Car buyers' guide: Apples and oranges

By Phil Hanson

Mitsubishi Challenger.Photo / Supplied
Mitsubishi Challenger.Photo / Supplied

The dilemma:
Kylee in Browns Bay wants Buyers' Guide to help decide between apples and oranges. She and her husband have narrowed their next car choice to two, but they're completely different.

"We just want something that's roomy and not too expensive to run, and both should be able to do that," she says.

"We started by liking the Toyota Raum, but then a salesman showed us a Mitsubishi Challenger SUV and we really liked that, too, because it would be good for fishing trips and a bit of adventure. Can you help us decide?"

Well, of course. Driven has a third vehicle in mind that's halfway between the two and could be the perfect answer. But first, an answer to the burning question: what the heck's a Raum?

It's yet another relatively obscure Japanese import. What's with these strange Toyotas? Last week we answered a question on the Toyota Sparky.

The Raum is a compact five-seat people-mover in production for the Japanese market since 1997. Its name is German for room, or space.

That might be a clue as to why it has a measure of popularity as a vehicle for wheelchair users. The factory even produced "mobility" versions.

The budget:
About $15,000

The shortlist:

Mitsubishi Challenger

Full marks for recognising the Challenger, one of the best all-round SUVs and good value for money.

The Challenger was built from a mixture of L200 ute and Pajero parts, with some bits of its own in the recipe. The rear suspension changed from leaf springs to coil springs in late 2000, and a coiler is the one to look for - it rides and handles better.

It's available with petrol (up to 3.5-litre V6) or diesel engines, manual or automatic. Unless you have lots of money for fuel, look for a 2.8-litre diesel. Challenger sold well here as a new vehicle, but many used imports are in the mix. Prices vary according to year, engine and mileage, but $15,000 should buy a sweet diesel.

From $15,000

Mitsubishi RVR
This one's our compromise solution. It's versatile like the Raum, plus offers some off-road ability, though nowhere near as good as the Challenger's. It's fine for easy beach runs.

Most New Zealand RVRs arrived as used imports, although it was briefly sold new. The name means Recreation Vehicle Runner, by the way.

Like the Raum, it has a sliding side door; a big plus. As is the pricing - good examples with the 1.8-litre engine and tiptronic-type automatic are in the $6000-$7000 range.

Shop for 1997 and later models.

From $6500

Toyota Raum
The Raum is useful and extremely versatile - and plentiful on the market right now.

Good ones are usually in the $11,000-$12,000 range, with top late-model examples about $15,000.

They all seem to have a 1.5-litre engine with automatic, but variations in specification abound.

From $11,000

Driven recommends
Driven has a soft spot for the Challenger, but also likes the concept of the Raum. However, the RVR best fits Kylee's needs. It has its own interpretation of some of the Toyota's best features, along with all-wheel drive. That's a compelling combination and probably explains why it has sold well in our used market. It's the best value, by a wide margin. Note, though, that older RVRs seem prone to a range of problems, so a competent inspection is a must.

- NZ Herald

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