Looking for A Fun Daily Driver for $35k or under

Right now I just can’t seem to get past the 2016 GTI with the driver assistant package.

  • Requirements are has to be 2015 or newer.

  • Prefer automatic due to being in Sydney and the daily driving part of things, but can be convinced to go manual.

  • Under 70,000 kms

  • Has to have a bit of zip about it (was thinking about the Golf R, but might be over budget and bit too much if I wanna keep my license?)

Any advice would be appreciated because I just can’t seem to beat the GTI’s all rounder bang for buck appeal, especially the used market. Willing to have my mind changed before I buy one in the next month


  • a45 amg high yield investment

  • 2014 FJ Cruiser for offroading and beach driving.

    • Haha and now you’ve just made me decision harder ;)

      • Well, it depends what your idea of fun is to be honest. For me, a Golf has lost it's cool appeal nowadays. A proper 4x4 like an FJ (cheaper & smaller than Prado), Defender or even a Wrangler would allow you to roam freely around the Blue Mountains, so many routes to explore, go on camping trips, tow a boat trailer, head to Anna Bay north of Newcastle and go sand driving on Worimi Regional Park, sign up to a 4x4 driving club and go on training and trips with them and even get involved in SES for Search & Rescue missions. That's my idea of a fun vehicle. Your mileage may vary. 250+ hp engine, decent acceleration and built solid. Won't win any drag races but more than suitable for daily driving and plenty cargo space for shopping and events.

  • I have a 2015 VW Polo GTI - 1.8L turbo. It has zip. Mine has 23,000kms. Wanna buy it lol? It's 6 speed manual though.

    • That’s such low kilometres for a 4 year old car, didn’t drive it much?

      • First couple of years I walked to the station so didn't drive much. Now i drive to the station but it's really not that far. Other than that just general driving to get places etc. I don't really know how people clock up big kms haha. I still haven't even bought new tyres - maybe in the coming months (it's almost time).

        Great car though, it is really speedy and zippy which is great for tight lane changes etc, and just general going fast lol.

    • It's 6 speed manual though.It's 6 speed manual though.

      You say that like that's a bad thing!


      1. Less issues, less complications, less maintenance and breakdowns.
      2. More control by the driver, can stay in lower gears longer for more zoom zoom.
      3. Street-cred.
      4. Cheaper to maintain and service.
      5. You look cooler driving one handed with one on the stick.

      OP! Buy a manual.

      • The best thing is, even as a manual, it has this "hill start assist" thing, where if you take your foot off the brake on a hill, it doesn't roll back (for a few seconds anyway). Makes me feel like I have at least one perk of an automatic!

        • As someone who only regularly drives manuals, this hill start assist is something I prefer not to have. I got it for the first time a couple of months ago in a new car and it annoys me. I can't roll back anymore after overrunning or taking a peek through an intersection, and it just feels weird to not be in control.

          • @thevofa: hahahahahah yes i get annoyed in these instances too. If you wait about 3 seconds it usually will roll back, but obviously that's still not the same!

        • Wow my poverty spec 1990 Subaru Legacy had that feature. It is triggered off the clutch pedal. If you have the brake and clutch pressed, and take your foot off the brake, the car will stay there with the brake on. As soon as you release the clutch off the floor it will roll back. I just found it annoying tbh, especially reversing downhill on our driveway for example.

        • I turned that off in my 2015 focus ST as it unnecessarily added extra wear to my rear pads and discs. Unsure if it would with the GTI however. Just something to bare in mind.

          But also, get a Focus ST

      • Youngsters and many people today can't drive manual.

        • Op did not say where he lives. If he needs to drive in Melbourne or Sydney traffic then it'd best to get an auto

      • You forgot:

        6 - PITA to drive in traffic.

        • Slower gear shift times, pretty sure now also less fuel efficient, more spread out gear ratios because less gears, much less versatile cruise-control and other smart features (radar cruise control, automatic braking, etc).

          Yeah - there's a lot of reasons autos are better now, if the "zoom zoom" wasn't enough, my comment was very heavily tongue-in-cheek…

      • Why would OP buy a manual if they don't want to?

