Wanted, a metro-savvy SUV which can still handle off-road
I have a Mazda CX-5 GT and am very happy with it. However, I'm looking to replace it with a vehicle that will allow me to safely explore more of Australia's diverse landscape. I'm not planning to tackle hardcore four-wheel drive tracks but would like to do more than travel on smooth gravel roads.
I'm after something about the same size as the Mazda so that I can still drive and park it easily around town as my everyday transport but venture further off-road in comfort and safety. My budget for the new car can be $75,000-$85,000 but I'm happy to buy something a bit cheaper.
It's tricky to find a genuine off-roader as small as a Mazda CX-5. Even the Suzuki Vitara these days is a soft-roader rather than a full-on go-anywhere vehicle. However, we've tried to highlight some options that fit your brief, as well as a glance at a full-size 4WD, the Toyota Prado, should you really want to get off the beaten track.
Toyota Prado, from $58,500 drive-away
This may seem too big but hear us out. It's only about half a metre longer than your Mazda. At 1885mm tall it'll fit in most shopping centre car parks providing you don't add roof racks. It has ample ground clearance for the rough stuff (219mm versus your Mazda's 185mm) and if you buy one of the Prado grades with the spare wheel on the back door you get twin fuel tanks (150L total) with enough driving range to cover up to 1500km. Despite its size, the turning circle is pretty tight at 11.6m. That compares with 11m for your Mazda.
Land Rover Discovery Sport, from $65,000 drive-away
This is at the pricier end of the scale but is effectively Land Rover's answer to the Subaru Forester/Mazda CX-5-size vehicles and is available with a choice of engines. It looks great in the brochure and on the showroom floor but be wary of the options list. A lot of items that are standard in mainstream cars are optional in the Discovery Sport. It will have the off-road clearance and capability you're looking for but I'd be cautious about going too far off the beaten track, or even on sealed roads without phone range or service back-up. Land Rover has made significant improvements to its quality and reliability in recent years but the vehicles perform poorly in overseas quality and dependability surveys.
Subaru Forester, from $35,600 drive-away
You're in the box seat here. The current Forester is in run-out so prices are a bit sharper than normal. There is also a new model around the corner that could be worth waiting for - it's less than a month away from showrooms. The next Forester (pictured) is new from the ground up, is roomier and promises to be more capable off-road than your CX-5. The new model will have the car-like features and luxury you're looking for day-to-day as well as the latest safety aids. Ride height is 220mm and it has constant all-wheel drive so the grip is always there, city or country. It can be a mixed blessing, as permanent AWD is a touch thirstier. The other potential downside is the expensive servicing, even when you stick with the maker's capped pricing program. And Subaru is yet to provide five-year warranty permanently, so try to time your purchase to coincide with the extra factory-backed coverage
Here's a crazy idea: keep your Mazda CX-5 but invest in a set of all-terrain tyres and a full-size spare. Given the CX-5's modest ground clearance, some components may be vulnerable to off-road damage.
If keeping your CX-5 doesn't appeal, the coming Forester tops my list, given your criteria.