Cameron McGavin May 15, 2012
Anita and Aydhen want an SUV or wagon that will cope with their growing family.
Anita and Aydhen are expecting their second child and need a more family-friendly car. Anita would like some kind of automatic SUV, which Aydhen is fine with, but he’s also tempted by the idea of a traditional wagon.
They’ve been looking at near-new Honda CR-Vs, Mazda CX-7s, Holden Captivas, Kia Sportages and Mitsubishi Outlanders, while Aydhen has his eye on a Mazda 6 wagon.
The budget: About $20,000
The CR-V isn’t exciting but its well thought-out cabin and strong ownership prospects make it a plum used option for family buyers.
And we’re going to side with Aydhen by plumping for the 6 rather than the CX-7. Not that the latter is bad, but the one you’ll want (the turbo petrol) is costly to run, the diesel can’t be had with an auto and the base petrol simply isn’t as sprightly, economical or nice to drive as an equivalently practical 6 wagon.
The others? Well, the new Sportage’s freshness means getting hold of one for this money could be tough, especially the higher end, diesel-powered models that are the most talented and desirable.
We’ll also pass up the Captiva in favour of the Outlander as the Mitsubishi’s longer warranty makes it just that bit more attractive in a used-car scenario.
2007-on Honda CR-V
A fourth-generation CR-V will be here within a year but the current model is still fighting fit in many respects.
That’s especially so inside, where you’ll find great space, flexibility and user-friendliness. It’s a good drive, too, and you can expect a competitive toy and safety serve if you pin down a Sport or Luxury model.
Base models (just called CR-V) aren’t so admirable, though, with their plain looks and – pre-2010 facelift – lack of curtain airbags. Regardless of which one you buy, you’ll get an awkward exterior and engine that’s just a bit flat without big revs on board.
Read Drive’s Honda CR-V reviews: Honda CR-V Sport road test.
2008-on Mazda 6 wagon
Why buy an SUV? Well, when there are wagons around as good as the 6 we’re not sure.
Lighter and lower than your average SUV, the Mazda drives rings around them on the road without a noticeable comfort sacrifice. Its standard-issue 2.5-litre petrol four is pretty much the same as you get in a soft-roader, yet it performs with engaging vigour and isn’t too thirsty. There are also no safety holes to trip over.
There’d be practical downsides, then? Well, you miss out on a high-set driving position, the potential to seat seven and maybe some storage spots. Otherwise, with its huge boot and user-friendly flat-folding back seat, there isn’t a whole lot of difference.
Read Drive’s Mazda 6 wagon reviews: Mazda 6 Touring wagon road test.
2006-on Mitsubishi Outlander
We’ll start with the bad news – the Outlander isn’t easy to love thanks to its cheap-looking cabin, soft handling and mediocre open-road refinement.
Stability control/curtain airbag fitment, too, isn’t a given at the lower end of the range (especially on earlier models), so you’ll want to make sure you take the time to find one with all the gear you want.
For all that, though, the Mitsubishi looks good, is sized right, versatile and is the only car here than can be had with seven seats. You can have it with a petrol four or petrol V6, just the basics or absolutely loaded with toys, and you might even find one with some of the five-year warranty to run.
If you absolutely must have an SUV it comes down to the Honda and Mitsubishi and, while the latter isn’t a bad way to go, we just can’t go past the CR-V. It might not be as handsome as the Outlander but it’s a nicer drive, more refined and has fewer safety omissions to pick through on the used-car lot.
Mind you, if it were my money I’d be putting it straight on a 6 wagon because it offers all but the same level of practicality as an SUV while driving, performing, looking better and using less fuel. Its exemplary safety across the range, not just on select models, seals the deal.
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