        Manuals - Annoying to drive in traffic, slower

        A modern auto is good, and will outperform a manual in nearly every aspect, except fun.

        Personally, I prefer manuals, but I love slow, bad cars, where a manual is an advantage because the auto options are sloshboxes haha.

    • Careful - you will get a warning and your comment unpublished for trying to sell in these forums (if there is any admin consistency on this site anyhow)

  • GTI with performance pack. Better brakes and diff.

    Or megane RS280. Not many second hand at this stage but if one comes up, it should be at the low $40k mark if decently optioned. (I realise it is slightly above your budget).

    If you have some $ left over, stage 1 tune.

    Plenty fun.

    • Yeah the Performance Pack is really tempting as well. Is the Megane really worth the 40k price tag? Never owned a French car before

      • I preferred the Megane RS over the GTI PP. The Megane I had did have factory Recaro, Brembo and Akrapovic so it was a bit pricier than the GTI PP.

        The biggest thumbs up for the Megane was the Recaro. TBH, I didn't care for the exhaust and the brakes were better than the GTI PP but only on track conditions.

        The GTI PP's LSD is very capable and from a practicality perspective, the GTI was better. More boot and seat space.

        Splitting hairs really. I would go Megane if I have other cars, I would go GTI PP if it will be my only car.

        • Wow thanks so much for the information mate I’ve now got 2 contenders to decide, gonna check out some RS280’s on carsales

          • @yaozy: One "issue" worth noting with Megane - as a daily driver it has rather firm suspension, not much fun on Sydney's road… It's a fun car to have, I've driven quite a few kms in it, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone as a daily driver for that reason… GTI is more sensible in that matter

    • Then after you do a stage 1 tune, save up for a stage 2 tune.

  • Commodore SS VFII

    EDIT: Changed my mind re Sydney traffic. Mazda MX-5

  • I will rule out cars like SS and XR6 Turbos/XR8 for Sydney driving.

    My best choice is probably something like a WRX or a veloster. My personally opinion is that VW just don't seem to age well from my exprience. A Ford Focus ST/RS is a worthwhile choice but only come in a manual. Likewise some cars like Volvo V40 R-Design aren't that common in Australia, so serving and parts will be considerably higher.

  • As a daily just go GTi in Auto. The Megane will drive you batty in heavy traffic as only comes in manual. That's coming from an Meg RS265 owner. The Megane needs to be unleashed, not stuck in traffic. But have a test drive of an RS though, so you can compare if possible. I'm old school and everytime I go to look for a new car I end up with a manual. For rarety get the French car as the GTi is a dime a dozen as it looks like your everyday vanilla Golf. Which everyone has.

  • 10 year old boxster. fun, uncommon, roof comes off, makes you look like a fancy boy, heaps of boot space because theres two of them

  • Around town the GTI is a better car than the Golf R. The R comes on song a little later and the haldex AWD takes some of the nippiness out of it.

    I've been driving a manual Octavia (same 6 speed gearbox as a golf) around Sydney in peak hour traffic for the past 11 years. It's not a pain. I'd do it again. You just stick it in a gear and use the torque curve. The clutch is light, the gearchange is smooth and it has anti-stall for when the brain isn't working. A lot of the time I change 1-3, 2-4, etc… because I can.

    If you get the Golf then check that the timing chain tensioner has been updated to the latest revision

    Have you considered an i30N? I haven't looked at one but a few of my car club mates have and they thought it a good thing for the money.

    • Thanks for talking me out of the Golf R I needed that haha. Yeah I’ve considered them but they’re at that stage now where they haven’t depreciated enough to be in my budget, and the manual still doesn’t appeal to me in Sydney

      • I settled on the R as my long term project car (not a resto project since it was brand new).

        What Brad said is spot on. The longer the drive shafts, the more drive shafts, the more play. All these things detract from the experience.

        Just to be the devil's advocate, I chose to live with the R because sometimes, I just want to turn my brain off on the track and AWD is a heck a lot more forgiving.

