Dean Ellis and his wife want to replace their 2012 Mazda2 with an SUV for easier access and a higher driving position. She wants something similar in size to the Mazda2 between $25-35,000, either new or late used.
Your shortlist includes the Skoda Kamiq, Hyundai Venue, Toyota Yaris Cross, Ford Puma, or a used Ford Focus Cross.
They say the Kamiq has more appeal for its class and its gutsy four-cylinder engine to drive around its Adelaide Hills home. But they are wary of three-cylinder CVT cars. The manuals are fine, but they don’t want a Chinese car. Luxuries and advanced security are more important than economy. The rear seats will be used very occasionally.
I went through the options and picked a couple of possible suspects.
Dean needs to be prepared for long wait times for most of those on his list. I’ve excluded Hyundai’s Venue as it will work in your local hills and if you’re looking for a bit of luxury the Toyota can’t really deliver at this budget – the Ford Puma feels classier.
Unfortunately, everything seems expensive in this desirable SUV segment.
SKODA KAMIQ 110TSI MANUAL DEALER DEMO, ABOUT $35,500 TO DRIVE
When the Kamiq won our 2020 Car of the Year, it was $29,990 with car. Today the entry level is $37,990, which is way over your budget, plus it only has an 85kW three-cylinder engine.
Instead, dealer demo MY22 Kamiq 110TSI Ambition four-cylinder manuals are scarce but available; they would be my pick for just over $35k. It’s a bright, gutsy turbo engine with excellent economy; the handling and ride are impressive for an SUV, and it’s a roomy cabin that feels quality.
A digital dash, LED lights, lane-keep assist, radar cruise control, wireless phone charging, and a power liftgate are included, but you’ll miss out on the power leather heated seats and advanced driver assistance. Five-year warranty and $1,400 value service package.
MAZDA CX-3 MAXX SPORT LE, AROUND $31,700 TO DRIVE
Smaller than the Skoda, but because it’s based on the Mazda2, the dimensions of the CX-3 SUV will be very familiar to you. The rear seat and trunk space is stitched, but it’s fine up front and the build and styling are top notch.
The Maxx Sport LE has striking white Maztex suede (faux leather) seats and trim for a true sense of luxury, plus extensive driver assistance, climate control, satellite navigation and an 8-inch touchscreen.
The 110kW/195Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine isn’t exciting, but it should handle hills just fine; it handles smoothly and is a lot of fun and easy to park in the city. A five-year warranty, but $2,175 for five years of service is steep.
FORD PUMA ST-LINE, AROUND $36,500 TO DRIVE
It’s only a three-cylinder, but its turbo offers a reasonable 92kW and 170Nm, and mated to its seven-speed automatic transmission, I think it’ll handle the roads of the Adelaide Hills.
The sport suspension on this ST-Line adds to an already enjoyable ride and handling small SUV, ideal for its location.
The driving experience is Puma’s trump card as a safety kit and the features don’t stand out. The cabin has lots of soft plastics but only cloth seats, while the perks are satellite navigation, wireless charging, digital dash, 8-inch touchscreen, and a trunk bigger than the rest.
The warranty is for five years, and services cost $1,516 during that time.
2020 FORD FOCUS ACTIVE, APPROXIMATELY $26,000 DRIVING
Criminally overlooked by Australian buyers, this SUV-cum-hatchback took an excellent car, the Ford Focus, and raised the suspension 34mm for easier entry and exit.
Low-mileage 2020 models cost less than $30,000 and still have three years of warranty left.
The 134kW/240Nm three-cylinder engine offers plenty of oomph; reasonable aids for the driver and more room for the grandchildren.
A brilliant mix of comfortable ride and charming handling thanks to the advanced independent rear suspension, but my main gripe is that the cabin finish feels cheap in places, especially the seat fabric.
The next five services will cost $1,738 total.
Since luxury is important and the rear seats don’t get much use, I’d go with the Mazda CX-3.
Thousands cheaper than other new cars, the most elegant cabin and perfect for your size preference.