Which is the best seven-seat SUV to buy?
We're looking at options for a seven-seater SUV and we're about to organise test drives. Of course, the Kia Sorento Platinum is top of the list at the moment. It ticks all the boxes on size of vehicle, boot capacity and features compared to, say, the Mazda CX-9 and Hyundai Santa Fe. But what other models are coming into the market over the next few months that may sway us?
I think a seven-seat Honda CR-V is coming, but it doesn't excite me. Is there an updated Santa Fe due? I've been told something will be happening with a new Sorento, but no details and no time frame. Which leads to the wildcard, the new Skoda Kodiaq. It ticks all the boxes but, and it's a big but for me, its resale is potentially the same with all Skoda models, and that means lousy. When I'm spending about $50,000 I'm not sure I can buy a car knowing its resale could be only worth 40-odd per cent after three years. I like the idea of a petrol, rather than a diesel, and would have to work out running costs to determine the true value of those options.
Ash Crawford, email
You're facing the age-old dilemma of when to buy. There is always something newer and potentially better on the horizon but all of your potential choices are already here and sitting inside your budget if you buy smart and avoid the lure of extra equipment you don't need.
The Sorento is the latest for a midlife tweak, picking up extra safety equipment with an eight-speed automatic and improved infotainment. Avoid a diesel unless you do more than 30,000km a year, as that's the accepted crossover point for the extra cost of the engine and fuel, or you want maximum range for long interstate runs.
It's also important to do a "trial fit” with family and friends, as well as luggage, to ensure you have the space you need. Families often struggle with space for children's seats and, since every brand is different, you should take them along for a test drive. Anyone looking at seven-seater SUVs is also usually looking at something with five full-time seats and an extra pair of occasional spots, so check on the luggage space with the third-row seats up and down.
KIA SORENTO, from about $47,373 d/a
This month's update brings extra safety and a bigger display screen with Apple/Android connectivity. The tweaked 3.5-litre V6 turns an eight-speed auto for solid performance and 7.2L/100km economy. Extra benefits include a full-size alloy spare and seven-year warranty. It drives well and luggage space is 142L or, with third row folded, 605L.
MAZDA CX-9, from about $48,156 d/a
The class leader on refinement, cabin quality and relaxed touring has also been boosted this year with more safety gear. Performance is fine from the 2.5-litre turbo and it's possible to beat the 8.4L/100km claimed economy. Inside, it's very quiet but suspension is not as composed as that in the locally tuned Sorento. Luggage space is 230L/810L.
HONDA CR-V, from about $42,657 d/a
What was once like a Civic on stilts is now a very big SUV, available with five or seven seats. The new CR-V is surprisingly good on refinement and quality, also drives well with 2.0-litre turbo engine and is smartly priced with a seven-year warranty as Honda challenges to re-establish its place in Australia. Carrying capacity of 150L/967L is good.
SKODA KODIAQ, from about $46,290 d/a
Resale is improving fast, helped by a five-year warranty, and the Kodiaq scores as effectively a seven-seat Volkswagen Tiguan - one of the class leaders. Part-time AWD is good and so are the solid shove and 7.6L/100km economy from 2.0-litre petrol turbo. Solid value, comfortable and refined, but rear access is compromised with a left-hand drive seating layout. 270L/630L in the tail is fine.