The $70K top-spec seven-seaters nav­i­gate eas­ily with pre­cious cargo

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - JOSHUA DOWLING

Meet the cars for the modern fam­ily: large seven-seat wag­ons with enough height to pro­vide a com­mand­ing view of the road ahead — and to make it eas­ier to get kids in and out. Third-row seats that fold flat en­dow them with cav­ernous cargo holds for week­ends away or trips to the hard­ware store. Diesel is a pop­u­lar choice; how­ever, the top-sell­ing Toy­ota Kluger and Mazda CX-9 are petrol-only propo­si­tions, as is the new Holden Aca­dia, built by GMC and sent to chal­lenge them.

We’ve tested the flag­ships, which also hap­pen to line up clos­est on price. Here’s how they com­pare.

TOY­OTA KLUGER

The Kluger starts from $43,990 drive-away but we have the Grande AWD at $68,990 drive­away, down from its full RRP of $75,000. The ap­peal of Aus­tralia’s favourite seven-seat SUV is ap­par­ent as soon as you open the door. The in­te­rior, though it’s start­ing to look dated, is ex­tremely prac­ti­cal.

There’s a mas­sive cen­tre con­sole, large door pock­ets and glove­box, ex­tend­able sun vi­sors and air­con­di­tion­ing vents for all three rows.

Unique among this trio, the rear win­dow opens in­de­pen­dently of the tail­gate, to throw a towel in quickly.

The cabin and cargo hold are huge — over­shad­owed only by the Aca­dia — yet there is a full-size spare un­der the boot floor.

How­ever, the Toy­ota loses points on con­nec­tiv­ity. There are two 12V sock­ets and a USB port for the front row, one 12V socket for the mid­dle row, and noth­ing in the rear. The in­stru­ment clus­ter doesn’t have a dig­i­tal speed dis­play and the eight-inch touch­screen lacks Ap­ple CarPlay or An­droid Auto, although there are dig­i­tal ra­dio, built-in nav­i­ga­tion and, unique among this trio, a CD slot.

As with each ve­hi­cle tested, au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, radar cruise con­trol, blind zone warn­ing, rear cross traf­fic alert, front and rear sen­sors and 360-de­gree cam­era are stan­dard (tap a sym­bol on the screen for the over­head view). The sun­roof is above the front seats only but there’s a built-in DVD player in the roof to keep the back stalls quiet.

As with the oth­ers, there’s leather up­hol­stery through­out, with heat­ing, cool­ing and power ad­just­ment for the front pews.

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