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My wife and I want to trade in our 2012 Kia Optima Si. We looked at numerous small to medium SUVs, then put all the specifications on a spreadsheet. Now we’re more confused than ever. We don’t mind new or 2016 model-year demonstrators to a maximum of $30,000 before our trade-in, and I would like some power, with a minimum five-year warranty and capped-price servicing. We have looked at — and like — Haval, Jeep Cherokee, Ford Kuga, Ford Escape or new Holden Trax with three years’ free service and six years’ warranty. Nunzio, email Your question is a common one because so many people are moving to medium SUVs. But there is no simple, one-size-fitsall solution. Top-end contenders are the Volkswagen Tiguan and Mazda CX-5. The Trax is a no-no and the Kuga is ruled out, as it has had a significant upgrade and is now the Escape. We’re still worried about the reliability of Jeeps and their Australian support. But one thing is certain — nothing beats an old-fashioned test drive. You can look at spreadsheets until your eyes glaze over but even a short run will show you things you love about your contenders and what you can live without.
Kia Sportage, from $28,990 The longest warranty in the business, seven years, ticks a big box and it has capped-price servicing. The Sportage is also quiet and comfortable, has suspension that’s great for Australia and comes from a brand you already know, whose dealers are keen to negotiate.
Haval H6, from $29,990 It’s surprisingly good and makes sense on price and features, is well built, also drives quite well, but … here’s the thing, there are too many “buts” with this unproven Chinese brand, including a missing safety rating after only four stars for the earlier H9.
Ford Escape, from $28,490 Ford has made a worthwhile improvement this year with this return to the Escape badge. The warranty is short at three years and the Escape is hardly a standout in such a packed field. It handily trumps the Trax but that’s not good enough when others are much better.
Mazda CX-5, from $28,690 Still not the warranty you want, three years, but the CX-5 is just about bulletproof. It’s just been renewed with a sharp starting price, so don’t expect any deals this early in the model life. First class in every area including refinement and quality.
The Sportage is definitely the one to beat. It’s a top choice with a great reputation. Take a test drive in the new CX-5 to satisfy your curiosity — but the Sportage is our winner.