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Herald Sun - Motoring - - WHICH CAR? -

My wife and I want to trade in our 2012 Kia Op­tima Si. We looked at nu­mer­ous small to medium SUVs, then put all the spec­i­fi­ca­tions on a spread­sheet. Now we’re more con­fused than ever. We don’t mind new or 2016 model-year demon­stra­tors to a max­i­mum of $30,000 be­fore our trade-in, and I would like some power, with a min­i­mum five-year warranty and capped-price servicing. We have looked at — and like — Haval, Jeep Chero­kee, Ford Kuga, Ford Es­cape or new Holden Trax with three years’ free ser­vice and six years’ warranty.

Nun­zio, email

Your ques­tion is a com­mon one be­cause so many peo­ple are mov­ing to medium SUVs. But there is no sim­ple, one-size-fit­sall so­lu­tion. Top-end con­tenders are the Volk­swa­gen Tiguan and Mazda CX-5. The Trax is a no-no and the Kuga is ruled out, as it has had a sig­nif­i­cant up­grade and is now the Es­cape. We’re still wor­ried about the re­li­a­bil­ity of Jeeps and their Aus­tralian sup­port. But one thing is cer­tain — noth­ing beats an old-fash­ioned test drive. You can look at spread­sheets un­til your eyes glaze over but even a short run will show you things you love about your con­tenders and what you can live with­out.

CHOICES Kia Sportage, from $28,990

The long­est warranty in the busi­ness, seven years, ticks a big box and it has capped-price servicing. The Sportage is also quiet and com­fort­able, has sus­pen­sion that’s great for Aus­tralia and comes from a brand you al­ready know, whose deal­ers are keen to ne­go­ti­ate.

Haval H6, from $29,990

It’s sur­pris­ingly good and makes sense on price and fea­tures, is well built, also drives quite well, but … here’s the thing, there are too many “buts” with this un­proven Chi­nese brand, in­clud­ing a miss­ing safety rat­ing af­ter only four stars for the ear­lier H9.

Ford Es­cape, from $28,490

Ford has made a worth­while im­prove­ment this year with this re­turn to the Es­cape badge. The warranty is short at three years and the Es­cape is hardly a stand­out in such a packed field. It hand­ily trumps the Trax but that’s not good enough when oth­ers are much bet­ter.

WILD­CARD Mazda CX-5, from $28,690

Still not the warranty you want, three years, but the CX-5 is just about bul­let­proof. It’s just been re­newed with a sharp start­ing price, so don’t ex­pect any deals this early in the model life. First class in ev­ery area in­clud­ing re­fine­ment and qual­ity.

VER­DICT

The Sportage is def­i­nitely the one to beat. It’s a top choice with a great rep­u­ta­tion. Take a test drive in the new CX-5 to sat­isfy your cu­rios­ity — but the Sportage is our win­ner.

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