Spoiled for SUV choice

Herald Sun - Motoring - - WHICH CAR? -

THE QUES­TION

My Mit­subishi Lancer sedan, a 2000 model, has served me loy­ally. I now want a high­rid­ing car for ease of ac­cess and to bet­ter see the traf­fic ahead. I also want the lat­est safety fea­tures. Other cri­te­ria: easy-to-use cabin con­trols and elec­tron­ics; the car must be re­li­able and not too ex­pen­sive; I want it to last 15 years. I like the size of my cur­rent car. I travel 5000km-8000km a year, in mostly sub­ur­ban con­di­tions. My bud­get is up to $30,000, and I’m happy to buy new or near-new, de­pend­ing on what you think is best. John Free, email

You have a good bud­get and it sounds as if you’re af­ter a com­pact SUV, the fastest grow­ing seg­ment of the mar­ket, so you’re spoiled for choice. The beauty of com­pact SUVs is they are about the same length as a small car but have the ad­van­tages you’re af­ter, such as eas­ier ac­cess and the bet­ter view of the road ahead. Here are our picks.

CHOICES

Mit­subishi ASX LS, $25,000 drive-away

The ASX is starting to age (it’s been out for about five years and a new model is due within the next two years). There have been sev­eral up­dates and im­prove­ments over time, so the lat­est model is qui­eter and more re­fined than the first it­er­a­tion. Best of all, Mit­subishi has been sell­ing the ASX at a dis­count — $25,000 drive-away with auto — for nearly two years. It drives well plus you get five-star safety, a five-year war­ranty and capped price ser­vic­ing (when the war­ranty ex­pires, shop around for rou­tine main­te­nance). Metal­lic paint adds $595.

Suzuki Vi­tara RT-S, $24,490 drive-away

The Vi­tara drives well, is roomy yet com­pact and the en­gine is more eco­nom­i­cal (in our tests) in real-world driv­ing than the Mit­subishi. It has five-star safety and rel­a­tively sim­ple cabin con­trols in­clud­ing Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto. The price is sharp too, at $24,490 drive-away for an auto (you only need the 1.6 petrol model, avoid the dearer turbo). Metal­lic paint adds $495. The Vi­tara’s war­ranty is three years but this can be ex­tended to five if you ser­vice it with Suzuki ac­cord­ing to the maker’s sched­ule. Ser­vice in­ter­vals are six months (ASX is 12 months) and that works out dearer.

WILD­CARD

Holden Trax LS, $25,000 drive-away

The Trax isn’t the best in its class, though it’s one of the best for its price in my opin­ion. It’s just had a facelift — there are no me­chan­i­cal changes but it gets a new nose and cabin up­grades in­clude Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto and a new touch­screen. The en­gine is a touch thirsty and noisy rel­a­tive to newer ri­vals. The spa­cious cabin has large win­dows for good out­ward vi­sion. The base Trax with auto has been less than $25,000 drive-away for nearly two years. Be sure to get the facelifted car, rather than the run-out ver­sion. War­ranty is three years, in­ter­vals are nine months but ser­vic­ing is cheap.

VERDICT

I re­gard the ASX as the best value in the class. Don’t get up­sold to a dearer model at the deal­ers, as the $25,000 petrol auto is all you need. Forgo the metal­lic paint and that’s $5000 from your bud­get to spend else­where.

HOLDEN TRAX MIT­SUBISHI ASX SUZUKI VI­TARA

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