Doing what we do, CarAdvice writers are often asked by friends and family, and through our contact page: which 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.
Jack is looking for a fun to drive, practical car with all-wheel drive. He’s looking to undertake regular trips to the snow in a car that can also double as a practical daily driver.
With up to $70,000 as his budget, Jack has a lot to choose from, but he’s made it clear that while he wants practicality, he doesn’t need seven seats, and isn’t really hankering for a “really large car”.
He also has the ability to scratch his performance itch as he also owns an AMG, so we’ll take sports cars off the list, but it “must have a decent amount of power” because he “doesn’t really enjoy cars with less willing engines”.
We like this guy.
So, without further ado, here are the three main criteria for Jack’s chapter of The Shortlist:
Well, to say that Jack is spoilt for choice would be an understatement. He could feasibly have heaps of cars, SUVs and even utes to consider – a left-field choice, for instance, could be a Volkswagen Amarok V6.
But he doesn’t want something that big, so we’re narrowing it down a bit, considering vehicles in the mid-sized SUV arena – Jack told us that he likes the idea of a bit of extra ground clearance for the occasional dirt road encounter.
If Jack didn’t want an SUV, we’d wholeheartedly recommend a VW Golf R Wagon – it still has AWD, it’s fun and practical, but it is lower, so you might be wary of gravel roads. Or that might add to the fun!
While the words ‘SUV’ and ‘fun’ may not necessarily coalesce in some people’s minds, there are options out there that we’d happily recommend.
One would be a Subaru Forester XT Premium, which, while it may not offer a lot of fun, is certainly powerful enough to placate Jack’s desire for performance. But he wants something that isn’t so long in the tooth, and can’t hang on for the all-new Forester in 2018.
A Subaru WRX or WRX STI might also tickle Jack’s fancy, and he said he doesn’t mind if his new car is manual or automatic (we’d choose the manual over Subaru’s CVT auto, any day!). But given that his priorities are on space, it could be a little tight.
Yet another Subaru could make it on his list – the Levorg – but as much as it should be fun to drive, it just isn’t.
An Audi Q2 could also be worth a look, if he, er, liked the look of it, and there’s a new 2.0TFSI quattro AWD model due soon that’ll have plenty of boogie. But we get the feeling that may be a little small, too. It is a fun little thing, with plenty of style, and a reasonably spacious cabin – but not as spacious as our three finalists.
With that in mind, here is The Shortlist for Jack.
Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI R-Line
The Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI R-Line is a fun and spacious all-wheel-drive SUV that comes in well under that magic budget marker, at $48,490 for the 162TSI, plus $4000 for the R-Line kit, taking it to $52,490.
Plenty of play money left over, then, or he could option some other extras, like the Driver Assistance pack ($2000) with adaptive cruise control, side assist with rear cross-traffic alert, the brand’s excellent 12.3-inch Active Info display, power folding door mirrors and a surround-view camera.
It’s practical, pragmatic and comfortable, with a class-leading boot capacity of 615 litres with the rear seat slid all the way forward, ensuring there’ll be space for ski gear. With the back seats in their rearmost position there’s heaps of space on offer for four or five adults, too.
As Mike Costello found when he compared the Tiguan R-Line against the aforementioned top-spec Foz, the Tiggy was a winner for handling prowess and steering involvement, and its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder drivetrain – with the same outputs as a Golf GTI, 162kW and 350Nm – offered excellent dynamism as well.
It’s packed in terms of standard equipment, too, with three-zone climate control (meaning those in the back can set their own temperature), sat-nav, all the latest smartphone smarts, leather trim, auto tailgate, heated front seats, and LED headlights and tail-lights for those foggy mornings.
BMW X1 xDrive25i
Keeping on the German theme, there’s the BMW X1, which could appeal to Jack’s driveway pride a little more than a VW.
In particular we’re talking about the BMW X1 xDrive25i, the top-spec model in the range that kicks off at $60,700. We’d recommend old mate spends the extra $690 on the adaptive dampers, which improve the ride comfort considerably (the suspension is a bit firm, and the run-flat tyres don’t do it any favours).
It has exceptional space for its external size, with a 505L boot with auto-opening and closing, a sliding second-row for extra space if needed. It’s easily large enough for four or five adults.
There’s no shortage of equipment, with electric front seat adjustment and heating, the 8.8-inch professional navigation system, a rear-view camera and front and rear sensors.
Importantly, the 2.0-litre turbo engine is punchy, with 170kW/350Nm, but it comes with an eight-speed auto only – no manual is available. Still, it’s a refined and willing drivetrain, and the X1 has the BMW dynamics we’ve come to expect.
Mini Countryman JCW
The all-new Mini Countryman is a fantastic compact premium SUV in the lower grades, and it’s fun to drive, too. It shares the same component underpinnings as the BMW X1, but with more, well, Mini-ness.
And now there’s the go-fast John Cooper Works (JCW) edition, which packs a thrusty 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo with 170kW and 350Nm, and it’s all-wheel drive, with the choice of an eight-speed automatic transmission or six-speed manual shifter as a no-cost option.
It has a rapid 0-100km/h time of 6.5 seconds with either the paddle-shifter-equipped auto or the manual.
It’s priced at $56,900 before on-road costs, well under the budget, and has a great interior with plenty of personality and functionality, with a boot space of 450L that can expand thanks to sliding second-row seats. There’s plenty of space on offer, and there’s the option of heated front seats for those early morning drives to the alps.
If Jack doesn’t want a petrol, he could otherwise consider the excellent Mini Countryman SD All4, which has a potent turbo diesel drivetrain.
Want more of The Shortlist? Catch the growing series here.