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buying used

Could a used Tribeca or Touareg fit this driver to a T?

Unfortunately, neither of these SUVs quite hit the practical-but-not-fancy sweet spot

I have a chance to buy a 2013 Subaru Tribeca from my brother-in-law for $30,000, although I’d rather pay only $25,000. I also like the looks of the Volkswagen Touareg. Which one would you choose? I want something roomy and practical but don’t need anything fancy. – Jonathan, Calgary

Looking for a practical-but-not-fancy SUV to fit you to a T? Then the Touareg and the Tribeca might not be for you.

The Touareg is pricey – new, it starts at $51,960 – so to purchase a base model for less than $25,000, you’ll have to go back to 2011.

The Tribeca is fine, but these days, fine isn’t good enough. It was dated by 2013 and there are better, roomier SUVs to choose from. A good place to start? The Chevrolet Traverse, Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota Highlander.

Forget your brother-in-law’s Tribeca: the average price for a top-of-the-line 2013 Tribeca is $26,738, so $30,000 seems steep – even if it’s in showroom shape.

2013 Subaru Tribeca

  • First generation: 2006-2014 (facelift in 2008)
  • Average price for base: $22,081 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Transmission/drive: five-speed automatic/all-wheel drive
  • Engine: 3.6-litre six-cylinder
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 14.7 city, 11.1 highway

When you think of Tribeca, Robert DeNiro’s tony lower Manhattan neighbourhood, you probably don’t think of Subaru.

Buyers didn’t, either. When Subaru retired the mid-size SUV in 2014, it was Canada’s worst-selling car (just one sold that December).

“There’s nothing really wrong with the Subaru Tribeca,” review site Edmunds said. “The problem is that there isn’t anything it does particularly well enough to make it stand out among the multitude of excellent crossover-SUV alternatives.”

The original grille was redesigned in 2007. Good thing, too. Globe Drive said the original “looked like either a ‘58 Edsel after a front-ender or an Alfa gone horribly wrong.”

Subaru said the name originally reflected the car’s “trend-setting fun and sophistication,” but by the end, it hadn’t changed much.

Edmunds liked its all-wheel drive and its interior, but said the Tribeca had a cramped third-row seat that barely fit kids, limited cargo capacity, and subpar fuel economy.

“Its relatively high sticker price doesn’t help much, either,” it said.

Consumer Reports has no reliability data for the 2013 Tribeca. There was one recall to fix a hood that could open while driving.

2013 Volkswagen Touareg

  • Second generation: 2011-present (facelift in 2014)
  • Average price for base: $34,682 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Transmission/drive: eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive
  • Engine: 3.6-litre V-6
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.8 city, 10.4 highway (premium fuel)

The trouble with the Touareg, besides trying to pronounce its name? It’s a luxury SUV with a Volkswagen badge.

“The biggest issue with the Touareg is that it’s too much money for an SUV from a mainstream brand,” Globe Drive said. “VW will argue, off the record, that the Touareg is the poor man’s Porsche, not an overpriced VW.”

The Touareg (pronounced: twah-regg), which was developed alongside the Porsche Cayenne, is priced as a luxury SUV. Mostly, thanks to “strong performance, plentiful standard features and upscale design,” the Touareg holds its own among luxury rivals – especially inside, Edmunds said. “The Touareg cabin isn’t as tech-forward as an Acura MDX or as refined as a BMW X5, but it is still an enveloping place to sit, surrounded by soft-touch surfaces and cushy seats.”

Edmunds didn’t like the lack of a third-row seat, or the cost of higher trim levels.

Consumer Reports has no used car reliability data for the 2013 Touareg, but said it was “agile, solid, comfortable, and plush.” Generally, it gives the Touareg low ratings for reliability.

In J.D. Power’s dependability survey of 2013 cars after three years, the Touareg received an average rating – which puts it in the middle of the premium mid-size SUV pack.

There was one recall, to fix a brake pedal that could become loose.

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