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I want an SUV with all-wheel drive. What should I get?

The Mazda CX-3 is an obvious choice for a small SUV, but you could also consider the Kia Soul, Honda’s HR-V and the Nissan Juke

I drive a 2006 Mazda3 without traction control, which is obviously not safe or practical for winter driving. I want to buy an SUV with all-wheel drive this summer. Given what is on the market for a used SUV for less than $10,000, would it make sense to use that money as a down payment for a new SUV instead? - Jessica, Calgary

Richardson: Unless there’s something wrong with it, your 11-year-old Mazda3 is neither unsafe nor impractical. It was fine back in 2006, after all. It’s just that technology has improved so much since then that a new vehicle will be considerably safer and probably more practical, too.

Leeder: To take advantage of that new technology, though, you’d be further ahead to use that $10,000 (or even less than the full amount) on a down payment for something new if you can afford additional monthly payments on either a lease or financed purchase. The reason? Over the past three to five years, auto makers have gone from charging extra for tech-related features (backup cameras, blind spot sensors) to including them in most base models.

If you want a used SUV for less than $10,000, you won’t cash in on any of it.

2017 Mazda CX-3.

Richardson: It’s true – brakes improve with every generation and traction control definitely improves. The pace of change is faster than it’s ever been. If you’re looking for a small SUV instead of your Mazda3, the Mazda CX-3 is the obvious choice. It’s more of a crossover than an SUV, but it includes G-Vectoring Control, or GVC; this uses the engine to compress the individual shock absorbers up to 20 times a second in order to keep the car flat around corners and reduce steering corrections. Clever, huh?

2017 Honda HR-V.

Leeder: The CX-3 is a great choice. If you put down $10,000 and plan to finance the vehicle’s base front-wheel-drive trimline over three years, your weekly payment would be $88 with federal taxes – no provincial tax in Alberta, got to love that. Stretch the term to five years and that weekly payment drops to $55. Push it even longer and the price will drop, but will you still want to own the same car?

2017 Kia Soul.

Richardson: Push it past five years and it stops being a down payment and starts to be rent. Besides, Jessica says she’d like all-wheel drive, which is an extra $2,000, or around $10 added to either of those weekly payments. Hey – that’s about the same as the sales tax in Ontario. Come to Alberta for free all-wheel drive!

Leeder: If you’d like some alternatives to consider, have a look at the Kia Soul, Honda’s HR-V (which is fantastic but will be pricier than the CX-3) and, for a real twist on creative design, the Nissan Juke. Its distinct looks are not for everyone, but its price point is up your alley.

Nissan Juke.

Richardson: There’s nothing wrong with the Juke, which is a peppy little crossover aimed at young drivers, except it looks like a Juke. At least it’s an improvement on the fortunately-discontinued Nissan Cube. As somebody once said about that, the peripheral vision for the driver is awful, thanks to the paper bag you need to wear on your head while behind the wheel.

Leeder: I’m no fashion consultant, but I think wearing a paper bag should be a hard limit. Unless the Juke really appeals to you, bypass it and check out the other three options. You’ll find a winner in there somewhere.

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