Short list for the long haul
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.