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.
Ben needs a new commuter car, one that he can stack up plenty of kilometres on without having to worry about costly maintenance. He does 170km per day on Perth freeways, so he needs something that’ll be comfortable to live in a for a few hours at a time.
He has a few essential elements that must be met by this new high-miler, and he is willing to spend up to $30,000 for the right car. The ideal budget, though, is around the $25K mark.
Here’s the criteria for Ben’s version of The Shortlist:
- Comfortable for a tall driver – Ben is “well over six-feet tall”
- Good ride comfort but still fun to drive
- Affordable to own and maintain
Well, based on our correspondence from Ben, there’s no chance he’d consider anything European. That’s fine and dandy, because there are heaps of options from other parts of the world that will meet his needs.
Indeed, the small SUV segment being in such a state of boom makes the options list pretty long. But when you’re thinking about ownership, there are two players that are synonymous with long-term ownership credentials that are currently not represented in the small SUV segment – Kia and Hyundai. The Hyundai Kona is coming, and Ben may be best off to see how that stacks up in terms of price and comfort. There's the Kia Soul... but nah, it's a bit grandparent.
Thinking even further outside the square (and the budget), Ben could consider what is arguably the best long-term ownership option for someone on a tight budget, the Kia Picanto.
While its name may mean small, it's bigger inside than you'd think, particularly up front. And it's a bit of a hoot to drive, especially the manual model. Plus, it has Kia's excellent seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty plan that also includes seven years' capped-price servicing and roadside assistance. And dude, it's less than $16K on the road!
All of the cars below only have three-year warranty plans, so that may play on Ben’s thinking, but all have good long-term capped-price plans. We didn't suggest the Kia Rio or Kia Cerato, because neither have the same level of space up front.
That said, we’ve come up with a couple of different alternatives for him. Here’s The Shortlist for Ben – a tall guy who wants a fun and comfortable affordable car.
We recently deemed the Toyota C-HR to be the best small SUV you can buy right now, provided you don’t use the boot for big trips – and that means it hits the criteria for Ben, as he’ll primarily be using this new car as a commuter.
We love the fact the C-HR is so un-Toyota-like to drive. It’s fun, involving and still comfortable, and the 1.2-litre turbocharged engine is a willing little thing. The fact you have the choice of manual or continuously variable transmission (CVT) auto is a bonus too, and if Ben really wanted to stretch that budget he could get one with all-wheel-drive – though we’ve found that flagship AWD variant to be a bit of a redundant concept.
It is comfortable for taller drivers, too – so long as Ben doesn’t have tall kids, too, this would fit his user case really well.
And being a Toyota, the ownership plan is strong. The C-HR is the first vehicle to be offered in Australia with extended Toyota Service Advantage, meaning you get five years of advertised servicing prices at 12 month/15,000km intervals (whichever comes first) at $195 per visit. So, five years of servicing, if you’re driving average kilometres, will cost you $975. More importantly, you’ll only need to visit your dealer once per year. Ben’s commute is long, so this could be a huge bonus.
The more we drove the C-HR, the more we liked it. And with pricing starting at $26,990 plus on-road costs for the manual and $28,990 plus on-road costs for the auto, Ben may need to stretch his initial expenditure – though the long-term cost could well be lower as a result.
Another Japanese compact SUV? What a surprise! The Suzuki Vitara has impressed us as a fantastic option for those shopping on a budget, and it remains one of the more fun and funky cars in the class.
You can get one for around $25,000, and - because it’s a Suzuki - evidence suggests it's less likely to break, will cope with plenty of kilometres, and it won't cost much to own.
In fact, the company offers very competitively priced servicing up to 100,000km of ownership. The issue could be that the Vitara – like all Suzuki products – requires maintenance every six months or 10,000km. That may be enough to turn Ben away, but at an average cost of just over $250, it’s not like it’s expensive to own.
Nor is it dear to buy. The entry-level RT-S can be had with an auto gearbox for under $25K, even less for the manual model, while the Turbo FWD model, which we ranked as our pick of the range, can be found for about $30K.
Ben said he wanted something that has good space inside, and this thing does – the high roof is great for taller drivers – and while it is an SUV it's pretty fun to drive. If Ben wanted something a little quirkier, he could consider the Suzuki Ignis, but it isn't quite as comfortable on the open road.
Our third option isn’t an SUV, but is from a Japanese brand – the Honda Civic small car can be had as a sedan or hatchback, and we rate both as among the best in their class.
For front seat occupants there's plenty of headroom, whether you're going for the sedan or the hatch, and in the back seat there's good space, too.
It's fun to drive, thanks to its snappy steering, and the ride is excellent on the open road and around town. This is, funnily enough, the option we’d wholeheartedly suggest may be the best if Ben values comfort above everything else.
There are entry-level versions below budget, and while that won’t get the turbocharged engine, we reckon the 1.8-litre with the standard-fit CVT auto is a fine option for those doing lots of mileage.
Again, some consideration needs to be give to the fact the Civic needs maintenance every 12 months/10,000km... so Ben might see a lot of his local dealer.
Want more of The Shortlist? Catch the growing series here.