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The new 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe has a more boxy look than before, but is actually more aerodynamic.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

I bought the 2020 Ford Escape Titanium hybrid as a new car. It was a bit more than I wanted but, scarcity was looming and I loved the green colour. It turns out that it does not suit my driving habits. I don’t drive enough in the winter so it constantly goes into battery saver mode.

I need a reliable car to drive from Ottawa to Toronto and to Saint John. I have an adult son and an adult nephew who live with me, so head and leg room are important. And with the long drives that I do on an almost monthly basis, a full electric vehicle is not on my radar yet. I am considering a plug-in hybrid, but I’m not sure whether I will have the same issues. I also don’t want a car that will tempt car thieves as I don’t have a garage. What do you recommend? – Maureen

Petrina Gentile: It’s sad that we have to consider car thieves in our vehicle purchases these days. But it’s unfortunately a reality. So, is it safe to say we can take Honda and Toyota off the list, if she doesn’t want a car that will tempt thieves?

Mark Richardson: It’s a bit of a crap shoot for which makers and which models are most vulnerable. Kia, for example, has a poor reputation for its access codes being easily hacked, but only certain models, like the Stinger. It depends what technology the thief has on hand this week.

Gentile: But it’s not only about the technology – it’s about what cars are in demand in other global markets. Kia isn’t, but Honda and Toyota vehicles are prized in other markets, like Africa.

Richardson: Again, it depends on the model. It doesn’t necessarily pay to ship a Toyota Corolla across the ocean, but it definitely pays to send a Land Cruiser there. Thieves tend to steal larger or luxurious models for export-to-order, and smaller models for local sale or joy rides.

Gentile: Maureen is considering a plug-in hybrid. But one of my favourites, the Toyota RAV4 Prime, might be a target for thieves. Wouldn’t you agree?

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The 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime offers 68 kilometres of electric range, but is hard to buy outside Quebec and B.C.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

Richardson: It might be. It’s nearly impossible to buy a new one legitimately. Mind you, my brother-in-law just bought a two-year-old RAV4 Prime in Halifax on the first day he went looking for one. It had 60,000 kilometres and he paid less than $50,000, fully loaded. So it’s not unobtainable. He’s bought a steering-wheel club for it to help him keep it.

Gentile: That’s a smart idea.

Richardson: The challenge here is that I’d normally recommend the Ford Escape Hybrid to Maureen as a smart buy, but she says it’s too much for her. Perhaps she should just trade it in for a regular Escape. Hybrids don’t save her much fuel on those long highway drives.

Gentile: I’m not a fan of the Escape – I don’t really like the ride and handling. I find it lacklustre and the transmission isn’t the smoothest.

Richardson: But you’d agree that if she doesn’t drive much in the winter and she doesn’t want an electric car, then she’ll be better off with a conventionally powered vehicle? Hybrids generally have smaller 12-volt batteries that don’t handle cold weather and long storage so well. Check out the online forums and you’ll see it’s an issue for Fords that sit parked for days at a time in the winter.

Gentile: I agree. And it’s not just an issue for Fords. Other manufacturers have similar issues in the cold.

Richardson: She needs size for her passengers and she shouldn’t be too concerned about fuel consumption because she doesn’t drive much for half the year. How about a Volkswagen Tiguan or Atlas?

Gentile: I don’t think she needs an Atlas. It’s too big and can be cumbersome to drive and park in congested areas because of its size. But the Tiguan would do the trick.

Richardson: I’ve heard stories of glitchy software in the Atlas that can be frustrating to use, but the Tiguan has a good reputation. The Chevrolet Equinox has also been around for a while, and it’s not high on the list for thieves.

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2025 Chevrolet Equinox RS.Courtesy of manufacturer

Gentile: That’s true. It also blends in on the road. But it does get redone for 2025 so she might want to wait and see what’s in store for the new model. What about Hyundai?

Richardson: The new Santa Fe has more space in both rows for passengers. I’m almost six-feet tall and had no issues for head or leg room in any of the seats. And its latest tech should make it less straightforward to steal – for now, at least.

Gentile: I like the new Santa Fe, especially the styling. It’s bold, distinct and looks more like a Land Rover than a Hyundai.

Richardson: It’s definitely more boxy, but apparently the new design makes it more aerodynamic. I’d recommend it as something for Maureen to consider. What else has the passenger space she’s looking for, without being too large? The Mazda CX-70?

Gentile: That would work – it’s basically a two-row version of the CX-90.

Richardson: It’s almost exactly the same as the CX-90, but if you don’t need that third row, why pay for it and lug around the weight of those extra seats? I think it would fit the bill very well for Maureen. Plenty of space and relatively anonymous looks.

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The exterior of the Mazda CX-70, which Mazda revealed on Jan. 30.Courtesy of manufacturer

Gentile: It’s affordable, starting around $50,000, before taxes. And she can get it as a plug-in hybrid model, too. But that’ll cost more.

Richardson: I don’t think many stolen Mazdas are ending up in shipping containers. But whatever Maureen chooses, she should invest in a highly visible steering-wheel lock as a deterrent for when she parks overnight on the street.

Gentile: So what’s your final recommendation for Maureen?

Richardson: I think a conventionally powered Mazda CX-70 or new Hyundai Santa Fe will give her what she’s looking for.

Gentile: My pick is the new Santa Fe – good interior and cargo space, excellent head and leg room and beautiful styling that sets it ahead of the pack.

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

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