Upside to upscaling
My wife has been very happy driving her Volkswagen Golf TSI but feels she needs to change to a car she steps up into, rather than dropping down on to the seat. I have a BMW X3 but she finds it too large to drive. We saw the new Toyota SUV and were wondering what other models you would recommend. We are considering Mazda, Hyundai and Toyota and want reliable, no-fuss driving, as she only uses it for shopping. Geoff Briggs The bad news is no baby SUVs drive quite like the Golf. With their higher centre of gravity, smaller proportions and less powerful engines, they aren’t going to feel as sporty. Nor are they going to provide her with any more luggage space — for Golf money, you will get an SUV based on smaller underpinnings. The good news is the latest generation of Japanese and Korean miniSUVs suit city driving and will deliver reliable, fuss-free driving. Save money and stick with front-wheel drive versions. Kia and Hyundai don’t have an entrant in the baby class yet but we’ve included Hyundai’s Tucson as a wildcard as there are some attractive drive-away deals.
Toyota C-HR, from about $30,500 drive-away The funky-looking Toyota isn’t cheap — and an automatic transmission adds $2000 — but it is well equipped. Standard gear includes automatic emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane keeping technology and blind spot monitoring. The cabin looks up-market and it’s roomier than most. The engine won’t feel anywhere near as lively as your Golf but it gets the job done, though on premium unleaded. Servicing costs are among the lowest available, at $600 over three years. Mazda CX-3, from about $23,200 drive- away The most obvious advantage over the C-HR is the price. The cheapest Neo variant of the CX-3 starts at roughly $7000 less than the Toyota (auto costs $2000). A bit of a bare-bones prospect, it has none of the safety gear available on the Toyota, not even geting a reversing camera. It’s also noticeably smaller and not as refined on the road, although the engine has more grunt than the C-HR. A new model is due soon and it would be well worth waiting if the CX-3 suits your taste. Servicing is expensive at $1398 over three years.
Honda HR-V, from $26,990 drive-away Before you get too excited about the price, which is for the auto, the current deal on HR-V is for 2016-build models while stocks last. They must be delivered before the end of this month as well. The deal includes an extended five-year/140,000km warranty, five years’ roadside assistance and a $500 voucher. The HR-V cabin is cleverly laid out and well finished, with modern looking dials and plenty of room in the rear seats, which fold to liberate a generous load space. It drives well, too, although servicing is expensive.
Hyundai Tucson, from $27,990 drive-away If you’re looking for the most metal for the money, the Tucson is hard to pass up. It’s a whole size larger than the others here and that means more cabin space, more grunt and more comfort. The Tucson will feel the closest to your VW in the way it drives, too; it feels planted and assured through the corners. There’s Apple CarPlay (no Android Auto, though), a reversing camera but none of the Toyota’s driver assist tech.
The Mazda and Honda are closest to the Golf on price but miss out on equipment available on the Toyota, making the C-HR the pick of the tiddlers. For sheer value, though, the Tucson is the pick.