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.
Simon is looking to replace his 2011 Mazda 3 with a mid-sized SUV, and he wants to do that for a few reasons.
According to Simon, he has grown tired of the car’s “harsh ride and buzzy/noisy engine at highway speed” – a grievance often levelled at that generation model, so we can understand where Simon is coming from.
It seems clear, though, that the Mazda 3 has gotten to Simon: “We don’t want to feel every imperfection in the road, or harsh crashing over rail lines, tram tracks, cat eyes,” he said.
Okay, so here are the criteria for The Shortlist for Simon:
The budget Simon has in mind is $27,000. There are a few options close to that price point that we reckon could easily fit his requirements.
If the budget were a little higher, we’d be thinking a Volkswagen Tiguan (from $31,990 plus on-road costs) or perhaps a Golf Alltrack (from $34,490). But because we’re working to a slightly lower price point, here are our three Shortlist cars for Simon.
Hyundai Tucson Active
For very close to Simon’s budget – we’re talking $27,990 drive-away – he could get himself a great mid-sized SUV with plenty of equipment in the form of the Hyundai Tucson Active.
As part of the 2018 model line update, Simon could get the Active with a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, which, confusingly, replaces a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine – albeit with the new engine adopting direct injection, and offering more power. It has 121kW of power (up 7kW) and 203Nm of torque (up 11Nm).
It is front-wheel-drive with a six-speed automatic gearbox, and is kitted out very nicely: it doesn’t have the satellite navigation that Simon desired, but it does have a 7.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, and there’s a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors, too.
It also has LED daytime running lights with projector beam headlights that are dusk-sensing, and it rides on 17-inch alloy wheels.
While we’re yet to sample this new engine, we know from the previous version that the cabin is relatively hushed at speed, and the brand’s Australian engineering and suspension tuning team has done an exceptional job in making it ride comfortably over bumps.
Nissan Qashqai ST
Yep, it’s about to be updated with a facelifted model, but that means the deals being done on the entry-level version of the Nissan Qashqai are strong.
You can get an automatic version of the Qashqai ST for just $25,990 drive-away, which is great buying because it’s a polished player in the SUV segment, one that has attracted plenty of custom for Nissan over the years.
It has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 106kW and 200Nm, with a six-speed manual or CVT automatic gearbox available. The CVT is intuitive and doesn’t ‘flare’ or scream when asked to work a little harder as some others tend to do, is smooth and responds well.
The ride is well sorted, smoothing out coarse and bumpy road surfaces and absorbing the potentially jolty impacts over speed-bumps and larger imperfections: it can have some noticeable road noise on rough surfaces, but engine and wind noise aren’t annoying in-cabin.
The media system is a 5.0-inch unit without touch-capacitive controls (it has buttons and knobs, instead), and there’s no sat-nav, nor the latest in-car smartphone connectivity – but it does have Bluetooth and USB connectivity and a standard-fit rear-view camera, but no sensors.
Suzuki Vitara RT-S
For as little as $23,990 drive-away, you could get yourself into a Suzuki Vitara RT-S – a compact SUV which is bigger than some of its rivals inside, and more mature to drive, too. It is, though, half a size smaller than the Qashqai, which is in turn half a size smaller than the Tucson, so if space is important, we’d suggest Simon take a proper look at whether this will meet his needs.
The base model version in the Vitara range has a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and six-speed automatic transmission, which is lively enough, but also – crucially – muted enough to fit Simon’s needs.
With 86kW and 156Nm it may seem a little down on power, but it is a light SUV, tipping the scales at only 1120kg with the auto transmission. It’s front-wheel drive.
Standard is a 7.0-inch touchscreen with in-built satellite-navigation as well as the latest smartphone tech (Apple CarPlay). It’s a nice cabin, though its plastics are a little cheap by class standards.
Again, there’s a rear-view camera as standard, but no rear parking sensors in this spec (if you go for the Turbo you get those among other specification changes like leather trim, not to mention a more willing and enjoyable drivetrain, albeit for about $6000 more).
Want more of The Shortlist? Catch the growing series here.