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car review

Mazda's CX-30 is nice to drive, solid and filled with safety technology.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

I’m looking to find my first vehicle, aged 44, and I feel like Goldilocks. Will you help me find something that is ‘just right’?

I want a vehicle that I will enjoy driving and smile when I see it on the driveway. I’ll mainly be driving around town with the occasional longer foray. I want to feel year-round road confidence and I would like a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) or electric vehicle (EV). My budget is around $35,000.

Not too big for city driving, but with good cargo space and back-seat legroom for fast-growing 10-year-old twins. High enough that getting in and out is not too painful for my bad back (which also demands supportive seats). Plenty of safety features and driver assistance technology, but not overly complicated to manage. Solid enough to give me road confidence without being a ‘status’ car. Something that will be good value to run and will give me a wide range of choices for servicing and repairs. – Alice

Mark Richardson: A budget of $35,000 means Alice won’t be able to buy a new electric car, or PHEV, unless she lives in Quebec. Even there, it will be a stretch after she’s paid Freight and Delivery charges, and all the taxes.

Petrina Gentile: Those extra charges can add up to thousands of dollars.

Richardson: They should be included in the total advertised price, not an add-on in the small print. With a BMW, the Freight and PDI costs an extra $2,480 and the “retailer administration fee” is an extra $595. There’s tax on those charges, too. Just tell me how much I have to pay, right off the top.

Gentile: I agree, transparency is key. For Alice, I’m thinking she should consider a zippy little Mazda, like the CX-30 – it’s nice to drive, solid, filled with safety technology, spacious and isn’t too low or too high to step in and out of the front seats. Plus, it starts at $26,350 before the added charges and taxes so it’s well within her budget.

Richardson: I agree. We recommended the CX-30 a few columns ago to Jared, and he got back to us to say he checked it out and ended up leasing one. He wrote, “Somehow they had one in stock, I think someone ordered one then cancelled. The guy said I was the first customer who was able to actually see the car they were leasing on the lot since last August.”

Gentile: He was lucky, but you never know what’s available these days.

The Nissan Leaf is relatively common these days, which means there are a lot of people who’ve figured out how to fix them.

Richardson: The CX-30 isn’t an EV or a PHEV, though. Alice is certainly the right customer for an electric vehicle, because most of her driving is short trips and she can park on a driveway where she can install a charger, but what is there at her price point? A used Nissan Leaf?

Gentile: I like the idea of a used Nissan Leaf. But in her price range she’ll be looking at a 2016 or 2017 model. I wouldn’t go earlier than that – most batteries and components have a warranty of eight years and 100,000 kilometres, so you don’t want a vehicle that’s too old.

Richardson: The Leaf is relatively common these days, which means there are a lot of people who’ve figured out how to fix them. If cells fail on the battery, for example, they can be replaced individually. It doesn’t have to be a costly repair.

Gentile: Fair point. Alice also mentioned a plug-in-hybrid – with her budget she won’t find a new one. A used PHEV might work, but it may also be hard to find one in her budget. Most 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs are selling in the $36,000-to-$38,000 range.

Richardson: I’m sorry to say it, but I think she’s too optimistic for getting an EV or PHEV in her price range. If she wants an older electric car, there are plenty if she’s content with a daily range of 100 or 150 kilometres, but her “occasional longer forays” will be a challenge. Most people with such cars either have a second vehicle or rent a vehicle for longer trips.

Gentile: These days, it’s a challenge to rent vehicles. The rental companies just don’t have enough cars on their fleets.

Richardson: Let’s be practical and recommend something with a gasoline engine that uses little fuel. Not a hybrid – the waiting list this summer is too long. Alice wants a taller crossover with room for children in the back seat, so how about a Toyota Corolla Cross?

Toyota has taken the Corolla, which is the world’s most popular car, and raised it a little and given it more cargo space to create the Cross.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Gentile: I love the Corolla Cross. It’s roomy, practical, good on gas and affordable. You can get it with all-wheel drive and many safety features – everything Alice is looking for.

Richardson: Toyota has taken the Corolla, which is the world’s most popular car, and raised it a little and given it more cargo space to create the Cross. The well-equipped, mid-level trim package will cost her about $33,000 after all taxes, and she can probably find one fairly easily. If she needs to order one to her own specifications, the waiting list now is about three months.

Gentile: Fingers crossed. There you have it, Alice. Skip the PHEV or EV, and go with the Toyota Corolla Cross or Mazda CX-30.

What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at and use ‘What car’ as part of your subject line. Emails with different subject lines may not be answered.

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