Times are tough – buyers settle for more affordable cars

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Used hatchbacks like the VW Polo Vivo are more in demand today than they were three years ago.

Much has changed since the Covid-19 pandemic hit. In the case of car shopping trends, there has been a significant move from more expensive to affordable cars.

According to AutoTrader data, there’s a stark contrast in car advert viewing trends between the July 2019 pre-pandemic and July 2022 post-pandemic periods across three main age groups (35 to 44, 45 to 54 and 55 to 64).

Affordable cars in the form of hatchbacks are amplifying their presence, the sedan looks to be sticking it to the SUV and some double cab bakkies are even losing traction.

“Ad viewing behaviour shows an increasing appetite for more cost-effective and fuel-efficient cars, signifiers that speak to affordability,” says AutoTrader’s CEO George Mienie.

Advert views demonstrate interest for one car, segment or feature.

One thing has not changed across all age groups, and that’s the car that consumers are most interested in. That accolade goes to a locally-built double cab diesel bakkie; the robust and reliable Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6.

35 to 44 year olds

Still, in 2022 in the younger 35 to 44 age group, costlier and thirstier Ford Ranger XL and Wildtrak bakkies lost the appeal they had in 2019 as more affordable cars like economical Volkswagen hatchbacks gained more traction.

Most viewed adverts in July 2019

  1. Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6
  2. BMW 3 Series 320i
  3. BMW 3 Series 320d
  4. Volkswagen Polo Comfortline
  5. Ford Ranger XL
  6. Toyota Hilux 3.0D-4D
  7. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C180
  8. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C200
  9. Ford Ranger Wildtrak
  10. Volkswagen Golf GTI

Most viewed adverts in July 2022

  1. Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6
  2. Volkswagen Golf GTI
  3. Volkswagen Polo 1.0TSI
  4. BMW 3 Series 320i
  5. Volkswagen Polo Vivo 1.4
  6. Volkswagen Polo GTI
  7. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C200
  8. Toyota Hilux 2.4GD-6
  9. Toyota Hilux 3.0D-4D
  10. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C180
The Polo GTI remains as popular as ever.

45 to 54 year olds

A similar scenario plays out in the 45 to 54 age group.

More affordable cars like hatchback did not feature in 2019 viewings, but in 2022, three more VW Polo variants – the 1.0TSI, GTI and Vivo 1.4 – emerged. While the Ford Ranger XL made the 2022 cut, XLT and Wildtrak siblings ran out of gas as did the large luxury SUV, Toyota Land Cruiser Prado VX.

Most viewed adverts in July 2019

  1. Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6
  2. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C180
  3. BMW 3 Series 320i
  4. Toyota Hilux 3.0D-4D
  5. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C200
  6. Ford Ranger XL
  7. Toyota Land Cruiser Prado VX
  8. Ford Ranger XLT
  9. Ford Ranger Wildtrak
  10. Volkswagen Amarok 2.0-litre

Most viewed adverts July 2022

  1. Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6
  2. Volkswagen Polo 1.0TSI
  3. Volkswagen Polo GTI
  4. BMW 3 Series 320i
  5. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C200
  6. Toyota Hilux 2.4GD-6
  7. Volkswagen Polo Vivo 1.4
  8. Toyota Hilux 3.0D-4D
  9. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C180
  10. Ford Ranger XL

The demise of the sedan and its replacement by the SUV has been an ongoing narrative. However, viewing patterns tell a very different story.

Across all age groups, not a single SUV makes an appearance in 2022, while the luxury sedan has either mostly held ground in the younger age groups, or is making a comeback, as it is in the 55 to 64 year old age group.

55 to 64 year olds

2022 viewings in the 55 to 64 age group feature three premium sedans – the BMW 3 Series 320i, Mercedes-Benz C-Class C180 and C200 – against the single Mercedes-Benz C-Class C180 in 2019.

The BMW 320i have made a strong comeback among more mature buyers.

These luxury sedans with their refined ride and superior level of comfort are particularly appealing to more mature buyers.

Though featured in 2019, popular family SUV the Toyota Fortuner 3.0D-4D, and the Prado VX, failed to make the 2022 cut.

The 2022 list features more affordable cars like the Polo 1.0TSI and Polo Vivo.

Most viewed adverts in July 2019

  1. Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6
  2. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C180
  3. Toyota Hilux 3.0D-4D
  4. Volkswagen Polo Comfortline
  5. Toyota Fortuner 3.0D-4D
  6. Ford Ranger XLT
  7. Toyota Land Cruiser Prado VX
  8. Ford Ranger XL
  9. Ford Ranger Wildtrak
  10. Volkswagen Amarok 2.0-litre

Most viewed adverts in July 2022

  1. Toyota Hilux 2.8GD-6
  2. Volkswagen Polo 1.0TSI
  3. BMW 3 Series 320i
  4. Volkswagen Golf GTI
  5. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C200
  6. Toyota Hilux 2.4GD-6
  7. Volkswagen Polo Vivo 1.4
  8. Ford Ranger XL
  9. Mercedes-Benz C-Class C180
  10. Toyota Hilux 3.0D-4D

What is striking across the board is the almost singular preference for locally-built vehicles. There’s an absence of imported vehicles apart from just three: the much-loved Golf GTI performance hatch, the Prado, and the premium VW Amarok bakkie.

However, the hefty SUV and posh bakkie no longer feature in 2022 views.

The Citizen