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.
Phil and his partner, in their early sixties, are looking for a replacement for their 2011 Honda Accord.
The priorities for Phil are quite clear: he wants a comfortable, quiet car, with low road noise and no rattles. He does about 300 kilometres per week between home and work, plus country drives on a regular basis.
Being a distance commuter, I can relate to Phil’s desire for a comfortable and quiet car – I do 150km per day, and a car that is noisy or harsh over bumps is one that makes a chore of the homeward trip, rather than a relief.
Phil reckons the comfort and build quality offered by the Honda has been of a high standard, and he doesn’t care about the fact he currently has a V6-powered car, so that opens options up a bit. And as we get older, it gets more difficult to get into and out of our car, and the low ingress and egress of the Accord is becoming a difficulty for both Phil and his wife. As such, he’s thinking an SUV could be a good option, but is concerned that sort of model could be too loud on the road.
The latest smartphone connectivity seems important, because the lack of a USB port in his current car is a bugbear for Phil.
There was no budget supplied, so we've assumed a top dollar of about $30,000: that leaves us with plenty of choices.
So, the three criteria for this iteration of The Shortlist are:
- Quiet and well built
- Easy entry and exit
- Good smartphone connectivity
If Phil is eager to remain a Honda driver, the new-generation Civic could be a consideration – though it does have a low seat height. Instead, an HR-V small SUV could be a consideration, but it is fairly loud on the road. Another Accord seems out of the question. So lets rule out Honda, then.
In fact, quietness is something that isn’t as readily available as you may hope, with many models these days shifting to large wheels with low-profile tyres, and smaller engines that often need to be worked harder than the old big-engined sedans of yesteryear.
Still, we’ve got a few cars that adequately nail the brief of being easy to get into, good value, with good tech, and good refinement. Each has a rear-view camera to help make parking easier, too.
Here it is, then: The Shortlist for Phil and his wife.
One of the most underrated small car offerings out there, the boxy Soul crossover could be perfect for Phil and his wife.
Priced at just $24,990 drive-away, the Kia argues a very strong case in a bunch of different ways, provided boot space isn’t your highest priority.
It has an easy sit-in height with a high hip-point making it great for buyers who either are getting a little less agile, or if they’re loading in little ones.
With a 2.0-litre engine, it isn’t a powerhouse, and in stop-start traffic it can hunt for gears a bit. But on the highway it is more relaxed, with cruise control doing a decent job of maintaining pace. It has an Australian ride and handling tune, making it cope with rough surfaces better than a lot of other vehicles out there, and it is one of the quietest vehicles of this type on coarse-chip surfaces.
It has a touchscreen media system with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and a USB and auxiliary jack, but lacks the latest smartphone technology like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and misses out on navigation, too.
And being a Kia, there’s a strong ownership case: it has a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, and the same cover for capped-price servicing and roadside assistance. The good news? If Phil is looking for a used car, the cover is transferable from one owner to the next.
The Hyundai Tucson is a standout in the medium SUV segment, one that may only need an introduction if you’re more familiar with the ix35 name that preceded it (itself a replacement for the earlier Tucson).
This model is considerably better than the model that came before it, though, with better space and comfort, and improved refinement. It isn’t necessarily the quietest car around, but it is quiet enough to make this list.
As with a lot of four-cylinder petrol models, the engine can take a bit of revving to get up to speed, but there’s the choice of a turbocharged petrol engine that isn’t as vocal because it doesn’t require so much throttle input, such is the torque available from this engine. But you need to spend up to the Elite all-wheel-drive model at $36,750 plus ORCs.
That said, a lower-spec Active model is available with a strong turbo diesel engine and AWD for a touch less - $35,060 plus ORCs. It’s not a rattler like some of the old diesels that have come before it.
There is a touchscreen media system that is simple to use and has Bluetooth phone and audio streaming as well as smartphone mirroring tech, and USB and auxiliary jacks. No sat-nav, though.
Because it’s a small SUV, it is easy to get in and out, and with the benefit of a higher driving position. And Hyundai offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with lifetime capped-price servicing and a 10-year roadside assist plan, if you maintain your car in-house.
While that may not be of a high priority to Phil and his wife, the fact is that the Escape is easy to live with day to day: in models with smaller wheels the ride is plush and comfortable, and the petrol models feel particularly light and easy to drive.
With pricing starting below $30,000, there is plenty to like. All models get a touchscreen media system with in-built sat-nav and the latest smartphone technology (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto).
It has a higher ride height than a standard hatchback, and is pretty quiet on the open road.
The Spanish-built model offers good build quality, and while it may not be as ‘premium’ inside as some of its rivals, the materials are all of a high standard, and the controls are well placed and easy to learn.
The Ambiente model offers very good value for money, and could be a really good option for Phil and his wife – and if they’re willing to consider a 12-month-old model, the equivalent Kuga (before it became the Escape) is pretty much the same thing, but without the latest smarts for safety and in-car tech. There are bargains to be had, though.
They may wish to also consider that Ford has a short (by these standards) three-year, 100,000km warranty, but with capped-price servicing for the life of the car.
Want more of The Shortlist? Catch the growing series here.