Despite soaring COE prices, it is possible to snag a decent set of wheels on a budget
Cars for under $150,000 Audi A4 sedan

COE prices have more than trebled from a year ago and are not expected to soften any time soon.

Despite that, there are still a slew of cars you can buy without breaking the bank, including a couple of luxury choices.

Here are some recommendations, all under $150,000. Most of them are brand new, but we threw in a few used ones for good measure.

Audi

You can get a two-year-old A4 1.8 sedan for around $130,000. Besides its dashing good looks, the new A4 boasts three drive modes. You can pick Comfort, Auto or Dynamic by just pushing buttons. Each selection moderates the car’s damping, throttle and steering characteristics. It is almost like having three cars in one.

Go to Audi Approved Plus, the authorised Audi agent’s used car division.

BMW

A six-month-old 320i for $142,000, a sumptuous two-year-old six-cylinder 325i for $129,000 or a 16-month-old 520i for $142,000. The 5-series is not the latest model, but it is still, in our books, one of the best luxury performance sedans. Go to Performance Premium Selection, the authorised BMW agent’s used car division.

Chevrolet

The laws of the market say the so-called marginal brands do not command premium pricing. Which means they are often good value for money. The Chevy Cruz 1.6A is one such example. At $83,999, it is more than $10,000 off the tag of an equivalent Toyota Corolla.

Citroen

This is an ignored French marque that makes stunningly stylish cars that are often a scream to drive. You can pick up a C3 1.6 hatch for $99,988, a funky DS3 1.6 three-door for $108,988 or a Grand Picasso for $129,988. The Picasso is possibly the most beautiful seven-seater in town and is powered by a lively 1.6-litre turbo engine.

Honda

Check out the Insight petrol-electric hybrid, which has yet to be officially launched by Kah Motor. It goes for $119,900. Need more room but still want to save the Earth? Then consider the Civic Hybrid. There are a few remaining units going for $120,900 – which is just $2,000 more than the conventional Civic. Then there is the $126,900 Stream 1.8, which is the most dynamic Japanese MPV here.

Hyundai

The sleek i45 is the Korean carmaker’s best design effort so far. At $128,999, it is a decent pick for a 2-litre mid-size sedan. Kia You get value, verve and vivaciousness with Kia’s latest vehicles – the work of former Audi designer Peter Schreyer. You can buy the Cerato Forte 1.6A for $84,999, a sexy coupe called the Koup for $96,999, a versatile Sportage crossover for $119,999 and a sizeable Sorento SUV for $139,999.

Lotus

Psst... want to buy a two-year-old Elise 1.8? You can get one for $140,000 or less. And you get a more flexible powertrain, a louder engine note and generally more go than the new 1.6 model.

Go to EuroSports Auto. It does not have a unit right now, but if you register your interest, it should be able to source one for you.

Mini

For two weeks only, Mini is freezing the price of its Mini One Stratford at $105,800 – unchanged from the rate before Wednesday’s COE spike. It is not the quickest Mini around, but it is the cheapest.

Nissan

Looking for an affordable and interesting crossover? Nissan has a few juicy picks such as the newly launched Juke, which really stands out from the crowd. The 1,618cc turbocharged variant, at $137,800, is also extremely perky and wellbalanced.

But price-wise, the $125,800 Qashqai 2.0 is probably a better buy. If crossovers are not your cup of tea, the Sylphy 1.5A is a stylish compact sedan, while the $139,800 Teana 200XL 2.0A is still a very viable contender in the executive segment.

Opel

The new Astra is a gorgeous hatch with competent handling – just the car for those who have grown weary of the all-too-common VW Golf. Competitively priced against its illustrious German rival, the 1.6A is going for $125,888. A 1.4-litre turbo due in March offers more oomph, but is expected to be slightly costlier.

Renault

The made-in-Korea Renault Fluence car has size, styling, space, comfort and a long equipment list. Best of all, it has Japanese pricing. For $98,888, you either get the Toyota Corolla or this French fare.

But if you want something with flair, how about a five-month-old Laguna Coupe for $135,800? Wearnes Automotive is selling some of its management cars and the delectable Laguna Coupe is among them. Go grab quick.

Skoda

Mr Daniel Au, managing director of Skoda agent Harvest Automobiles, is taking the contrarian view. He has cut the price of his cars despite this week’s spike in COE premiums that has sent the motor trade jacking up sticker prices.

For instance, the Yeti crossover is now $110,800 – $7,000 lower than before the latest COE swing. The Yeti may not look like much, but it offers exceptional driveability and refinement. Its 1.2-litre turbo engine has enough usable torque at low to mid revs to keep most people happy. In fact, it is by far the most pleasing among VW Group products with similar drivetrains.

Suzuki

As Suzuki’s first mid-size sedan, the Kizashi 2.4 is one helluva ride. In fact, the car has the comfort of a Camry and the handling of an A4. It is also not bad looking at all. At $138,900, it is not exactly a bargain for a Japanese car. But it is not exactly a run-of-the-mill Japanese car, either.

Toyota

It is a good time to buy a Toyota. The distributor has launched a slew of privileges that will make luxury car buyers envious. These include free pick-up and delivery of car for servicing for 12 months (with a hybrid loan car while your vehicle is in the workshop); a free stay at Marina Bay Sands resort; attractive financing (zero deposit, 1.88 per cent interest); comprehensive body protection, which includes 12-month free grooming as well as removal of minor scratches and dents; zero insurance excess; five-year unlimited mileage warranty; and one year free servicing.

Now, which model to buy? Life! recommends the Prius 1.8 or Camry 2.0 – both priced identically at $139,488. Of course, you get all the privileges if you go for a Corolla or a Yaris too.

Volkswagen

VW’s line-up is more attractive than ever before. Sharp styling, clever use of turbo and supercharging, smooth and quick multi- speed dual-clutch transmission and prices that make you scratch your head. We suggest you look at the nippy Polo Sport 1.2TSI ($106,300); efficient Touran 1.4 ($119,300); and sexy Scirocco 1.4A ($139,300).

Volvo

A two-year-old XC60 can be had for around $145,000. The model is simply one of the most brilliant crossovers you can lay your hands on, no ifs or buts.

Note: Rates in story are list or asking prices. There are probably several other choice picks out there for under $150,000, but agents were either unreachable or have not decided on new prices yet.