Qualities like performance and fuel efficiency take a backseat to reliability and value-for-money for the majority of aspiring car owners.
This was according to a survey commissioned by The Straits Times and completed by research company Nexus Link in June.
In the door-to-door poll, 501 Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 18 to 35, who do not yet own a car, were given four choices on which to spend $100,000 on.
They were a new Korean hatchback, a one-year-old Japanese sedan, a three-year-old seven-seater and a five-year-old BMW.
Out of 501 respondents, 499 cast their votes.
The Japanese sedan was the top pick with nearly a third of votes, followed by the new Korean hatchback.
The seven-seater had just over a fifth of votes, while the BMW had a fifth.
It has always been my dream to own a car. A car gives me some recognition. I find public transport rather uncomfortable.
UNIVERSITY STUDENT TANG KAI LENG
Among those who said they would go for the year-old Japanese car, value-for-money was cited as the top reason (35 per cent). A new car depreciates by about 20 per cent in its first year.
Reliability was almost as compelling a reason (34 per cent), while fuel efficiency - a trait commonly associated with Japanese cars - was a low-priority reason (4.6 per cent).
Of those who picked the new Korean car, the sheer appeal of a new car was the top reason (62 per cent), with reliability a distant second (21 per cent). Fuel efficiency also ranked low (7.8 per cent).
As was to be expected, family needs and seating capacity emerged as the overriding reasons among those who picked a seven-seater.
More surprisingly, those who said they wanted a five-year-old BMW as their first car cited brand, image and design as reasons for their pick. Performance, along with efficiency, was the lowest consideration (4.6 per cent), despite BMW's reputation for being performance-oriented.
And few among the respondents mentioned safety as a consideration.
Commenting on the findings, Nexus Link chief methodologist Jack Loo says: "Although most youths still adopt a utilitarian perspective towards car ownership, many also see the car as a status symbol."
The car choice poll was part of a larger survey on attitudes towards car ownership among the young.
It also found that two-thirds of the 501 people polled aspired to own a car, despite the prohibitive cost of doing so and despite the Government's big push to get more people to use public transport and non-motorised forms of commutes such as cycling and walking.
University student Tang Kai Leng, 21, says: "It has always been my dream to own a car. A car gives me some recognition. I find public transport rather uncomfortable."