’s distracted, tailgating Instagrammers on highway commutes.