Hi John, firstly thanks for your automotive contributions online and on TV. You seem to cut through all the BS and tell it like it is.
My dilemma is that we currently own a 2007 Honda CR-V fitted with both a booster seat and a rear-facing baby seat. We are expecting a third child in two months. My wife believes we need a new car, and although I find the prospect a financially daunting one, I have been searching online and visiting dealerships.
The criteria from my wife's perspective is a high driving position, large rear seat and large boot for a tandem pram. AWD would be good but is not essential for us. This typically puts us in the SUV category but not all have a rear seat which will comfortably fit three child seats side by side.
Recently we looked at the Nissan Pathfinder but we noticed the door trims are rather thick which imposes upon rear seat width, despite the specs on paper. Seven seaters seem to be of little or no benefit to us as we can't easily access the third row with two child seats in the second row, and the third row usually means we would also lose considerable boot space.
I think I have considered every family vehicle, but personally I see a lot of benefits in something like a Commodore Sportwagon (apart from the ride height and RWD). This however, is the last vehicle on my wife's list. Our price range is up to $45,000.
Your thoughts and advice on what would serve us best will be greatly appreciated. Keep up the good work!
I'll short-list a few vehicles for you here, both 7 seat SUV and 5 seat SUV. All with five-star safety ratings, which is important.
Try a Hyundai Santa Fe Elite first. As in go to a dealership and measure the trim-to-trim distance. If I were you I would also investigate baby seat widths - as there is some variance there and even a few centimetres will matter. Changing seats might open up your options.
Here is a list of the main Hyundai Santa Fe resources I have online at present:
- Read my report on the meteoric rise of Hyundai in Australia >>
- Read about the 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe model upgrade here >>
- Read my Hyundai Santa Fe road test report here >>
- Hyundai Santa Fe versus key competitors >>
- Read why Hyundai Santa Fe is one of the safest SUVs you can buy >>
- Can a robot out-park a human? Find out in this real-world Hyundai Santa Fe reverse parking test >>
(You can also simply put ‘Santa Fe’ into the search box on every page or simply click this link >> for all Santa Fe reports on the website.)
I am sure you can get a Santa Fe Elite in that price ballpark, even though the official list price is a little more. Hyundai has recently introduced capped price service for the life of the car, and Santa Fe is a great vehicle in the way Commodore isn't. My brokerage contacts can engineer a significant discount on Santa Fe any time.
Above, left to right: Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan X-TRAIL
Other options in the seven-seat domain are detailed in my recent report on the Top Six 7-Seat SUVs >> and you could check the Mazda CX-5, which is in my view the best five-seat SUVs around. Full review on the CX-5 here >>.
Another vehicle to consider is the Nissan X-TRAIL. It has a very large cargo volume and there are options of five- and seven-seat variations as well as 2WD and AWD (but AWD is not available with seven seats, perversely). Full report on the Nissan X-TRAIL here >>
On the Pathfinder: Nissan has had a horror run with that vehicle. The main issue seems to be CVT reliability. The CVTs for Nissan are made by a company called Jatco, which is 75 per cent Nissan owned. There's been a real management hack-and-slashfest following the problems (plural). Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn says it's all fixed - but I think the prudent course of action there is just to wait and see.
Finally you could look at the Mitsubishi Outlander, which has recently been upgraded to 2015 specifications and refreshed. I have a full report on the Outlander here >>
On the Holden Commodore: Do you really want to buy a car built in a factory where every worker is guaranteed to lose their job? Commodore is also thirsty and outdated. And unreliable. Holden is rapidly going down the tubes as my recent Holden Health Check report >> describes.
If Santa Fe won't work, get back to me for other options.