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Looking for Korean value? 5 family cars you should see for under €15k

Korean makers traditionally offer low prices and great warranties. Here are the models to look at.

Image: DoneDeal

IT WASN’T ALL that long ago that mentioning Korean cars made you think of unappealing exterior designs and basic interiors with rock-hard plastics in models that drove with as much excitement as automotive white goods.

Yet in a remarkably short space of time, brands like Kia and Hyundai have turned things around – becoming some of the most popular brands among Irish buyers and genuine rivals to the more established European and Japanese makers.

Helped by lower prices and longer warranties (in the case of Kia especially), this week we look at some of the best Korean family cars that you can buy with a budget of €15,000 or less.

1. Kia Sportage (2010-2016)

Source: DoneDeal

While you can pick up the older first-generation Kia Sportage models for between €2,000 and €4,000, the more popular (and significantly better) second generation models from 2010 to 2016 provide the most choice in the used market.

However, the popularity of this model has helped to keep residual values high, with most still hovering close to our €15,000 budget. From the family car perspective, it has a reasonably spacious cabin and a slightly higher seating position. The boot is a decent size at 564 litres and can be increased to 1,353 litres by folding the rear seats down.

The most popular engine by far is the 1.7-litre diesel – there was a more powerful 2.0-litre diesel sold, but in smaller numbers.

This car scored a full five stars in its Euro NCAP test in 2010, and again in 2015 with the newer model.

2. Hyundai ix35 (2009-2015)

Source: DoneDeal

If the Kia Sportage doesn’t quite appeal to you then its cousin, the Hyundai ix35 might. This compact SUV replaced the older Tucson (though the Tucson name was resurrected for the ix35’s replacement), and brought with it noticeable improvements in looks, interior quality and driving dynamics.

It’s not what you’d call exciting to drive but it gets the job done easily, and the cabin is sturdy enough to survive busy family life.

It isn’t quite as large inside as the Kia Sportage, with only a 465-litre boot. The ix35 uses essentially the same engine as the Kia Sportage as they are part of the same automotive group, and like the Kia, some ix35s also feature a 2.0-litre diesel engine. If you are just doing regular everyday driving and don’t tow trailers, then the smaller engine should provide adequate levels of power.

3. SsangYong Korando (2011 onwards)

Source: DoneDeal

SsangYong is ‘the other’ Korean brand that’s sold in Ireland, having been reintroduced a few years ago following an absence of several years. The Korando (not to be confused with the Korando Sports, which is a very different pickup) is the company’s alternative to the Kia Sportage and Hyundai ix35/Tucson.

Looks-wise it isn’t all that bad until you get up closer to it. The interior on the very latest models has seen big improvements, but slightly older models in the used market aren’t quite as impressive.

On the road, it drives reasonably well, and has a powerful enough 2.0-litre diesel engine, though it doesn’t have the same refinement as others in the segment. A newer 2.2-litre engine is in more recent models, but is only marginally better.

If the Korando had a much lower selling price it would make more sense, but when new they are priced similarly to much better rivals. It wouldn’t be our first choice, but the newer SsangYongs aren’t as bad as when it was last in Ireland.

4. Kia Optima (2012-2016)

Source: DoneDeal

Many may consider the Kia Optima to be more of a company car than family car, but it does have its merits in both departments. It has a spacious interior with generous amounts of passenger space both front and back along with 505 litres of boot space.

Up front, the dashboard on first-gen models is a bit Saab-like, which many people will either love or hate! It uses the same 1.7-litre diesel engine that powers the Sportage – however, it’s best to choose the manual transmission as the automatic had much higher emissions and therefore is more expensive to tax.

One additional word of warning to those with small children: the rear window line is quite high, making it difficult for little ones to see out of which can result in dreaded travel sickness.

5. Hyundai i30 (2012-2017)

Source: DoneDeal

The Hyundai i30 is a cheaper alternative to hatchbacks like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. It might not have quite the same levels of desirability, but it’s a competent and generally reliable car that has enough versatility to satisfy most people’s needs.

The majority of used models have the 1.6-litre diesel engine, and this came in three power outputs over the model life, ranging from 110 to 136hp.

While the latter may be more appealing, the 110hp version was the most fuel efficient and concedes little in the way of overall performance. There is quite a good selection in the used market, so it’s worthwhile shopping around to find the best examples.

More: Looking to buy Japanese? 4 family cars you need to see for under €15k>

More: Looking for a great family hatchback? 3 must-see models that often get overlooked>

About the author:

Dave Humphreys

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