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Like your earlier reader Richard, I also want an AWD non-SUV with a minimum of 175 hp and at a cost under $50,000. You recommended the Subaru Outback but, in this time of trade wars, I also require a car that is made elsewhere than in the USA, which rules out the Outback. I’m considering the Subaru Crosstrek and the Volkswagen Alltrack, though I think they might be shy on the horsepower. – Mike

Richardson: You know, people talk about horsepower as if it’s the be-all end-all, but it’s really torque that you feel in the seat of your pants.

Gentile: Oh please. Who cares about horsepower or torque? That’s such a guy thing.

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Richardson: I care about horsepower and torque. I’m a guy.

Gentile: Mark, women account for more than 80 per cent of all car-buying decisions. And frankly, most women don’t care about horsepower or torque. It’s near the bottom of their list when they go car shopping.

Richardson: Mike doesn’t sound like he’s a woman...

Gentile: He’s not, but we digress. Most cars, with the exception of small runabouts or some green cars, have enough horsepower and torque for the average Canadian daily commute. It’s not like we drive on the Autobahn and can push our vehicles to the limit. We’re bound by laws, and mostly 100 km/h highway restrictions. So what’s the point? Bragging rights?

Richardson: It’s not about top speed. It’s about pulling power out of corners and up hills, and that’s all about torque. The Outback, which is built in Indiana, makes 174 lbs.-ft. of torque. The smaller Crosstrek, which Mike suggests and is built in Japan, makes 145 lbs.-ft. I think he’d be disappointed with it.

Gentile: You guys with your statistics.

The 2019 VW Golf Alltrack.

Handout

Richardson: He’d like the VW Golf Alltrack a lot more. The 1.8-litre turbo four-cylinder makes 170 hp, but it’s much better with the torque. It peaks at 199 lbs.-ft. at a low 1,600 rpm. That’s impressive pulling power all through the rev range, especially for $32,000. We recommended it to Richard, it’s made in Mexico, and as you pointed out back then, it has an available six-speed manual transmission.

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Gentile: Got to love a stick. One car that might not be on Mike’s radar is the Nissan Altima – it now comes with all-wheel drive. It’s spacious and attractive in its design. And the specs meet Mike’s criteria: a new 2.5-litre DOHC inline four-cylinder engine with 182 ponies and 178 lb.-ft. of torque.

The 2019 Nissan Altima comes with all-wheel drive.

Richardson: It’s good value, that’s for sure. It starts at less than $30,000.

Gentile: And that’s with all-wheel drive as standard equipment, for the first time ever on the Altima sedan.

Richardson: But it’s made in Tennessee, and will be moving its assembly to Mississippi. That rules it out for Mike.

Gentile: Good point. I guess it’s Mike’s money. There’s the Mazda CX-3 – made in Japan, like all Mazdas. Sure, the horsepower is shy again of what he’s looking for: 148 ponies from the 2-litre four-cylinder engine. It’s still worth a test drive, especially when you consider the top GT trim with AWD costs only $31,000 – way below his budget.

The 2019 Mazda CX-3.

Eric micotto

Richardson: Big yawn. What Mike really wants from Mazda is the new CX-5, which is as spacious as the Outback and starts at just under $30,000. It has a 2.5-litre engine that’s good for 187 hp and 186 lbs.-ft. of torque. Now that’s more like it.

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Gentile: I disagree – that’s too big and it actually costs more. The price you’re quoting is for the base FWD model. If you want the AWD you have to move up the ladder to the GT model and it costs around $37,000. So, clearly, he’s better off with the CX-3.

Richardson: Funny how the price always creeps up with cars and never seems to go down, isn’t it? But it all depends on how much size and power Mike is looking for. He can drive both cars at a Mazda dealership and choose for himself.

Gentile: Definitely worth test-driving both. But I’m banking he’ll go with the CX-3 – that’s my pick for Mike.

Richardson: I’ll stick with the Golf Alltrack. It’s got the power and the looks for well below his budget.

What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

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