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buying used

Couple look for something that isn't as large as an SUV or minivan, but is under $20,000

We have a Great Dane and we're about to have a baby. People always think I'm joking when I tell them what car we drive – we've been jamming the dog into our Mini Clubman. That barely works now and with a car seat, it won't work at all. Any suggestions for a second car that's a little bigger but isn't a huge SUV or a minivan? Reliability, all-wheel drive and decent gas mileage are pretty important. We both really like the BMW X3, but we're trying to keep this under $20,000 and we don't need anything fancy. – Logan, Vernon, B.C.

2012 BMW X3 xDrive28i

2012 BMW X3.

  • Second generation: 2011-2017, facelift for 2015
  • Average asking price for base: $17,619 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Original MSRP: $41,900
  • Engine: 240-horsepower, 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder
  • Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic/all-wheel
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.3 city, 9.3 highway; premium gas

BMW got the X3 right the second time – it's fun on the road, but you'll need a little patience with the controls.

"It may be the most counterintuitive vehicle I've ever driven, and I spent way too much time fighting with its controls," Ted Laturnus wrote in Globe Drive.

Both and Consumer Reports said the second-generation X3 was a big improvement over its predecessor – but noted that the electronic gear shifter and the iDrive infotainment control require some practice to figure out.

Edmunds liked the X3's "high-quality cabin, crisp handling [and] comfortable rear seat," but griped that it was priced higher than rivals.

"The BMW X3 originated the compact luxury SUV segment and is one of the few that actually feels sporty," Consumer Reports said. "It's agile, taut and feels confident in the corners."

There was also the xDrive35i ($23,962, used) with a 300-horsepower turbocharged version of the same engine. Starting in 2013, the xDrive28i's six-cylinder was replaced with a four-cylinder that offered the same horsepower (the 35i kept the turbo six).

Consumer Reports gave the 2012 X3 one out of five for reliability.

There were four recalls, including an "inconsequential" error – the wheel size is missing – on the Motor Vehicle Safety Standards compliance label.

2014 Honda CR-V AWD

2014 Honda CR-V.

  • Fourth generation: 2011-2016, refresh for 2015
  • Average asking price for base: $18,999 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Original MSRP: $28,290
  • Engine: 185-horsepower, 2.4-litre four-cylinder
  • Transmission/drive: Five-speed automatic/all-wheel
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.6 city, 7.9 highway; regular gas

The 2014 Honda CR-V does the job – and that's entirely a compliment.

"The back end is goofy looking, but you can count on this Honda to start every morning and it's safe," Globe Drive said. "The four-cylinder engine is fuel efficient, too."

And, it's got more cargo room inside than you'd think – the back fits 1,100 litres with the 60/40 split-folding seats fully up. Compare that with 780 for the BMW X3.

Edmunds liked the fuel economy, user-friendly controls, standard tech features including rear-view camera and Bluetooth connectivity, and strong crash test scores."

Its gripes? "No available engine upgrade, some cheap cabin materials [and] the transmission lacks a manual mode."

"Really, the best word to describe the CR-V is 'easy,' because that's certainly what it makes your life," Edmunds said. "It's easy to drive, park and see out of."

There are four trims – LX, EX, EX-L and Touring. Consumer Reports said the EX is the best value – but the LX is the only version without Honda's "very annoying" touch-screen audio system. There's also a front-wheel-drive version ($17,762, used).

Consumer Reports gave the 2014 Honda CR-V five out of five for reliability. There were no recalls.

Send your used car questions to with the subject: "Buying used."

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