Size certainly does matter when it comes to packing in a growing family

Lily's Holden Astra is not only costing her too much for maintenance but is now too small for her two pre-teen children. "I also travel to Taupo quite a lot so need a vehicle that is comfortable and reliable," she says. "I'm quite keen on a Dodge Journey.

"I'd really like something new - or at least still under warranty."

Like many Kiwis, Lily likes the versatility of the compact SUVs such as the Nissan Juke and Holden Trax, but does need some boot space.

Well Lily, I would exercise some caution on vehicle size. Teenagers don't stop growing and seem to accumulate more and more must-have gear on trips away, so a compact SUV may prove a very short-term solution.


Compact SUVs are the ideal vehicle around town. But although economical they have their shortcomings on longer trips where space, power and road-holding play a big part in comfort.

The seven-seater Dodge Journey certainly has street appeal and could easily accommodate a couple of the kids' mates as well, but your budget is taking you away from the protection of any new-car warranty. However, you could buy, or ask a dealer to include, a three-year mechanical warranty insurance policy as part of the deal to help overcome that concern.

Even with the 2.7-litre engine option, the Journey is not the most fuel-efficient vehicle around with a claimed combined consumption of 10.3l/100km. Short runs around town would push that figure higher.

What you have to weigh up is: will the savings in future mechanical repairs by selling the Astra outweigh the extra fuel costs of the bigger and more user-friendly vehicles such as the Journey?

Bear in mind also that the jump to upgrade is going to cost you money regardless of what you buy.

The budget:$25,000
Subaru Impreza 2R Sport (2010)

The Sport version will certainly put a smile on the dial on those drives to Taupo. It is a very well speced vehicle, including a factory body kit, sport seats, alloy wheels and privacy glass. Safety is a strong point with Subaru and this model is no exception. All-wheel drive is nice to have, especially in the winter and when driving in cold temperatures. Combined fuel consumption dips under double figures with a claimed 8.8l/100km.

SsangYong Korando Sport 2l (2014)

I'm starting to see more and more Korandos on the road and have to say they fit into the crowded SUV market pretty well in terms of looks and appeal. A couple of cold walk-ups to owners (the best judges of all) to ask about their experience with the brand has produced some positive comments as well. Ex-demonstration models that have done about 1500km are being advertised for a little over your budget but you automatically pick up that factory warranty. It's a brand not to be ignored but sells on price rather than any leading-edge technology. Claimed combined fuel consumption is 7.9l/100km.

Suzuki S-Cross 1.6 2WD GLX (2014)

The S-Cross has replaced the practical but outdated SX4, so automatically comes with enhancements.

Once again it's pushing the boundaries of your budget at $28K but it's the new kid on the block and while there will be upgrades you can be guaranteed of a long model life in terms of its general shape and mechanicals.

I'm sure Suzuki NZ will be hoping the S-Cross will help expand their sales without having to rely solely on the ever-popular Swift. The S-Cross has a smaller engine than the other cars but you gain in fuel consumption with a very impressive claimed combined low of 5.8l/100km. It's definitely worth a look.

Driven recommends

You need to give strong consideration to just how large or small a vehicle you really need. One option could be overkill because it will rarely be used to its full capacity. At the other end of the scale is a tighter squeeze going to compromise how much gear and
people you can accommodate comfortably?