Amongst a wash of world-famous motor shows, high-profile sponsorships and celebrity endorsements, many underrated cars fly under the radar. We (along with a bunch of other motoring enthusiasts) call them sleepers, and they may not be the first names you think of when you go car hunting. Thankfully, we’ve had a look around and found some quality, underrated options in a bunch of price ranges, all designed to give you top-shelf driving and features without the mark up that comes with paying for a name badge.
Skoda Octavia RS
Hails from: Czech Republic
Actually made in: Czech Republic, India, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine
Expect to pay: $20-25k used, $35-45k new
The Octavia RS is essentially a Golf GTi in every way (and has been for a while). It has the same engine, basically the same chassis, and near equal performance, all without the price tag. Skoda have been hailed for shaking off the shackles of their Soviet-quality reputation in the 80s and 90s and are now pumping out genuinely good, severely underrated cars across their entire range.
For a family hatch with a bit of oomph, the Octavia is every bit as worthy as it’s German half-brother. Look out for the RS230 that’s dropping down under next year.
Hails from: France
Actually made in: France, Slovakia, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia
Expect to pay: $15-20k used, $20-25k New
When the 208 was first launched, it was largely overlooked amongst a flurry of Ford Fiestas and Holden Cruzes. The reaction from the market was probably fair enough based on the underwhelming 206 and 207 models that preceded it, but many critics have labeled the 208 (in particular the GTi) as an absolute triumph.
Featuring everything that made the legendary 205 so brilliant, the 208 marks a return to the glory days for Peugeot, and is a vital part of what appears to be a bit of a motoring renaissance for France.
Launched: 2013 (latest generation)
Hails from: UK
Actually made in: UK, Netherlands
Expect to pay: $20-30k used, $35-50k new (all depending on model/spec)
You probably know it as either the MINI Cooper or maybe the MINI One, but frankly the way MINI name their cars is too baffling to bother explaining. You know what a Mini looks like, and you probably know what its fat younger brother (the Countryman) looks like, so you know which one I’m talking about.
While the earlier generation always looked just a tad gormless, the newer Hatch has gained back the sporty air that made the original MINI so widely regarded as one of the cars of the century all those years ago. Definitely worth a test drive if you’re in for a mid-range hatchback. Rule Brittania.
Hails from: USA
Actually made in: Canada (lol)
Expect to pay: $30-35k used, $40-60k New
The 300 underwent a major facelift in 2012, largely to shed the gangsta vibe that it’s predecessor had become so famous for, and literally no one noticed. Just like with the old 300, the looks are going to polarise, but it retains the good old fashioned ‘Murican grunt that Chrysler have stuck with for decades.
They’re decent value as well, and have long gone underrated in Australia despite offering most of the grunt and features you’d get in a car that costs a good $15-20k more; and if you do feel like splashing out, the SRT8 will both haul and make a damn good noise while it does so.
Launched: 2011, 2015/16 model just launched
Hails from: France
Actually made in: France, China
Expect to pay: $35-45k used, $50-60k new
The DS5 (DS is actually a subdivision of Citroen dedicated to premium vehicles, the more you know) is basically Citroen’s attempt to mess with the Germans when it comes to the mid-to-high-end family sedan market, and if the reviews are anything to go by, it holds it’s own. The DS5 marks a proper return to form for Citroen, combining their classically avant-garde styling with rally-bred sporting credentials which goes back to their days in the WRC.
There’s no denying it looks great, comes with a bunch of features and also holds a pretty big trump card in that it generally sells for at least $10-15k less NEW than anything either Mercedes or BMW offer up. They’ve gone hugely underrated in Australia as a used car, and mark brilliant value.
Launched in: 2012 (latest gen)
Hails from: Germany
Actually made in: Germany
Expect to pay: $100-130k
Ah, the Boxster. The poor man’s 911, the rich man’s 350z, and the smarter man’s SLK. What you don’t get for your money is a 350z, neither do you get a 911. What you do get, should you choose to buy one, is a car that offers one of the best pure driving experiences available on the road right now. Small, light, mid-engined glory. There’s a reason every critic loves these, and despite the stigma that seems to come with the Boxster name, if you have the means there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to experience it too.
Here at Spares Box, we always try and recommend the second hand option. You get so much more bang for your buck, and as long as you’re smart about it, there’s no reason you can’t be getting a pre-loved car that isn’t as good a quality as something that just rolled out of the factory. By being savvy with your parts, you can keep your running costs down as well, so make sure you take a look on our site to make sure Spares Box stocks all the parts you might need for your next set of wheels.