Seven up­pers

The Advertiser - Motoring - - WHICH CAR? -

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.

CHOICES

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.

WILD­CARD

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.

VER­DICT

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

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