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Doing what we do, CarAdvice writers are often asked by friends and family, and through our contact pagewhich car is best for me?

Most buyers can identify the top three non-negotiable factors that will guide their purchase decision. But… where to from there?

In this 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.


The Case

Jonathan is looking for a new family-friendly all-wheel-drive model for himself, his partner and their toddler.

With a growing family there are plenty of options out there, and Jonathan has suggested that he has a maximum budget of $40,000. He says he is fairly sure an SUV will be the best bet for his family, but that he is open to other options. And, lucky for him, we’ve got options aplenty to consider.

Jonathan isn’t a city-dweller: he and his family are based in a regional town, where the new car will be vital in doing a 70-kilometre round trip to work at a country business. There’s a good chance the car will do more than 20,000km per year, because they regularly take two-hour drives to visit the relatives – often on wet or icy roads in winter.

So, here are the criteria for Jonathan’s edition of The Shortlist:

  • An economical long-term purchase
  • Safety: all-wheel-drive preferred, active driver aids appreciated
  • Comfort and passenger space

With those things in mind, there are heaps of choices out there, and many of them are medium SUVs – but while those vehicles have the high ride height so many buyers clearly desire, some lack the extra safety we think Jonathan is after, and many fall short of boot space, which is a crucial consideration for those with toddlers.

One of our go-to recommendations include the Hyundai Tucson, which would easily tick the economical, space and safety boxes, with all-wheel-drive (AWD) models starting from $35,090 plus on-road costs, with a diesel engine. But there are SUVs out there with better standard safety equipment – it only has autonomous emergency braking and other electronic safety nannies in the high-spec model, and it’s not optional in lower grades.

Another one of our go-to considerations against this sort of criteria is the Kia Sportage. There’s a good range of options to choose from, including an entry-level diesel AWD model at $33,990, which offers great equipment, not to mention a class-leading ownership proposition of a seven-year warranty, roadside assist and capped-price servicing plan – that in itself could be enough for Jonathan to stop reading right now. However, it, like its sibling the Tucson, only has AEB and extra safety goodies on the top-spec model.

For something a little different, Jonathan could take a look at the Suzuki Vitara. With the all-wheel-drive Turbo model priced at $34,990 drive-away, it’s pretty affordable. It is a little bit smaller inside, but has a great drivetrain and is cheap to own and run, even if it’s petrol, not diesel. But it doesn’t have any of the active safety stuff that we suspect could be important to Jonathan.

Like we said, there’s plenty to choose from. Other options include: the Mitsubishi ASX or Outlander (both of which are a bit out-dated by class standards but with good-sized boots); the much-improved Ford Escape, which has AWD diesel and petrol versions available below $40K with heaps of safety kit but a small (406L) boot, and the impressive and safety-focused Mazda CX-5, but its 403L boot is a little small for the class – not ideal for parents with a toddler.

We’d suggest a Volkswagen Tiguan, but you can’t get one with AWD at this price point. But there’s another VW product that tops our list of potential models for Jonathan to check out with this edition of The Shortlist.


Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

The new-generation Volkswagen Golf Alltrack has seen the addition of a more affordable entry-level version of the AWD station wagon – and it has plenty to like about it.

With pricing from $34,490 plus on-road costs, it slots under the price range that Jonathan has set, and comes with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), seven airbags, and a multi-collision brake system, plus the permanent AWD system for those slippery roads.

There’s a great package that Jonathan could consider adding for an extra $1800. The Driver Assistance pack includes the brilliant 12.3-inch Active Info Display digital instrument cluster with special off-road configurations, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, semi-automated parking assist, and a proactive occupant protection system that will pre-tension the seatbelts if a collision is imminent.

Standard kit is extensive, with dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, selectable driving modes with an off-road setting, an 8.0-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, LED interior ambient lighting, a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front fog-lights (tick!), and LED tail-lights.

We like the Alltrack a lot – it has the space and comfort box ticked with its massive 605L boot, enough backseat space for the little one for at least five years, and there’s a five-year capped-price servicing offer with a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist included over the same period.

The new version has the same 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine with a standard dual-clutch automatic transmission.

MORE: Golf news, reviews, comparisons and videos
MORE: Everything Volkswagen


Subaru Outback

If Jonathan wants another high-riding-wagon-non-SUV option, he could take a look at the impressive Subaru Outback 2.5i.

We know the Outback pretty well, and we’ve come to appreciate that it has heaps of boot space – 522L, which is very handy considering a Forester has 422L – and a big back seat that’ll be well suited to child- or adult-hauling adventures.

Being a Subaru, of course, it’s AWD, with the entry-level variant powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder ‘boxer’ engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic. There are diesel and more powerful six-cylinder petrol options available, and they are well worth considering (the latter, in particular) if the budget allows.

Despite its appearance, it doesn’t feel like a big wagon to drive. It’s an extremely family-friendly car, offering top value (from $36,240 plus on-road costs for the 2.5i) and great equipment including Subaru’s EyeSight forward collision warning system and AEB, not to mention adaptive cruise control – which could be great for those longer highway drives.

There’s an updated Outback coming in early 2018 with better equipment expected, including a revised media system with the latest smartphone connectivity. It might be worth the wait if that matters a lot, but otherwise there could be some great deals in the second half of 2017 on run-out stock.

Perhaps the main issue with the current Outback is that it needs servicing every six months or 12,500km, which could mean a bit of inconvenience. There’s a capped-price plan for up to three years/75,000km. The warranty is three years/unlimited kilometres.

MORE: Outback news, reviews, comparisons and videos
MORE: Everything Subaru


Nissan X-Trail

The 2017 Nissan X-Trail range is a pretty good step up for the Japanese brand’s popular SUV, with some key changes and improvements that should have it up near the top of the list for plenty of family buyers.

With its slightly larger body (when compared to the Koreans, for example) it has a massive boot for the class at 550L, and great back seat space, too.

The updated version gets heaps more equipment as well as a more muscled look. The versions we’d say he should look at are all AWD models, with either a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder or a new (more powerful) 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel.

It’d be easy for us to simply suggest Jonathan go for the entry-level ST grade with AWD (from $32,490 plus on-road costs), or, if he wants a diesel – and that could make sense, given the distances he travels – the new TS diesel AWD for $35,490.

Both of those are kitted out pretty well, with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime-running lights, a 5.0-inch LCD central infotainment display with rear-view camera, smart key with push button start, 40/20/40 split-fold rear seats, (AEB) with forward collision warning, six airbags, a limited-slip differential, hill start assist and hill descent control.

Or, if he wants a few more bells and whistles, the petrol ST-L AWD (at $38,590 plus on-roads) should get a look in. It adds rear privacy glass, front fog-lights, a leather-accented steering wheel and seats, six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and four-way power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, driver lumbar support, roof rails, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a larger 7.0-inch infotainment system with satellite navigation and traffic updates, DAB+ digital radio, 360-degree ‘Around View’ camera system with moving object detection, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert. The ST-L is packed with gear, and those heated seats could be handy for those cold winter mornings.

It needs maintenance every 12 months or 10,000km, and Nissan has a lengthy service plan (up to 120,000km), and it has a three-year/100,000km warranty with roadside assist to match.

MORE: X-Trail news, reviews, comparisons and videos
MORE: Everything Nissan


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

MORE: THE SHORTLIST




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