You can buy many good cars for around RM10,000, but there are also a few rotten apples you should avoid like the plague.
Buying an old sub-RM10,000 used car does have its advantages as well as pitfalls. Without sugar coating and in general, used vehicles this cheap are usually old and have higher mileage. They will probably have some mechanical issues or even some rust lurking out of sight.
These issues don't usually bode well with conservative and cautious buyers, but if you are the type who is daring, knows your way around a car and always has a good mechanic by your side, there are often diamonds in the rough which will reward that boldness of yours.
There's not much that hasn't been said about the W124 E-Class – it's the over-engineering exercise of a generation and remains one of the most well-engineered cars of all time. More than 30 years on, it still looks the part and can hold its own in a sea of modern traffic. If you want to survive a zombie apocalypse, this is the modern classic to do it in.
The M102 inline-four and M103 inline-six cylinders in the pre-93 facelift models are still highly recommended. If you don't need the silky smooth torque of the 2.6-litre 6-pot, the 2.3-litre four-cylinder is more frugal in town but don't expect small fuel bills either way.
Most importantly, look for oil in the coolant reservoir – signs of a leaking head gasket. The front crankshaft seal and belt tensioners are other weak points of the engine. Check the air-conditioning system properly, operate all modes and fan speeds and make sure all the electrics work – these are expensive fixes. The water pump, belt tensioner and radiator should be replaced after 160,000kms.
Honda CR-V 1st-Gen
The first generation Honda CR-V was one of the first comfortable and affordable SUVs ever built. It quickly gained praise worldwide, which led to it being called the standard for an all-new lineup of compact crossover SUVs from many different automakers.
The original CR-V came with standard all-wheel drive and boasted a lengthy list of additional equipment. Even for its compact size, the first generation CR-V had a roomy rear seating area, front passenger storage bin, side-hinge rear entry, and a folding picnic table.
With a 2.0-litre (B20B), 126hp/180Nm engine being the only powertrain of choice, all first-gen CR-Vs in Malaysia did 0-120 km/h in about 11 seconds. CR-Vs with the 5-speed manual gearbox did it a couple of seconds faster, but most Malaysian CR-Vs came with a 4-speed slushbox.
The suspension setup was also impressive as Honda decided to give it a double-wishbone suspension on all four corners. This gave the SUV better stability because the tires touched the road more due to the vertical upper and lower control arms, which boosted the negative camber.
Being a Honda, the car is reliable if maintained well and most owners have had trouble-free motoring throughout their ownership of the vehicle. However, older AWD models tend to have driveshaft U-joint failures that had to be replaced with new driveshaft are they are non-serviceable.
Many have turned the CR-V into excellent adventure vehicles as it is reliable and capable of handling some rough stuff due to its AWD drivetrain.
The Kelisa was sold alongside the Kancil – with it being regarded as a slightly higher-end model. The very last of the models sold even came with Bluetooth, which clearly showed Perodua's vehicle positioning.
They were available with either an 850 cc engine or a 1-litre engine – both being three cylinders, though the latter instantly made it more potent than its Kancil sibling. You could get them with either an automatic or manual transmission, even up to the highest trim levels and options, which quickly became a rare case for a car as we approached the end of the 2000s.
Despite Top Gear UK's disdain for this fantastic little car, the Kelisa is not a car you should disregard so quickly. For one, it handles like an absolute dream with the right set of tyres on; after all, with such a low kerb weight of just under 810 kilograms, it can dance around pretty much any other car on the road once you put some decent rubber on it. The engine may only produce 64 PS, but quick gear ratios mean you can get up to speed swiftly and effortlessly.
The running costs for these cars are generally relatively low except for some items like engine mounts – but even then, we're talking high three-figure pieces, and you would only change them perhaps once throughout a five to seven-year cycle. You can fit up to 14-inch wheels comfortably, but going to 15-inch wheels would require a fair amount of massaging of the arches to prevent any fouling.
Resale value on the Kelisa has pretty much stabilized at the bottom end, so if you buy this car, you know you're never going to lose out in depreciation.
