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Doing what we do, CarAdvice writers are regularly asked by friends and family members as well as through online enquiries – what car do you recommend for me?

Most people can usually identify the top three non-negotiable factors that will guide their purchase decision. In this new series, we look at these cases and single out three cars that fit the brief. If there are more than three, we’ll highlight the three models that have scored well in past CarAdvice reviews.


Karen and her husband have two children under 10-years-old. They have a tight household budget and know what they can afford to spend.

The family also need a bit of space for sports gear and luggage, but don’t want a large car. The kids enjoy playing in the front yard and are always leaving toys lying around, sometimes on the driveway.

Here are the three must-haves for this family:

  1. Medium SUV
  2. Up to $30,000 before on-road costs
  3. Rear-view camera with parking sensors as standard

The range of medium SUVs available below $30,000 is growing rapidly. During 2015, sales were up 13.4 per cent over the year with a total of 127,489 purchased, and in November 2016 sales were up 13.5 per cent over the same time last year, and up 12.9 per cent year-to-date.

The top sellers last year were the Mazda CX-5, followed by the Toyota RAV4 and then the Nissan X-Trail, but fresh players like the all-new Hyundai Tucson and the new-generation Kia Sportage are stirring the pot.

After a cull of more Medium SUVs that don’t meet the budget, we are left with a list of 14 vehicles: the Ford Escape, Haval H6Holden Captiva, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mahindra XUV500, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan X-Trail, Renault Koleos, Subaru Forester, Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota RAV4.

At this price point, all of the potential options are the entry-level variants, and most are the 2WD petrol variants with manual transmissions. Nine have a rear-view camera with parking sensors.

Here are our top three recommendations for Karen (in alphabetical order).


Ford Escape

2017 Ford Escape

The 2017 Ford Escape is a sharper package than ever before. This is the Kuga re-booted and renamed, and it now comes in a broader range that includes three trim-levels and eight variants, petrol and diesel engines and front and all-wheel drive options.

The entry-level front-wheel-drive Ambiente has Ford’s 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine producing 110Kw and 240Nm, teamed with a six-speed manual transmission.

As well as a rear-view camera and parking sensors, it has a swag of features including an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Ford Sync 3 with satellite navigation, dual zone climate control, digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Not bad for a base model priced at $28,490, though the boot space is smaller than class average at 406 litres.

The Escape comes with a three-year/100,000km warranty and it will cost $260 a year for the first three years to service.

MORE: Escape news, reviews, pricing and specs


Hyundai Tucson

2016-hyundai-tucson-activex-lt2-3

The Hyundai Tucson burst onto the scene around August last year. The base model Active is priced at $28,590 before on-road costs, with a 2.0-litre petrol engine that produces 114kW and 192Nm and a manual transmission in 2WD guise.

It’s distinctly stylish both inside and out, and considerably well-equipped with a 7.0-inch touchscreen on which to watch the rear-view camera, complemented by rear parking sensors.

The Tucson range also scores Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, has excellent levels of comfort and a decent amount of space. The boot size is impressive at 488 litres and it’s a peppy thing to drive around town.

Hyundai offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with a lifetime capped-price servicing plan.

MORE: Tucson news, reviews, pricing and specs

(Active X model pictured)


Kia Sportage

kia-sportage_tile

Priced from $28,990 for the Si, the entry-level Kia Sportage is 2WD and it shares its 114kw/192Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine with the Hyundai Tucson. It’s teamed with an automatic transmission and this is a big point of difference among this bunch. The Sportage is not offered with a manual transmission and is one of only a few at this price point that comes standard with the auto transmission.

Though it is closely related to the Tucson, it has a smaller amount of boot space at 466 litres. It meets the brief with a rear-view camera that displays on a 7.0-inch touchscreen and rear parking sensors.

This new-generation SUV’s front-end styling has been polarising, but, it offers good value for money, a seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and seven years of capped-price servicing. It’s smooth on the road and feels relatively upmarket.

MORE: Sportage news, reviews, pricing and specs


Honourable mentions

These models fit the brief, but didn’t quite make the top three: Haval H6 Premium with automatic transmission ($29,990 drive-away), Holden Captiva LS ($26,490), the diesel-only Mahindra XUV500 ($29,990 drive-away),  Mitsubishi Outlander LS ($28,750), auto-only Renault Koleos Life ($29,990) and Toyota RAV4 GX ($28,550).

The Mazda CX-5 Maxx ($27,890) and the all-wheel drive Subaru Forester 2.0i-L ($29,990) are highly rated by CarAdvice, but they’re missing parking sensors as standard inclusions – though they do get rear-view cameras.

You could also consider the Honda CR-V VTi ($27,490), Nissan X-Trail ST ($27,990) or Suzuki Grand Vitara Urban Nav ($27,490) which have rear-view cameras as standard.

Looking for your next car? Send us three criteria and let us help narrow down your options.

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