QUESTION – ALAN (question asked 20/12/2016):
I’m looking for an AWD light SUV, which I’ll drive about 30,000km per year. Most kilometres are on highways/country roads, with city, beach and snowfields mixed in throughout each 12 months. I’m looking at Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage or Toyota RAV4, and considering either petrol or diesel.
ANSWER – FRASER STRONACH:
First up, I'd rule out the Toyota RAV4 as it's generally underwhelming in a number of areas including driving dynamics and performance, despite the benefit of good resale value and Toyota's extensive dealer network.
The Mazda is next to go as it doesn't have a full-size spare tyre. Space-saver spares are a seriously dud idea for Australia, especially for country driving, where a full-size tyre that can safely support a fully loaded car at freeway speeds is essential.
That's leaves the Tucson and the Sportage, which share many common mechanical parts including the diesel engine, which is my preference for either of these two thanks to the combination of decent performance and excellent fuel economy.
If, however, you want the convenience and characteristics of petrol, then the 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine that is only available in the Tucson is by far the pick of the petrol engine options.
The only caution that you need to consider with either the Tucson or the Sportage is beach driving. With hard-packed sand you'll be okay but for soft sand, a proper 4x4 with dual-range gearing is more suitable.
If you do wish to drive on sand, remember to drop your tyre pressures to around 18psi. It will make a huge difference and helps prevent getting bogged, which is all too easy to do in soft sand.