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.
CarAdvice reader Tricia is looking for a car well-suited to accommodating a mobility scooter with quick loading and unloading.
She needs the boot floor to run flush to the edge of the boot opening, so that a mobility scooter can be wheeled in when you place the front wheel on the back and lift the back wheels and push it in. Here are the specific criteria we're trying to meet for Tricia:
- Flat boot floor to enable loading of 1.38-metre-long mobility scooter
- Small wagon or SUV about 4.5 metres long, but not too high to get in and out of
- Automatic, and with a budget of $35,000 to work with
Now, there are some really good options that we're instantly going to have to rule out, here. A Skoda Octavia or Fabia wagon would have been great, but they have a big load lip drop, meaning they can't meet the criteria despite otherwise-excellent boot space. Likewise the Golf Wagon, which has a drop between the back bumper and the load floor.
Then there are options that have a flat floor, but the boot is too small - the Subaru XV, for instance. Another Subaru, the Forester, has a boot floor that, rather than dropping down after the lip, actually has a small ramped section, so the floor of the boot sits higher than the opening. It's weird, but could maybe work?
If the budget could stretch a little, the Subaru Outback may suit Tricia's needs with its large boot and flat boot floor, but it's listed at $36,240 plus on-road costs for the entry-level model. The load-in lip may be a little high, though.
Initially we thought one of the most popular and practical small SUVs on the market, the Honda HR-V, would suit - but it suffers a big boot lip drop-off, too.
That said, we've got a few options that Tricia could consider: one SUV, one small wagon*, and a final choice that's a different body-style altogether - a small van. And we chose the particular small van we did because the other, arguably better, option - the Renault Kangoo Maxi Crew Van is manual only.
*wagon/MPV/hatch/thing - you'll see when you get to it.
Honda CR-V VTi
It may ride a little higher than Tricia may have been thinking would be ideal, but the slide-in height of the seats of the new-generation Honda CR-V mean it doesn't feel like you've got to haul yourself up into the cabin.
It ticks a lot of the other boxes, too, with a load-in lip that is level with the boot area, and while it is an SUV, the boot load-in area isn't very high. In fact, with a boot-lip load-in height at 660mm, it's surprisingly low, and it has the requisite lack of a load lip to help with the mobility scooter loading.
The seats don't slide fore and aft in the back, but the 60:40 split-fold seats offer some extra usability, while the tailgate opening is 830mm wide and it should be able to deal with the 1.38m long scooter in the back without the seats folded. The boot space is claimed at 522 litres and there's a full-size spare under the floor, too.
It measures 4596mm long, so a touch lengthier than the desired size, but its 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT) auto makes good use of its grunt.
And it's under budget. The entry-level CR-V - which really doesn't feel like a base model car - is priced from $30,690 plus on-road costs. There's a reasonably priced capped-price servicing plan, too, with maintenance due every 12 months/10,000km.
Volkswagen Caddy people-mover
We said one of these things would not be like the others, and this is it: the Volkswagen Caddy. But because there's a need for second-row seats in Tricia's case, we reckon the best option will need to be a Volkswagen Caddy people-mover model.
There are a few versions to choose from, but the one that slips under budget is the Caddy SWB TSI220 Trendline DSG, at $33,290. It's powered by a 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, which is peppy and offers good shifts at speed, but the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission's low-speed behaviour may take some getting used to for the uninitiated.
The beauty of the Caddy people-mover is that it has a massive boot area. Like, it's huge. With all five seats in play there's a massive 750L of cargo capacity, and the second-row seats can be folded down in to the floor, which alleviates a total of 3030L of storage space. The long-wheelbase seven-seat van is even bigger (it's the one in the pictures above), but that version has a higher price-tag to match.
The tailgate hides a very handy opening (measuring 1183mm wide and 1127mm tall), meaning the load-in height is a handy 575mm off the ground. The total length of the Caddy SWB model is 4408mm - perfect for Tricia's needs.
The downside? Well, it's not a car - so it might not offer much appeal as a personal purchase. And while VW backs its cars with a five-year/75,000km warranty, maintenance is pretty pricey.
UPDATE: Having received our recommendations a little while before we published this story, Tricia tells us she has taken our advice and ordered a Rondo. Good one, Tricia!
It's sort of a small station wagon, almost an MPV and nearly a compact SUV - and boy, oh boy, is it versatile.
The Kia Rondo takes bits of the three aforementioned categories and blends them together into one of the weirdest, but most-practical-for-the-cash cars on the market. It costs just $26,990 plus on-road costs for the entry-level S model, which is the one we're suggesting for Tricia. It has five seats, where the high-spec Si has seven.
But because Tricia doesn't need seven - she just needs a copious boot - the S is the go. The boot opening is a little higher than the Caddy at 680mm from the ground (with a tiny little lip of about 10mm) but the opening at tailgate is 1109mm wide, making it easy to load items in and out.
Luggage capacity is a claimed 536 litres behind the second-row seating, growing to 1694L with the rear seats folded. The rear seats are on rails, too, so you can slide them forward if you need, and the way the seats are configured - 35:30:35 - means there's plenty of flexibility on offer.
The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic won't help Tricia set any new speed records, but it does the job for the vast majority of people, and Kia's local steering and suspension tune allows the Rondo to ride over rough Aussie roads without much fuss. And at 4525mm long, it's on the money there, too.
Being a Kia, it has the best ownership plan in the country - a seven-year warranty with the same coverage for capped-price servicing and, if maintained with Kia, the same amount of roadside assist. Seems like assured trouble-free motoring.
Want more of The Shortlist? Catch the growing series here.