QUESTION – VERA (QUESTION FROM 4/4/2017):
I want to buy a small new car but due to a back problem, I need higher clearance. I don't necessarily want an SUV but this seems to be my only option. Are there any small cars with higher clearance? What is the best small SUV? I want auto, four door, good economy and safety features.
ANSWER – NATHAN PONCHARD:
Two options that immediately spring to mind are both from Suzuki.
The smaller and least-expensive of the two is the new Ignis. Its upright design not only looks good, but packages together a brilliantly roomy hatch-on-stilts with excellent entry/egress, great vision and loads of storage. And if you opt for the up-spec GLX ($18,990 RRP with a CVT automatic, not including on-road costs), you get a sliding rear seat to prioritise either rear-seat passenger room or boot space for luggage.
Besides some off-the-line lag from the continuously variable transmission (CVT), the main issue with the Ignis GLX is its firm ride. Wearing 16-inch alloy wheels, it feels firmer than the lower-spec Ignis GL on smaller 15-inch steel wheels (not available with the sliding rear seat). So if you place value on a plush ride, or you live somewhere with poorly surfaced roads, the Ignis’s ride may become irritating. Otherwise, it’s a ripper.
A larger option, and an arguably better-rounded vehicle, is the Suzuki Vitara. Currently available in RT-S auto spec for $24,990 driveaway, the Vitara’s larger 1.6-litre engine with a six-speed automatic transmission is more effective at tackling trips away, or lugging a cabin full of passengers, and it offers an even more elevated driving position than the Ignis.
For that price, the Vitara RT-S also offers 17-inch alloy wheels, digital climate-control air-conditioning, satellite navigation, a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay, LED daytime running lights, seven airbags and a five-star safety rating.
I’ve almost sold myself on the car while typing this! For $25K, the Vitara RT-S auto is almost impossible to beat for meeting your criteria. And it’s a Suzuki, meaning the promise of faultless operation and faithful service.
If a Suzuki is not what you see yourself driving, then about the only other car I can suggest for $25K that fits your needs and is genuinely good is a Skoda Fabia hatch or wagon. The Fabia 81TSI auto wagon is $20,990 driveaway, while the up-spec Fabia 81TSI Monte Carlo auto wagon is $26,490 driveaway. In each case, the hatch is roughly $1500 less – trading some luggage space for an arguably neater appearance.
Like the Suzukis, the Fabia offers quite a tall driving position so it should be easy to get in and out of. And its seats offer a greater range of adjustment so there’s a chance they’ll be comfier to sit in. As for warranty, servicing costs, etc, see Skoda’s website at www.skoda.com.au. It’s all laid out there pretty simply. What you’re getting is essentially a more affordably priced Volkswagen, as the Fabia shares it underpinnings with the VW Polo.