I’m looking to upgrade my car, ideally a seven-seater SUV. I was told the Kia Sorento is pretty good. I like Kia’s Sportage, too, but it seems to only be a five-seater. I believe the Hyundai Santa Fe is more expensive, presumably with a bigger engine and hopefully still economical. I was also considering a Toyota Kluger but was told by a mechanic to avoid them and also to avoid Holden Captivas. What is your opinion on Klugers as they seem roomier but probably less economical than the others? Karen Bradtberg, email Full-sized SUVs are the 21st century station wagons, practical and flexible. They have evolved, with most now available with front-wheel drive — all you need for suburban work. There are still four-wheel drive models but only a tiny number now go off-road. So the questions are about flexibility, comfort, quality and value. The Captiva is a complete bust, with a lacklustre reputation that is well founded, although Holden has some impressive new SUVs in the pipeline. The Sportage is definitely only a five-seater. There are plenty of other possibilities, right up to the luxury of a Land Rover Discovery, but your choices are the most popular for those who would have been station wagon buyers in the past.
Toyota Kluger, from $43,550 The long-time class leader has been overtaken in the recent years, partly because the Koreans have done things better and partly because Toyota has taken things for granted. The latest Kluger is not as refined or impressive against its rivals, and the front-drive version feels a bit wonky on challenging roads. The Toyota badge is still worth something but not enough. Hyundai Santa Fe, from $39,350 A wide range with front or allwheel drive means something for everyone, up to the sportyish SR at $64,250. The basics are right, it drives well for a big SUV and the value is very good. Vision from the third-row seats is not good, the curtain airbags don’t run all the way back but otherwise it is a good thing. Kia Sorento, from $40,990 The base price is a touch higher than the Santa Fe but it has everything you need for a family. That includes aircon outlets in the third-row seats, something missing from most SUVs. It drives extremely well, is well equipped at each price point and proved its all-round ability by taking the Carsguide Car of the Year crown in 2015, beating the Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV to do so.
Nissan Pathfinder, from $41,990 The big Nissan is often overlooked but there are front or all-wheel drive models, it has plenty of space inside and the V6 has just been updated. It’s not as refined as some rivals and feels a bit bulky to drive. There is a hybrid from $44,490 if you want some green credits.
You had it right from the start, as the Sorento stands out from your contenders and is backed by a seven-year warranty that’s the best in the country today. But it’s worth remembering that the Santa Fe and Sorento are effectively clones, produced by Korea’s Hyundai-Kia group, so you might lean to a Santa Fe variant or wrangle a better deal on a Sorento.
TOYOTA KLUGER HYUNDAI SANTA FE NISSAN PATHFINDER KIA SORENTO