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Best of the Lot

What car should I buy for the nanny? Add to ...

Jeremy: I am looking to buy/lease an economical, reliable, safe crossover-type vehicle for my nanny, so she can transport my kids to various after-school activities etc. One that also has an excellent safety rating and is cheap to insure, too. She has her own two kids and would use it as her personal vehicle. My thoughts so far include: Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Kia Sportage and Rondo. I would really appreciate your thoughts on this conundrum ASAP. I would like to make a decision in the next few weeks. There are some good deals out there. -Charles

Vaughan: Hey Cato, isn’t this letter from your buddy the anesthesiologist? You two get along so well because you both specialize in putting people to sleep.

Cato: You should skip the car gig and go straight to writing for Letterman. Your comic wit is wasted here.

Vaughan: Hmmm, I’m losing all sensations of pain and my muscle reflexes are going soft just listening to you.

Cato: Soft. Now that’s the operative word for you. Or squishy.

In any case, the CR-V, the Rogue and the Sportage are all perfectly reasonable options here.

You can make the argument that the Sportage and its kissing cousin, the Hyundai Tucson, lead the safety parade among this trio – both are Top Safety Picks of the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, along with the Honda Element, the Jeep Patriot, Subaru Forester and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Now Charles, if you are looking for a budget alternative, the Patriot is it. The Forester is your best all-wheel-drive alternative, though it’s not as sexy as the Sportage. The Tiguan is a good all-around compact SUV, but nothing special other than the excellent VW seats.

Vaughan: Cato has provided his usual catalogue, except for one. That Kia Rondo is the ugliest dog on the block, so let’s skip it.

As for the Kia Sportage, well, it must have come along after Kia head-hunted that expensive designer out of Audi. It is a good-looking car, very Euro. The Tucson is also handsome. Your pal Chuck won’t go to sleep at the wheel of either of these – they are actually fun to drive.

Cato: I find the steering in both the Sportage and Tucson to be a bit numb. It’s all-electric, which is good for fuel economy, but difficult to tune for driving feel. I agree on the looks, though.

Vaughan: Okay, the Nissan Rogue; this is the most fuel-efficient vehicle on the list. You’ll likely begin your usual diatribe about what helps make it so fuel-efficient. That would be its CVT (continuously variable transmission). I like CVTs and I think Nissan does the best job with these so far.

You can drive the Rogue and never be aware that it’s a CVT and not an ordinary automatic. Nissan says a car equipped with a CVT gets 8 to 10 per cent better fuel economy compared to the same car with a conventional four-speed automatic transmission. That said, the Rogue is a little on the small side for a kiddy hauler.

Cato: But it is being sold at a discount right now – a $4,000 factory-to-dealer rebate due to expire at the end of the month. So if Charles wants the Rogue S with AWD he should be able to whittle that sticker price down from $26,448, to something in the low-$20,000s.

Vaughan: Okay, now the Honda CR-V. This version is headed for the remainders bin. A brand-new, re-engineered CR-V is coming in a few months. Not that there’s a thing wrong with this one. It’s reliable and safe enough and has enough room for nanny and her passengers.

Cato: You are right about the deals here. Honda Canada has $2,500 in a factory-to-dealer rebate in play. Which means a $28,290 CR-V LX with AWD can be had for a lot less. I like the CR-V tons and would recommend it, for sure. But I’d argue it’s a little over-priced given the competition.

Vaughan: I think Chuckie should take the deal on the CR-V. Great vehicle and a fair price. The Rogue might be a bit small and the Korean stuff just looks too flashy for the intended utilitarian purpose Chuck has in mind.

Cato: Two points: First, the Sportage now has a $3,000 factory-to-dealer rebate in play. A Sportage LX with AWD lists for $26,995, but Chuck won’t pay that. There is nothing boring about this ride. I love the looks. Your kids and the nanny’s would look great in it. Limited availability, though.

Point two: the best deal of all is the Patriot, at least potentially. Anyone still holding a Chrysler Gold Key Lease is up for a $3,000 “loyalty” bonus – plus another $2,500 in factory sales sweeteners. That’s $5,500 on, say, a Patriot 4WD Sport listing for $20,195.

Charles, your three choices are fine, but if you want a killer deal, look at that Patriot.

Vaughan: All those numbers – you’re having that effect on me again, Cato. Pass the ether.

*****

HOW THEY COMPARE



2011 Honda CR-V LX AWD

2011 Kia Sportage LX AWD

2011 Nissan Rogue S AWD

Wheelbase (mm)

2620

2640

2690

Length (mm)

4555

4440

4655

Width (mm)

1820

1855

1800

Height (mm)

1680

1635

1659

Engine

2.4-litre four-cylinder

2.4-litre four-cylinder

2.5-litre four-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

180/161 lb-ft

176/168 lb-ft

170/175 lb-ft

Drive system

all-wheel drive

all-wheel drive

all-wheel drive

Transmission

Five-speed automatic

Six-speed automatic

CVT or continuously variable automatic

Curb weight (kg)

1598

1522

1504

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

10.1 city/7.5 highway

10.0 city/7.1 highway

9.3 city/7.7 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$28,290

$26,695

$26,448

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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