Holden's Sportwagon, the sporty, load-friendly sibling of Commodore, has impressed Keir and Marianne. But before dropping their dollars at a dealer for a recent model, probably an entry-level Omega, they're wondering what similar vehicles they should look at. They say the Holden is about the right size but would look at stylish wagons that are "a bit smaller". Good thinking - it always pays to check out the alternatives. A new Series II Omega costs more than $52,000 but plenty of first-version VE 2008-09 models fall within their budget.
Used Mazda6 wagons are plentiful, but many are ex-fleet vehicles coming off lease with low prices but high mileage. Mazda's mid-size wagon is the sportiest of its class from Japan and offers a lot for its price, especially in top GSX trim. The 2.5 litre tiptronic-type auto combination offers overall fuel economy of 8.9 litres/100km.
A 2009, and just maybe a 2010 with haggling, could fall within budget.
There's a wide range of recent Passats around, and their prices vary according to mileage and equipment levels. We'd probably go with the 2.0 diesel and six-speed DSG auto, a combo that returns overall fuel economy of 6.2 litres/100km, along with good performance and the ability to carry an impressive load for its size. A 2008 model should be within range of the couple's budget.
From about $30,000
A good looker from Scandinavia, the biggest problem with the front-wheel-drive V70 may be finding one for sale - unlike its 4WD cousin the XC70. Typical is a 2007 2.4 litre petrol S model on the market now for $30,000 and less than 40,000km. That motor, with automatic, provides decent performance and the wagon is super comfortable. Overall fuel consumption is 9.1 litres/100km.
From about $30,000
First, a word about a car not on our shortlist, the Skoda Superb wagon.
Here's a Sportwagon rival if ever there was one, with four- or six-cylinder power, European ambience, many clever features and even a 4x4 version. Trouble is, they're scarce on the used market and a recent one will probably break the budget.
Good as the three shortlisters are, none offers a compelling argument to turn Keir and Marianne away from their Holden Sportwagon choice. We think it's the best car Holden makes, with great styling and usability. Recent technology (look for the SIDI badge) has tamed the 3-litre V6's thirst to 9.3 litres/100km overall, plus you get excellent performance, a good six-speed automatic and creditable CO2 emissions of 210g/km.
Nor is the Omega a stripper; it's well equipped for an entry model, including six airbags and a five-star safety rating.
So Keir and Marianne really answered their own question. Wish they were all that easy.