        It's also a lot more confidence inspiring in the rain.

        My daily drivers are all two wheel drives (with exception of my Ute which I can select power distribution).

        • Yeah that R with AWD seems like a whole other beast, probably not looking to ever put my car on track so maybe I stick to FWD?

          • @yaozy: It's also very nice around the bendies. You still have to learn how to brake and shift weight forward but you can hit the throttle sooner and you can hit it with less trepedation.

            The LSD on the GTI PP also makes bends a lot more fun as you can apply (more) power in the turn (after the apex of course).

            If you haven't owned anything zippy (your words, not mine), getting a two wheel drive first is advisable. People who learn how to drive on AWD tend to be very sloppy around the turns.

  • Abarth 124 or 500 series, fun and gentle on the fuel (1.4 turbocharged). 124 is a rwd good to have on drift event on track…

    • Good suggestion actually, don’t know if I like the whole roadster mx5-esque looks

  • Id look at a Hyundai i30N, its a copy of a GTI but better and reliable.

  • I30n is my vote a few on the market now for around 35k or save 10k and buy a i30n line in manual ( new) I’ve got an i30sr 2018 same as n-line minus body kit enough zip to be fun on Sydney roads

    • I30N is tempting but the impending depreciation due to being fairly new scares me away, also I don’t think I’ll enjoy it long term (3-4 years) due to day in day out driving manual in Sydney traffic

      • Brother-in-law got the i30N line premium for 36k on the road. 5 years warranty, more tech than anything else for that price point. In terms of depreciation, they all depreciate not much you can do.

        • Our family has a new N-line (non-premium) manual which we got for 24.5k. Bargain of a car and much loved.

      • One thing to consider, is that driving a slow car fast can be more fun than driving a fast car slow. I think it depends a lot on the torque curve and available power of each particular car, and it can help if they are not put together as well. But it could make a fast car a less fun purchase if you aren’t careful. It’s basically what mx5s and 86s do

        As an example, I had more fun driving my old Toyota echo than my mums bmw 3 series. The echo had less power and comfort, but good torque response at low speeds. So it’s engaging and fun and you can always keep the pedal flat. Only gets annoying when you try pushing it over 80. The bmw was nicer and had more power, but the power came on at higher revs. So you could go fast, but it felt less engaging and it the feeling of speed didn’t come through as much. 100 in that felt like 60 in the echo, so I’d always be watching the speedo.

        I recently rented a Porsche, and at lower speeds the engine felt nice and responsive, very similar to my gfs Golf 90tsi, with the dynamics of my old mx5. The difference only really came at high speeds, when you could still get much more out of it. But around town, nothing special, maybe even less fun because you have to hold back. It might be the only car I’ve road raged in because of slow drivers in front of me.

        Now we have an old Daihatsu. Slow, weak, but very fun to drive. I find myself happily driving under the speed limit while feeling like I’m going over, because you can push it and fling it around corners even at 40kmh.

        • Agree 100%. In traffic something small, decently nippy and responsive is what you want.

        • 100%. I have a shitty Toyota Yaris manual and it's fun as

        • Yup, can't agree more. Had a manual echo too for a while years back. Basically zero power, but around Sydney when you're mostly going 0-50km/h anyway, it's got enough and is so bloody light it's responsive as heck, whether from a stand-still (again, up to about 40-50km/h) or around corners.

  • Whilst manual cars epitomise fun, as a daily driver in Sydney traffic I would highly discourage it. I did manual for 4 years and ended up buying an auto for no real reason, just because my budget allowed. After that it was just a feeling of regret as to why I didnt change earlier or get an auto to begin sith. Modern autos are fantastic.

    • I’m sold then, no manual for me as long as I’m in this city ;)

      • I'll throw my complete opposite opinion in then and say that I don't understand anyone looking for a fun and zippy car that goes out and buys an auto.

        Polo GTI manual is my vote, I love mine. Then you can keep $12k+ in the bank for more "sensible" purchases (eg. house deposit)

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