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The basic front-wheel-drive version of the 2022 Nissan Qashqai has a suggested price of $25,498.Jay McNally McNally Multi Media/Courtesy of manufacturer

I am a 72-year-old woman looking to buy my last car, hoping for something that will last for the final 10-15 years of my driving life. I drive about 12,000 kilometres a year. I have $30,000 to spend. I currently have an 11-year-old Hyundai, which I have been very happy with, but it has little trade-in value.

I am looking for a car that is good around town and will also be good for long road trips to Northern Ontario for the next five or so years. I often drive three friends around town, so four doors and a back seat that is comfortable for adults on short trips is required. I’d like a small SUV. Are there any out there that I can afford? Kathryn Waugh

Petrina Gentile: I love it when our readers know exactly what they want. In this case, Kathryn wants a small SUV for less than $30,000 and there are some new ones that fit her budget. Certainly more options if she buys used, but this is probably her last vehicle.

Mark Richardson: A new vehicle will provide her the service warranty that will give her peace of mind. My first thought was the Toyota Corolla Cross. It’s reliable, comfortable, small and spacious. The cost for the base model though, after taxes, is $33,000. Perhaps her 11-year-old Hyundai is worth the extra $3,000 as a trade-in at the dealership.

Petrina: That jumped to my mind, too. The Corolla Cross is a compact size and also has all-wheel drive – a nice bonus on those longer drives to Northern Ontario.

Richardson: All-wheel drive is an extra $2,000 on the basic model, so now we’re $5,000 over budget. It’s the best car for Kathryn, but if she doesn’t want to pay that much, we’ll need to rethink. Sticking with the reliability of Toyota, perhaps a lightly used RAV4 or Venza, if she can find one.

Gentile: Or a gently used Corolla Cross if she can find one. You can’t go wrong with a Toyota – they’re reliable and dependable vehicles that should last the rest of her driving life.

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The 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross is a reliable and dependable choice.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Richardson: These days, gently used cars can cost more than new ones because you don’t have to wait for them. Some dealers are getting their friends to put distance on brand-new cars so they can be sold at higher prices that aren’t restricted by the new-car suggested price of the manufacturers.

Gentile: True, so let’s give her some other new options. I’m thinking of a Subaru Impreza five-door hatchback. It starts around $23,000 and comes standard with all-wheel drive.

Richardson: Now that’s a good idea. It’s lower to the ground and not the taller SUV Kathryn’s thinking of, but four adults will be comfortable. That base model has a manual five-speed transmission that she may not like, though. With the stick shift, it’ll cost just over $26,000 once all the taxes are included, but the CVT model will come in about $2,000 more. That’s still nicely in her budget.

Gentile: And if she wants to stick to Hyundai, there are a few value-packed options like the Kona or Venue.

Richardson: I think those will be too small for her passengers to be comfortable in the back seat, but she did say they’d be short trips. How about a used Ford Escape? If she can find one that’s come off lease, she should be able to also afford an extended warranty within her budget, just for peace of mind.

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The 2023 Subaru Impreza 5-door comes standard with all-wheel drive.Courtesy of manufacturer

Gentile: I disagree – she’s 72 and it’s probably her last car. She deserves a new car with a good warranty for peace of mind. Forget about the Escape, Kathryn. Hyundai has a good warranty and she’s familiar with the brand. The gas-powered Kona starts around $25,000. It’s cool, hip and in her budget.

Richardson: Kathryn never said she wants to be cool and hip, so don’t forget the Honda HR-V. It’s a small SUV with enough space for her passengers, and it should be reliable. A new one will cost about $35,000 after all the taxes, but she may find a gently used one that fits her budget.

Gentile: Honestly I’m not a fan of the seats in the HR-V – I find them uncomfortable, especially on long drives. She might want to test a Nissan Kicks. It’s more affordable at around $21,000, has lots of driver-assistance technology and controls that are intuitive and easy-to-use. Or move up in size to a Nissan Qashqai.

Richardson: I must admit, I’ve never travelled a long distance in an HR-V. Her passengers will be more comfortable in the back of the slightly larger Qashqai, and it’s not as costly as the Honda. The basic front-wheel-drive version has a suggested price of $25,498, so it should come in at just over $30,000 after taxes.

Gentile: I think Kathryn should definitely take the Qashqai for a test drive. It’s the perfect ride for her. If she doesn’t like it, we gave her a few other good options, but the Subaru Impreza is also at the top of my list for her driving needs.

Richardson: I’ll agree with you on the Qashqai. Nissan tends to be overshadowed by the larger brands, but it’s certainly worth consideration from Kathryn.

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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