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2010 Nissan Murano (Guy Spangenberg/Nissan)
2010 Nissan Murano (Guy Spangenberg/Nissan)

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Should he buy out his lease or get a new vehicle? Add to ...

I am coming to the end of a four-year lease of my Mazda CX-7 GT AWD. I have put approximately 80,000 km on it but I am not sure I want to continue with a Mazda, as the cost of service has been higher than the others and my CX-7 uses premium fuel.

Here is what I am looking for: 1) A CUV/SUV with more room for the passengers in the back. I have three grown-up children and the CX-7 is pretty tight at the back. I need a little more trunk space to help move their stuff around. 2) All-wheel- or four-wheel-drive, good fuel consumption (rising gas prices) and a four-year lease due to cash flow. I have a set of 18-inch snow tires so something that I can use my snow tires on. I am planning to get my car at the end of March/early April and I would really like to stay away from the dealer until the final stages.

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- Archie in Kitchener, Ont.

Vaughan: Hey Arch, what's the buyout on your lease? It has to be peanuts after four years. There's nothing wrong with a CX-7 and with only 80K the thing's got years of life left. Don't be so fast to dump it.

Cato: Okay, a little fact-checking. ALG, formerly Automotive Lease Guide, says the CX-7 can be expected to hold its value pretty well - third-best among mid-size utilities in predicted retained value. That buyout may not be such a deal, then. Besides, Vaughan, read the letter; Archie has his reasons for moving on to something new.

2011 Chevrolet Traverse

Vaughan: Hold on, here, Cato. Archie has cash flow issues, which I know is code for cheap. He could buy the Mazda on a bank loan and the payments would be a fraction of new-car lease payments. And he wants to hold on to his snows. More cheap.

Cato: Deals? You want deals? Chevrolet Traverse. I count something close to $8,000 in incentive money on the 2011 Traverse, which by the way is a pretty big car-based crossover. Not the best quality in its class, but GM's $8,000 is nothing to sneeze at for a cheapo.

If Arch scrapes together $10,000 for a down payment, he could buy that Traverse for monthly payments in the $600 range over five years. That's the green light to buy, if you ask me - rather than lease or rent a ride for three or four years.

Vaughan: I would lean to the Nissan Murano. Look, Cato, Arch wants something as stylish as the CX-7 and that is not the Traverse. It looks more like a traditional SUV than a cool crossover. The Murano's big inside and it's never really managed to fulfill Nissan's expectations.

Cato: It's cheap. That's what you're saying. It's cheap. Arch, if you can find a 2010 kicking around, and I'm betting you should be able to manage this, Nissan Canada has a $6,000 Year-End Cash rebate sitting on the hood. Something you'd appreciate, Vaughan.

Vaughan: You're catching on.

Cato: Our man Arch wants fuel economy, too. The Murano has something to offer there, too - and it uses regular fuel. The transmission in the Murano is a CVT or continuously variable gearbox, which should be worth about a 5 per cent fuel economy gain versus traditional step-tranny autoboxes.

And it looks cool. And ALG says the Murano will hold its value pretty well over the next four years. And I like the drive and the cargo area is decently large.

2010 Toyota Highlander

Vaughan: The next one that Spendthrift Archie should look at is the Toyota Highlander. Look for a leftover 2010, Arch. The AWD comes with a very peppy V-6.

Archie's talking about wanting more room and the Highlander has more than the CR-7, without question. Toyota has done a nice job on this vehicle and that's why you see so many of them on the road.

Cato: And it's a deal, too. Toyota Canada has $6,000 in incentive money on unsold 2010s, and Arch is going to like that. Uses regular gas, though fuel economy is nothing to cheer - nothing out of the ordinary.

Vaughan: Arch has some options here, but I still say check the buyout first. People automatically return their off-lease cars and walk away from some great bargains. However, if you must have something new, Archie, I'd favour the Murano.

Cato: Arch does not want to soldier on, so leave him alone, Vaughan.

Now Arch, if you want style, I'd agree with the Vaughanster. For space and reliability, the Highlander. And the flat-out best deal in a crossover big enough for your needs, Arch, is the Traverse.

*****

HOW THEY COMPARE



2011 Chevrolet Traverse 1LT AWD

2010 Nissan Murano SL AWD

2010 Toyota Highlander V-6 AWD

Wheelbase (mm)

3,019

2,825

2,790

Length (mm)

5,206

4,788

4,785

Width (mm)

1,991

1,882

1,910

Height (mm)

1,846

1,730

1,760

Engine

3.6-litre V-6

3.5-litre V-6

3.5-litre V-6

Output (horsepower/torque)

281/266 lb-ft

265/248 lb-ft

270/248 lb-ft

Drive system

Full-time all-wheel drive

Full-time all-wheel drive

All-wheel drive

Transmission

Six-speed automatic

CVT

Five-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

2,234

1,836

1,895

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

13.1 city/8.8 highway

11.8 city/8.7 highway

12.3 city/8.8 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$41,505

$39,998

$37,870

Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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