Help me choose the right family friendly SUV

Dear John,

I want to buy a new car at the end of September. I currently have a 2009 Ford Focus Hatch (shitbox) so I am quite keen to upgrade. 

[More on the epic Ford Focus problems >> ]

I love the new Jeep Cherokee Limited with the technology package. But after watching your Lemon Car list review, and reading other forums, the Jeep issues scare me. I definitely don’t want a lemon! 

[See also my investigative reports on carmaker Gag Orders >> and also Teg Sethi's awe-inspiring anti-Jeep campaign >> ]

After watching your reviews, I’m also looking at the Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander as it has the same parking features I like and a large touch screen.

My dream car since I was a boy has been the Subaru WRX Premium but I'm just not sure if it's practical, as I have a young baby.

I do like the Jeep Wrangler Ultimate Sport, but to be honest, if I was to go for this it would be an emotional buy... I just like how they look.

If I were to buy the Wrangler, it most likely wouldn’t see any serious off-road action. And I don’t think it would be a smart buy with the fuel consumption, as I drive 70km per day for work, five days every week.

So I think that narrows it down to the Jeep Cherokee Limited, Santa Fe Highlander or WRX Premium. 

What's your advice and how can you help me get a good price? How much would your services cost?

Kind regards,

Hello Josh,

We get the price down using our collective experience. Here are the key points about our services:

  1. We use bulk-buying power because we buy dozens of cars every month
  2. We put the purchase out to tender and the dealer network competes for the sale, driving the price down
  3. We don’t fall for traditional dealer profiteering traps because we know the game
  4. We send the dealer a bill for sending the sale his way - you don't pay us; the dealer does
  5. It's available to anyone. Enquire here >>

Jeep is a disaster - poor reliability and a worse corporate culture that fails to support customers with problems. (Wranglers are appalling to drive - beyond awful. You should test drive one just to confirm how bad they are.)

WRX is a nice performance car, but not appropriate for someone who is also considering a Santa Fe. In other words: if a Santa Fe is right for you, a WRX is wrong (and only you can decide this, based on what you need). I love the WRX - a great, affordable performance car, and in Premium spec, it's also quite civilised. More detail on WRX >>

My advice: Definitely put the Santa Fe Highlander on your list. But make sure you compare it to the Kia Sorento Platinum. Definitely don’t buy the Jeep, and make sure the WRX is objectively right for you (as opposed to just a dream car) if it’s really in the running.

More here:

John Cadogan

Above, top to bottom: Hyundai Santa Fe & Kia Sorento. Hyundai and Kia are different brands with the same parent company. Styling is the main difference between them. Depending on specific model and specification level the underlying engineering is either similar or identical.

Dear John,

Thanks for your reply. Following you’re advise, I went and test drove a few of the cars I mentioned. Your advice was spot on!

The Jeep Cherokee Limited felt amazing to drive but didn't like the interior. I did notice the gearing didn’t seem smooth (The dealer said you have to wear the gear box in). The Wrangler was just a dinosaur... no technology and you felt every bump, plus cabin noise was dreadful.

WRX was a nice drive, the acceleration was great and loved the comfortable seats, but didn’t like the boot space. Having a pram and the fact that I would have to move the seat forward to put a baby seat in the back.

Definitely leaning towards the Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander. Looking at the 2015 or 2016 models. Is there much difference between the two? 

Kind regards, Josh

Hello Josh,

Thanks for the update - Santa Fe is a better choice than the Jeep, every time.

2015 vs 2016 models: Given that it’s September 2016, you’d have to ask yourself why any dealer would stock a nine-month-old ‘new’ vehicle. There would have to be a catch (such as: was it damaged in transit, etc.) In any case, a saving on a 2015 model would be offset by the additional depreciation of the older car.

Whatever else you do, make sure you buy the DM3 model (also called Santa Fe Mark II) - that’s the one where the Highlander has adaptive cruise control. You really want that.

DM3 was a significant upgrade for the Highlander, in particular.

See also:

John Cadogan