Short list for the long haul

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Which Car? -

Trav­el­ling more than 1000km a week makes you a log­i­cal can­di­date for a diesel. The big­gest is­sue will be de­cid­ing be­tween a sedan and an SUV … and how much cash you’re pre­pared to part with. I’d nor­mally sug­gest a sedan — it is al­ways a bet­ter drive — but with ’roos to con­sider, the SUV’s el­e­vated ride should re­duce the chances of them bounc­ing up and into the cabin. The reign­ing class leader on sales and the best of the bunch in han­dling. The lat­ter is at the ex­pense of car-like firm­ness in the sus­pen­sion, which means the CX-5 jig­gles a bit over re­peated small bumps. In­te­rior re­fine­ment is hard to fault and there’s a three­year war­ranty. Mazda re­cently added an au­todim­ming mir­ror, blindspot mon­i­tor­ing, rear cross traf­fic alert and city brak­ing, which au­to­mat­i­cally slows the car when it de­tects an ob­sta­cle at be­tween 4-30km/h. A six-speed auto is stan­dard with the 2.2-litre turbo diesel and thirst is a claimed 5.7L/100km. Ser­vic­ing is ev­ery 10,000km and the first five ser­vices — about a year’s driv­ing for you — will cost just un­der $2000. A lot of car for the money, the Sportage is pow­ered by a de­cent turbo diesel, also with a six-speed auto. With its sev­enyear/un­lim­ited kilo­me­tre war­ranty, it looks like a match for your needs. The down­side is the driver as­sis­tance fea­tures such as au­tonomous brak­ing can only be had on the top- spec Plat­inum ($45,990 be­fore on-roads). Oth­er­wise the Sportage is well-equipped and the value for money equa­tion is hard to ig­nore. Claimed thirst is 6.8L/100km. Ser­vice in­ter­val is 15,000km and the first three ser­vices will cost about $1400. Mix­ing the best as­pects of high­rid­ing wagon and SUV, the Scout is a true cross­over. Au­tonomous emer­gency brak­ing and adap­tive cruise con­trol come stan­dard, as does a high level of kit, and there’s no short­age of space any­where. It drives well, has most of the lat­est mod-cons and is com­pet­i­tively priced. There’s a glitch — the 2.0-litre turbo diesel comes only with a sixspeed man­ual trans­mis­sion. Lack of an auto op­tion beg­gars be­lief but the good news is this driv­e­train claims just 4.9L/100km. Ser­vic­ing in­ter­vals are 15,000km and the first three vis­its will cost about $1300. A tough, re­li­able and wellfin­ished SUV with one of the softer sus­pen­sion set-ups in this bunch, the Out­back is good for off-road work but it also serves as a cushy bi­tu­men cruiser if you don’t plan to drive too en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. Fuel use is 5.7L/100km in the man­ual or 6.3L for the CVT (which adds $2000). Buy the CVT, if only be­cause it bun­dles the Eye­Sight driver as­sis­tance tech, in­clud­ing adap­tive cruise con­trol, lane de­par­ture alert and au­tonomous emer­gency brak­ing. Ser­vic­ing is ev­ery 12,500km — your four vis­its in the first year will cost $1550. If safety is the ma­jor fac­tor, the Mazda and Subaru are your best op­tions, un­less you can af­ford the top-spec Sportage. I’d steer you to the CX-5 but take the Out­back for a drive be­fore de­cid­ing.

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