Finding five used cars under ten grand doesn’t sound like too big a challenge, until a “for a college student” stipulation is added.

In my mind, this adds a few requirements as the car has to be, easy on fuel, reliable, easy to park, good on gas, thrives on abuse, room for friends, room for a bike and camping gear, super fuel efficient … and look good!

So, bearing in mind the last requirement is a highly subjective one and ignoring the (no brainer) most popular car in Canada (Honda Civic), here are five vehicle suggestions – in no particular order:

BM 09 Pontiac Vibe 2

Pontiac Vibe (2010 or older): Although the Pontiac Vibe looks different, you also know this compact 4-door hatchback as the Toyota Matrix. A joint (GM/Toyota) production venture ended with the 2010 model year, as did the Pontiac brand. The resale value of a Vibe is generally lower than a same year/condition Matrix, or conversely, you may be able to buy a newer/lower mileage Vibe.

The ’09 Vibe was a second generation redesign and a slightly bigger model that came in front-drive and all-wheel-drive editions, and in base and GT trim levels. The base engine is a gas-miser 1.8-litre (132 horsepower) and a 2.4-litre (158 horsepower) engine comes in the AWD and GT models.

Fuel consumption (1.8L/FWD): 8.0/6.2 L/100 km (city/highway)

Fuel consumption (2.4L/AWD): 10.3/7.8 L/100 km (city/highway)

2009 Honda Fit Sport

Honda Fit (2010 or older): The Honda Fit is a small, but taller, 4-door hatchback that was introduced for the 2007 model year and came in DX, LX and Sport trim levels. Its seats can be reconfigured in an amazing variety of ways and there’s even a couch/bed recliner position.

The 2009 model was a second generation redesign with a more powerful 117 horsepower (up from 109-horsepower) 1.5-litre engine that’s mated to either a five-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed automatic. In the Sport edition, this automatic also comes with paddle shift gear selection at the steering wheel.

Fuel consumption (1.5L/FWD): 7.1/5.5 L/100 km (city/highway)

BM 07 Jeep Patriot 4

Jeep Patriot (2010 or older): The Patriot could also be called “Jeep Light”, as it’s an affordable, compact yet capable SUV/wagon that’s surprisingly fuel-efficient. Available in both front-drive and four-wheel-drive configurations, Jeep launched Patriot for the 2007 model year and it’s a good match of an active lifestyle young person that enjoys the outdoors.

Patriot came in Sport, North and Limited trim levels and the base engine is a 2.0-litre that can produce 158-horsepower and 2.4-litre that can produce 172 horsepower is the upgrade. The transmissions offered were a 5-speed manual transmission or a fuel-efficient CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic.

If serious 4-wheeling is contemplated look for models with a trail-rated Freedom II off-road package that adds protective skid plates, etc. The down-side is increased weight and higher fuel consumption.

Fuel consumption (2.0L/FWD): 8.9/6.9 L/100 km (city/highway)

Fuel consumption (2.4L/4WD): 9.9/8.2 L/100 km (city/highway)

BM 07 Nissan Versa - 5

Nissan Versa (2011 or older): The Nissan Versa may look small on the outside, but this four-door sedan or hatchback has an amazing amount of space on the inside. The extra head and leg room provided make it a very good match for a taller or bigger than average young person.

Versa offers seating for four (squeeze five) full-sized adults and extra-large rear passenger doors also make getting in or out easier. The lower-priced sedan comes with a 1.6-litre (107-horsepower) engine and a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. The hatchback comes with a 1.8-litre (122-horsepower) engine and a 6-speed manual, 4-speed automatic or a CVT automatic.

Prior to 2010, a base Versa didn’t come with ABS (anti-lock braking system), and electronic stability control wasn’t even offered as an option. Its electronic-assist steering has an extra-light feel and it can turn on a (10.4 m) dime, making Versa an easy vehicle to park.

Fuel consumption (1.6L/FWD): 7.7/5.8 L/100 km (city/highway – 5 Manual)

Fuel consumption (1.8L/FWD): 8.5/6.2 L/100 km (city/highway – 4 Automatic)

Fuel consumption (1.8L/FWD): 7.3/5.8 L/100 km (city/highway – CVT)

BM 06 Mazda3 - 1

Mazda3 (2009 or older): The first generation Mazda3 (2004 to 2009) set a new performance standard in the economy car segment. Sold as a four-door sedan or a (sportier) five-door hatchback, the Mazda3 has been a huge sales success in Canada.

The four-door sedan editions of this Mazda3 come with (148-horsepower) 2.0-litre engine and in GX and GS trim levels. Sedan GT and (hatchback) Mazda3 Sport come in GS and GT trim levels and with a (156-horsepower) 2.3-litre engine, with more torque at lower engine speeds.

A height adjustable, good supporting driver’s seat plus a standard tilt and telescopic steering column make the Mazda3’s driving position particularly praiseworthy. It definitely offers the best driving experience, but popularity also makes Mazda3 the priciest pick of this group.

Fuel consumption (2.0L/FWD): 8.4/6.1 L/100 km (city/highway)

Fuel consumption (2.3L/FWD): 9.5/6.8 L/100 km (city/highway)


Reviewing the attributes of these car leads me to suggest there’s at least one suitable for anybody on a budget.

Contact: bob [dot] mchugh [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

One thought on “Top 5 Student-Worthy Cars Under $10,000

    Daniel says:

    dave hJune 28, 2010i have found that the most common cause of this code is a weak o2 soesnr in the exhaust if you have not replaced this i would put a new one in they are in my opinion a maintenance item like spark plug look up near the manifold it kind of looks like a spark plug with a wire harness coming out of it.change this clear the code and see if it cures the problem if not you might have to take it to a garage to have it diagnosed good luck

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