These are bread-and-butter cars, but with a sprinkling of sugar that makes them a little tastier than your usual budget fare. Their motoring mission is to make basic feel fantastic for the driver, while putting a bit of fun into functionality. In other words, the three cars here are the very definition of cheap and good.
We collected the Lancer test car fresh from the oven (homologation, actually) and drove it straight into this group test. Mitsubishi has once again extended the sell-by date of its trusty GLX, repackaging it with new equipment and a new name. MR (Mitsubishi Racing) was last used by the Lancer Evolution 8 and 9 on variants with extra goodies like Bilstein dampers, BBS rims and a lightweight roof made of aluminium. Today’s Lancer MR, of course, doesn’t sport any of these niceties, but the car previously known as the GLX still has its strong points.
The Vios is the first step on the populist Toyota ladder that leads to the Corolla Altis and then the Camry. Loved by family men and “sporty” men alike, the Vios has been a hot seller for Borneo Motors since its debut in early 2007. Built properly in Thailand like its bigger siblings, the Vios is a simple, practical and affordable appliance that does what is printed on the box it comes in; no more and no less. The clean, contemporary styling and nippy performance are bonus features on top of the Toyota trademarks of foolproof operation and reliable mechanicals.
The SX4 began life as a capable hatchback with crossover ambitions, but really came into its own when it became a sensible saloon with household aspirations. Roomy (especially in the boot), refined and oozing genuine quality made in Japan, the 4-door SX4 is perfect for people who want more car than the Altis for a lot less money. The Suzuki is even more compelling in 2010 spec as tested here, which includes an upgraded engine, an updated interior and a sharper exterior, complete with side skirts and a spoiler. They even swopped the rear drum brakes for discs, at the same time fitting 17-inch alloy wheels as standard.
So which of the three cheap and good cars in this gathering offers the biggest value and the greatest zeal? Read on to find out.