Mid­sizer short list


THE QUES­TION We can un­der­stand the de­sire to down­size. The big, thirsty CX-9 was de­signed per­haps a decade ago. Time to go.

You can get nearly as much room, bet­ter per­for­mance, safety and econ­omy and the lat­est tech­ni­cal fea­tures from a new gen­er­a­tion medium SUV.

Get­ting rear vents is prob­lem­atic. We sug­gest you get a model with dual-zone cli­mate con­trol and as many front air vents as pos­si­ble. That would take care of cool­ing in the rear in the ab­sence of duct­ing and vents.

Mean­while, the Suzuki Grand Vi­tara and the new Hyundai Tuc­son Elite 1.6 have vents to the rear through the cen­tre con­sole.

A fur­ther point: $30,000 is the bot­tom end of the mar­ket in small to medium SUVs so you’ll need to up the ante to about $35,000 to get any­thing de­cent with AWD. Car com­pa­nies tend to put all the good kit in theitop range mod­els, so you’ll spend more to get all the good­ies. The new kid on the block had a false start with its safety rat­ing, now fixed and ANCAP ranked at five stars. The 1.6-litre turbo has plenty of punch and re­turns im­pres­sive fuel econ­omy. It has dual-zone cli­mate con­trol as well as rear vents. The sev­en­speed dual-clutch auto is to­tally up to date. Hi- tech driver as­sis­tance fea­tures are only on the range-top­ping High­lander Ex­cel­lent Ja­panese-built job with ef­fi­cient SkyAc­tiv tech to re­duce thirst and emis­sions. The petrol 2.5 al­most makes the torquey, more eco­nom­i­cal diesel re­dun­dant. Add $1200 for the worth­while safety pack. Safe, strik­ingly good look­ing, with plenty of kit and ex­cel­lent re­sale: the CX-5 is a short-lister.

Also built in Ja­pan, re­cently restyled and up­graded and with seven-seat op­tion. Dual-zone cli­mate con­trol is in­cluded as are rear vents. In XLS spec, it scores Eco drive and some driver as­sist fea­tures. Age­ing but hon­est, the 2.4 petrol and CVT driv­e­train gives de­cent per­for­mance and econ­omy. Its mul­ti­me­dia con­trols re­main among the most dif­fi­cult to master. Looks great inside and out.

THE WILD­CARD To­tally re­li­able, solid, big­ger than you think, goes re­ally well with the 2.5 petrol though likes a drink. New styling looks OK, it rates well for emis­sions but the high-end safety kit comes at ex­tra cost. You could splash out more for the up­spec Cruiser (pic­tured). THE VER­DICT If I was buy­ing one, it would be hard to go past the CX-5.

I own a Mazda and it’s bul­let­proof and an ex­cel­lent car. Bi­ased … yes.

The Tuc­son would be right up there, too. You’ll pay more for mod­els with dual-zone cli­mate con­trol but it will be worth it — try be­fore you buy and you’ll ap­pre­ci­ate why.

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