QUESTION – SARAH (QUESTION FROM 17/4/2017):
I’m looking at the 2017 Honda CR-V VTi 4WD and the 2017 Subaru Forrester 2.5i-L. The boot needs to be large enough to carry landscaping requirements, so I’ll need easy access and decent size. Most driving will be city based, but I’ll make the occasional long-distance trip home. Mainly on-road so I’m not really fussy about off-road performance. I would like it to have enough grunt to be able to react to any unplanned situations on the highway if needed and I’d like to 'drive' a car rather than just steer, although I am looking to buy an automatic in this instance (I used to have a XRZ manual). Generally, I carry no more than three people in the car and am looking at a mid-$30,000 price point.
ANSWER – NATHAN PONCHARD:
Please avoid the current Honda CR-V. It’s a roomy car with decent engines and build quality, but it’s a shadow of Honda’s former excellence. Its ride, handling and steering are absolute bottom of its class and it is both vague and uncomfortable to drive. An all-new model launches in July, but seeing as we haven’t driven it yet, we can’t comment on whether it’s a winner or a loser.
The Forester, on the other hand, continues to charm with its superb ride and unbeatable vision. The $30-35K bracket is littered with front-drive options but the Subaru is exclusively AWD across the board. It performs well, is fun to drive and has a peerless reliability and resale-value reputation. About the only real negatives are the size of its boot (Aussie Foresters get a full-size spare under the floor that eats into some luggage space) and the homeliness of its styling. The Forester is no superficial beauty; its attractiveness lies beneath the surface.
You should also look at a new-generation Mazda CX-5. We tested a 2.0-litre front-drive CX-5 Maxx Sport recently ($34,390 RRP, not including on-road costs) and came away deeply impressed with this car’s improvements, though I think the lower-spec AWD Maxx 2.5-litre ($33,690 RRP) would arguably be a better option. Its stronger engine and superior grip make it a sportier drive. And the CX-5’s larger, beautifully trimmed boot gives it a cargo-carrying edge over the Forester.
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Either way, both those models will be more than $35K once you put them on the road, which leaves the CX-5 Maxx front-drive auto ($30,690 RRP) as potentially the best for your budget. The 2.0-litre loves to rev hard and the CX-5 is a fun handler, making the driving experience an engaging and enjoyable one – far more so than the CX-5 model that was just superseded.
Like the Subaru, the Mazda enjoys excellent reliability and resale reputation, so should provide many years of faithful, affordable service.
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