In a list of cheap but good cars, it's just unavoidable to have a couple of Peroduas, and if you want a slightly bigger and more refined car than the Kelisa then the 1st generation Myvi is the one you should go for.
Introduced to the market in 2005, the Myvi instantly captured the hearts of many Malaysians. It practically brought affordable motoring in Malaysia to a whole different level as it was spacious, stylish, and reliable. It also gave Proton a headache as the Daihatsu Sirion based car provided more practicality than the two-door Satria.
Nothing really ever goes wrong with the car and the amount of them still on the road in good condition is a testament to its build quality. They are just starting to hit the RM10k price range, so more and more are popping up on the used car market.
Not So Smart Buys
If there was ever a ludicrous reason why anyone would look into buying a Fiat Punto, let us tell you why you should not!
Although the second generation Punto set new standards for building quality for small Fiats, it still wasn't up to VW-type standards. They are marred with loose or poorly glued together sections of trim as well as mechanical problems.
With reported problems such as power steering failures, ineffective brakes as well as exhaust fumes making their way into the car, it's probably best you stay away from the Punto. Yes, there are fixes for these issues, but you'd have to find an old-school Fiat specialist to fix it.
A relatively heavy car - the Punto doesn't drive with as much zing as its competitors - even a Hyundai Getz will probably get you more excited. With these many negatives, It's no surprise that these cars are nearly extinct in Malaysia.
The Naza Ria is actually a good car. It was the first national car (if you can call it that because it's practically a rebadged Kia Carnival) to offer more than five seats, a luxurious interior and a 2.0-litre displacement (2.5 V6).
It was the brainchild of the late SM Nasimuddin and brought affordability to the MPV market. Commonly known as AG for 'Anak Gajah' (because of its 2-tonne weight), the car debuted in 2003 with a price tag of RM100k, which was around RM20k-RM50k cheaper than its competitors.
It easily fits seven adults and can reach speeds up to 160km/h without making its passengers feel like they're going to fly. It also had great air conditioning for a seven-seater which was uncommon back then.
The main problem with the Naza Ria is its engine, and once that engine goes past 100,000km, it's practically a bust. The Naza Ria engine has a common overheating problem due to a bad engine liner design. When old, it creates a small gap, thus mixing water with engine oil. When this happens, the MPV overheats which will then require it to be rebuilt or replaced.
Many Naza Ria owners plonk in a Toyota 2MZ engine when this happens. They then continue to use the car for many more years with this engine transplant method. Most Ria's sold on the used car market run the original engine or a rebuilt one. They will probably overheat in the future due to this problematic engine design.
So while RM10,000 may not sound like much to some, you still could be saddled with a lemon if you're not careful. While we applaud outright car ownership and 10k is a fair amount of money, make sure you do your research before deciding on a vehicle purchase. What's the point of having a vehicle sit in the workshop for six months of the year - unless of course, you're building a track car then it's totally fine.
Just like the Naza Kia, the Chevrolet Optra is actually a good car. At the time of its debut, many journalists wrote that the rebadged Daewoo Lacetti is a far more impressive effort than the Daewoo ever was.
The styling was very European and looked well proportioned. The interior was also Volkswagen-like in terms of build quality and design. The ride and handling were also highly regarded with some saying it had a good ride, comfortable and well-dampened. The engine was great too. It was refined, smooth and delivered linear power.
Sounds good right? Well, when it came to maintenance, the prices of the parts were horrendous. Now that Chevrolet is no longer in Malaysia, the sourcing and pricing of parts have just gotten worse. No wonder like the Punto, it is also nearly extinct in Malaysia.
While the Smart ForFour came out with a bang during its introduction in the early millennium, it would not be such a smart buy now or even back then. The Smart ForFour was introduced to the market under the might of its parent company Mercedes-Benz.
It didn't really sell well and was dropped by Smart just two years after its introduction. While its avant-garde styling still looks fresh up till today, its mechanical underpinnings never matched its looks. The car had a lacklustre engine and a very sluggish automatic gearbox, and the combo made the driving experience infuriating.
Parts for Smart cars are getting scarce in Malaysia, which also means that if you ever find it, prices are at an all-time high. Electrical gremlins were mainly reported as the most common problems of the Smart ForFour.
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