QUESTION – JANE (10/08/16):
We currently have a 2010 Ford Territory which has been great but we don't need a car this big anymore. It doesn't fit in our little garage and it isn't super fuel efficient.
We would like a small SUV (but would consider a sportier hatch like a Mazda3 if the space was sufficient) that will be driven for short commutes on weekdays and longer trips on weekends. No off-roading, maybe the odd dirt road or country road. It's our only car so gets driven every day.
We want it to be stylish and would prefer leather seats. We need it to be appropriate for if we have a baby and be able to squish in a child, dog, pram and all our luggage.
Reliability and safety is also important. We loved the Mazda CX-3 but the boot was tiny. The Honda HRV is almost perfect but a little sluggish and underpowered. The Suzuki Vitara S Turbo is also great but looks cheap on the inside. And the Mazda3 is great but not an SUV and we wondered if it would be a bit less roomy and baby friendly. That said we have no idea how much space is adequate for one child.
Have we missed something obvious?
ANSWER – TOBY HAGON:
The new breed of small SUVs is a diverse bunch, as you have discovered.
The Mazda CX-3 is great to drive and well-presented inside, but has rear seat and boot space akin to a Mazda2 hatchback, which is not suitable for families.
The Honda HR-V, meanwhile, has loads more space, but less punch and driving flair. That said, its CVT automatic transmission does a good job eking the most out of the engine, so don't be afraid to rev it and you'll find performance is decent.
For more space and punch, though, the Mazda3 SP25 is fantastic buying. As for whether it will have enough space for a child, the biggest factor there will be what pram you buy. Buying a pram is almost as difficult as buying a car, so allow yourself plenty of time to research and take it with you when car shopping to see how much boot space it takes up.
You'll easily fit a big pram in the boot of a 3, but it will limit luggage space a fair bit. Then again, with just one child, you have most of the rear seat to use too.
We wouldn't be too worried about the space in the back seat of the Mazda3, but one advantage SUVs have with children is their higher ride height, which means less back-bending when strapping the child in.
If it fits in your garage we'd recommend a look at the Subaru Outback. It's a really good size for the type of driving you're looking at and, like the Mazda, it has a strong suite of active safety gear.
The Mazda CX-5 is also worth consideration. The extra interior space is a big win, plus it has many of the 3's benefits.
Another factor worth considering if you're looking at driving on dirt roads is the spare tyre. Many modern cars have space savers, which limit your top speed to 80km/h; not much fun if you're miles from home.
Most Mazdas have a space saver, whereas the Outback gets a full-sized spare.
It’s also worth considering the new Toyota C-HR small SUV.
Speaking of which, the current Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage would also be worth a look in the mid-sized SUV stakes. Sensible size, good reliability, great value and long warranties. And full-sized spare tyres on each!