The dilemma:

Mark's 2002 Subaru Forester XT is getting close to its use-by date and, as he lives rurally and tows frequently, front-wheel drive isn't an option.

" I don't want anything bigger in size than this compact wagon and I enjoy the serious horsepower that the Forester has," he says.

"I drive to Auckland [380km away] once a month to work in Auckland for a week. Do you have any suggestions for a replacement?"


Mark, your current vehicle sounds ideal for the lifestyle you lead, so finding a replacement won't be that easy, especially one of a similar size. The one compromise you may have to consider is that "serious" horsepower you have available sitting under your right foot currently. That is, unless you simply upgrade to a later model Subaru XT (around 2008). That way you know what to expect performance-wise, with the added bonus of upgraded safety and in-cabin features.

As you are well aware, any petrol vehicle fitted with a turbo can, depending on how they are being driven, chew through the fuel so take any claimed fuel consumption figures as a guide only if sticking with a forced induction engine. You may even consider a diesel. It won't have the instant acceleration that you're used to, but towing will be a breeze and fuel costs will be considerably less.

Be careful, also, when doing your comparisons as some 4WD and 2WD variants of the same make and model can be hard to tell apart.

The Budget: $30,000

The shortlist

Subaru Forester

It doesn't have the power of your current XT (no turbo) but it packs a fairly hefty punch in other ways. You retain that well proven Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive which is ideal for your rural lifestyle while safety features include stability control and multiple airbags which will create peace of mind on those monthly drives to Auckland. Driver comforts include Bluetooth and USB connectivity. The balance of new-car warranty plus a very low odometer reading are also an added bonus. Combined fuel consumption is a claimed 9.3l/100km.

Ford Territory Ghia AWD

A 2007 version of this vehicle has all the power you will ever need thanks to the 4-litre turbo engine. Road handling has always been one of Ford's strengths so no worries on that front. It also comes stacked full of features including leather trim, reversing camera and dual zone climate air-conditioning. The downside is the fuel consumption, with claimed combined figures of 14.2 l/100km.

Toyota Highlander

The Highlander has a very smooth V6 3.5 litre engine (11.6l/100km). The limited model 2010 comes with a little more refinement, but in your price range you would be purchasing a vehicle that is heading close to, or in excess of, the 100K mark. Popular model, but it won't give you the buzz of the Subaru XT on a long drive.

Driven recommends

Upgrade to a later model Subaru Forester or check out the 2-litre Subaru Legacy diesel wagon.

Are you looking for a new car, or struggling to make sense of what's good and what's not? Write to and our man Jack will give you the right information to get you in the right car.