Spoiled for SUV choice
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.
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.
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.
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