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Hello,

I'm a foreigner living in Shanghail, about to buy my first car here. I'm looking for a cheap, small family car with a bit of nip that will be fun to drive whenever I manage to flee the congestion here. Must be manual transmission (I really dislike the feel of automatics).

I've been a bit disappointed with the range of cars on offer here -- I know that China is still a developing market, but I thought that since it was developing so rapidly, there would be more choices than my home country (the UK -- a fairly small market by all accounts).

The fact that each foreign brand has two separate JVs is a little annoying as you have to traipse to two separate dealerships to see their full line of cars.

Even worse, many of the options seem to only be available on the automatic variants, which is disappointing. Also, the base engine sizes seem to be smaller than their overseas counterparts.

I'd like to keep the price below RMB 13,000 or so.

Here is the shortlist we have come up with:

- Chang'an Ford Focus 1.8 Coupe. Fairly basic (sunroof only available on the much more expensive 2.0 model), but well built and solid drive.

- Chang'an Mazda 3. Not sure about this one as supply seems to be a bit limited, and the dealerships are a little odd. I love the 'Mazda look', but seems a bit light and plasticky.

- VW-FAW Bora 1.6T. This seems to be weird -- it doesn't seem to exist overseas. I think it's equivalent to a last-gen Jetta, but I can't find any reference to a 1.6 turbo -- only a 1.8 turbo. I think this would be fun to drive, assuming the 1.6 is not under-powered, and it looks 'ok'.

- Toyota Corolla 1.6. this seems to be very good value for money at around RMB 110k, and seems well-built, but it is less exciting than the other options. Reminds me a bit of the countless Santana taxis, albeit better built. Overseas it seems that the Corolla marque has been replaced by the Auris... is that true?

I'd appreciate any subjective opinions on these, or other options I might not have considered. I'm not sure of the relative quality of customer service between the brands / dealerships here, which Chinese JV partner has the best reputation for quality, or which has the most readily available spare parts. Also no idea on the relative crash safety results, or how those translate to Chinese-produced variants.
 
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