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car review

The 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross is an affordable option that starts at less than $25,000.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

I’m 35, with a relatively recent first home mortgage and a three-year-old Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited.

On reflection, the Jeep was purchased more for the brand and appearance than utility. What was I thinking? I’ve only put 29,000 kilometres on it (which included driving from Toronto to our new home in Vancouver). I pay $600 a month with $35,000 left on the financing, and the thing is a gas-guzzling monster.

I need a city car with the capability to get up to the mountains for skiing and good handling in inclement weather. We have a small dog and are planning for a baby in the next few years.

I’m confused by whether to go with a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) or if that would not make economic sense. Essentially, I’m looking to save some money as I’m feeling the pinch of the loan payments coupled with the fuel price. Given how little I drive and that I’ve matured enough to realize the brand doesn’t make the man, the Jeep no longer makes sense. Matt

Petrina Gentile: A PHEV is a smart way to go, but there is a price premium for going electric, which Matt might not want.

Mark Richardson: He’s learning the hard way about being seduced by marketing. The good news is he has a Jeep Wrangler to sell, which holds its value far better than most other vehicles. A Sahara with such low mileage is surely worth at least $50,000, so he’s not stuck with negative equity. He’ll have $15,000 as a deposit. So as a guide, what can he buy for $400 a month?

Gentile: At least he can take advantage of provincial PHEV subsidy increases in B.C. The B.C. government recently announced it’s increasing rebates for lower-range PHEVs to $2,000, up from $1,500.

Richardson: That will help the bottom line. It’s probably still a long wait for a PHEV or fully electric car though, and if he wants a car as soon as possible, he’ll probably find a sedan more quickly than an SUV. I think he’s best to look for a compact SUV for now, and fall back on a sedan if the waits are too long. And don’t commit to anything for more than two or three years, once a baby comes along.

Gentile: A compact SUV or crossover is a good idea. It’s a competitive space that’s growing, but there are some affordable ones like the Toyota Corolla Cross. It’s one of my favourites and starts at less than $25,000.

Richardson: The all-wheel-drive Corolla Cross starts at $26,290, which might be better if Matt wants to drive to the ski hills.

Gentile: Yes, I’d definitely recommend the all-wheel-drive model – it’s not much more. And it sounds like he’ll need it.

Richardson: A Toyota salesperson told me the wait will probably be around three months, which is reasonable these days.

The Subaru Crosstrek comes with all-wheel drive, it’s spacious with lots of safety features and starts at less than $25,000 for the 2023 model.Handout

Gentile: Very reasonable, nowadays. Another vehicle Matt might want to look at is the Subaru Crosstrek. It comes with all-wheel drive, it’s spacious with lots of safety features and starts at less than $25,000 for the 2023 model.

Richardson: I’m sure he’d be content with the Crosstrek, or he could scale up to a $29,500 Forester if he thinks he needs more space. Frankly, he shouldn’t be spending much on a new vehicle at this point, with a mortgage that might get more costly and the potential expense of a child. Everything’s expensive now, especially in Vancouver. He should spend as little as he can for a couple of years while he – and the world – sorts everything out.

Gentile: I agree. And there are some affordable options for new cars – even the Hyundai Kona with the all-wheel-drive option would be fine. The nice boxy design makes it easy to enter the rear seats and there’s lots of storage in the cargo area for portable play pens and strollers.

Richardson: The Kona is one of the least costly all-wheel-drive vehicles in Canada, and it’s been around a while with no issues for reliability. It was revised recently to be a little larger and added some more features. The skis will still have to go on the roof, but that’s easy to manage.

The base model Hyundai Kona with front-wheel-drive costs less than $25,000 and the all-wheel-drive option can be added for only $2,000.Handout

Gentile: It is value packed for the price. The base front-wheel-drive model costs less than $25,000 and you can add the all-wheel-drive option for only $2,000. It shouldn’t break the bank with the equity still in the Jeep he’s selling.

Richardson: Frankly, if Matt’s in a hurry to cut back those monthly payments, he’s probably best to look at a used Kona or Crosstrek, maybe three years old. It will be ready to go on the dealer lot, unlike a new vehicle. The Corolla Cross is too new to find used and there’ll be a wait for all those models from the assembly plants.

Gentile: If he can wait, I’d hold out for a Corolla Cross because of the affordable price, ample safety features and spacious cabin and cargo area.

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

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