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.
Ainslie has a busy life, driving an elderly father around and squeezing two medium sized dogs into the car at times, too. Then there are the occasional skiing and camping trips to consider too.
But Ainslie also has a long list of 'needs' that makes it almost impossible to narrow a shortlist down to a few suggestions without bending the rules a little.
So that's exactly what we're going to do. The original parameters are listed below and we'll work through and around them to narrow it down.
- Big boot
- Leather seats
- 4WD or AWD
- Up to $30,000
- SUV or wagon
Instantly, the biggest issue is clearly the price point. AWD/4WD will command a premium, as will diesel and leather seats, leaving a grand total of zero new cars on the market at the moment that fit the exact criteria.
There are very few AWD/4WD wagons available. Ainslie might still be able to nab a Skoda Octavia Scout, although it has now been dropped from the recently facelifted line-up, but there may still be stock available at a good price.
Though it is slightly more expensive than, say, the Subaru Forester, its roominess and practicality make it a standout alternative, particularly for dogs and camping or ski gear. The Scout is all-wheel-drive, diesel, and has a massive 588L boot. It's priced at $33,290 before on-road costs and leather seats are available as part of an optional package.
The Volvo V60 Cross Country ($60,990), Volvo V90 Cross Country ($99,900), Audi A4 Allroad ($71,400) and Audi A6 Allroad ($112,855) are the only other diesel AWD wagon options. All clearly well beyond the price-point.
An SUV will be the best way to go and, given Ainslie enjoys skiing trips, AWD/4WD is a must, but leather seats may have to be a compromise point – the budget will need to stretch a little to get behind the wheel of a new vehicle, particularly if diesel is unconditional.
If Ainslie was prepared to compromise and swap the diesel engine for petrol and forgo the leather seats, the Subaru XV range starts from $26,740 for the 2.0i. It's AWD with a two-litre petrol engine, though the inclusion of a full-size spare reduces the cargo capacity to 310L with all five seats in play. The price would jump to $33,040 for the top-spec 2.0i-S with leather seats.
The Haval H2 comes close and is also under $30,000, there are leather seats in the top-spec Luxury and it's priced at $28,490 drive away. However, a diesel engine isn't available and cargo space is a little light on.
When it comes to boot space and room for two dogs, a small SUV is unlikely to cut it. That rules out both the three-door 4WD Suzuki Jimny, priced from $21,990 and the AWD Toyota C-HR which comes in just over the desired price at $30,990.
If the budget can be stretched a few thousand dollars, then the field opens up to a certain extent – though leather seats are still a rarity. At first glance the Mazda CX-3 looks like the perfect match – the sTouring has a diesel engine, it's AWD and has leather-look seats – but it's priced at $33,390 and has a small 264L cargo area.
The Mahindra XUV500 is almost on the money. This medium SUV has a 2.2-litre diesel engine with AWD and an impressive 702L of cargo space that expands to 1512L. It also features seven leather-covered seats. However, it's priced at $32,990 drive away and it does't make The Shortlist – you can read our full review here to find out why.
So where does that leave Ainslie? Assuming AWD is a must, decent boot space is imperative, diesel is desirable and leather is a 'want' and not a 'need', attempting to stay as close as possible to the budget – here is The Shortlist.
The Kia Sportage comes in diesel AWD guise in Si trim for $33,990, with cloth seats and 466L of cargo space. It has a 2.0-litre four cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. For those off-the-beaten-track adventures, including a trip to the ski field it has part-time AWD with lock mode.
The Sportage sports a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors, auto headlights, cruise control and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We've consistently rated the Sportage highly and its diesel engine is smooth and responsive, handling well both around town and barrelling down the highway.
Stepping up to the SLi variant will secure a raft of extra features including leather appointed seats but that blows the price out to $39,690.
Kia offers an industry leading seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with seven years of roadside assist and capped-price servicing.
The Mitsubishi ASX is also worth a look. The LS is priced at $32,500 and while it's cheaper than the Sportage it has a noticeably smaller boot at 383L. At that price, again the seats are fabric rather than leather but it has a 2.2-litre diesel engine teamed with an automatic transmission and is AWD.
The ASX doesn't have as many bells and whistles as some of its competitors but it does feature cruise control, a 6.1-inch touch screen, a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors. It feels spacious inside and thanks to its more conservative shape, visibility on the road is good. The top-spec XLS is available with a diesel engine, AWD and leather seats, but it's $37,000.
Mitsubishi offers a three-year capped-price servicing plan, which will set you back just $230 every year or 15,000km, and a five-year 100,000km warranty.
The entry level Subaru Forester 2.0i-L is priced at $30,240 and offers a far greater luggage capacity than its smaller sibling, the XV, with a volume of 422 litres that expands to 1418L. It's AWD with Subaru's 2.0-litre Boxer four-cylinder petrol engine and a six-speed manual transmission. For your money you also get a rear-view camera, 7.0-inch touchscreen and Pandora (music app) compatibility.
If the manual transmission is an issue, a continually variable transmission (CVT) is teamed with a 2.5-litre Boxer four-cylinder petrol engine in the 2.0i-L, which bumps the price up to $33,240. A diesel engine is available but it will cost you.
The 2.0D-L is $33,740 and has a 2.0-litre turbo charged Boxer four-cylinder diesel engine. Ainslie would have to step up from the entry-level diesel to the 2.0D-S to add leather seats (among other features) and that shoots the price skywards to $39,740.
The Forester comes with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, however servicing is due every six-months or 10,000km. It's a capable crossover with AWD, decent boot space and it's dog-friendly. Follow this link to see how and why.
The Suzuki Grand Vitara Sport is priced at $33,489 drive away and has a 2.4-litre four cylinder petrol engine, with AWD and a 398-litre boot it's worth considering. The Suzuki Vitara RT-X is a diesel AWD that also sports leather and suede seats at the comparatively reasonable price of $35,990. The best bit is that you'll likely get a much better price at the dealership, the worst, the boot is a little small at 375L.
The Honda CR-V is available in petrol AWD with the range starting at $32,790 for the VTi variant. Similarly, the Mazda CX-5 AWD petrol range starts at $32,890 for the Maxx while the entry-level AWD diesel, the Maxx Sport is $39,490. None of which have leather seats as standard, though there is 442L of cargo space in the CX-5 and an impressive 556L in the CR-V.
You may still be able to get your hands on a Skoda Yeti, though the Czech company isn't making any more of the left-of-centre SUVs. With a cargo volume of 416-litres, it's flexible and practical and priced at $32,990. It has a 1.4-litre four cylinder petrol engine with 4x4 on demand.
The Ford Escape AWD Ambiente has a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission and it's priced at $32,990. Cargo space is decent at 406L, expanding to 1603L, however, it has cloth seats and the 2.0-litre diesel engine with AWD is only available in Trend and Titanium specifications, starting at $38,490.
The Toyota RAV4 is offered with the desired diesel/AWD combination. The GX specification is the cheapest diesel option at $36,650 and though it misses out on the leather seats, its boot can hold 577L.
At the end of the day, if the $30,000 price limit is absolute then Ainslie will need to look for second-hand options to tick everything off the list, or be willing to concede diesel or leather.
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