SUV Shopping, Part One

SUV Shopping, Part One



That kind of sums up my view of cars. You see, they’re great tools. But all the differences, different types, different prices… it kind of does my head in. But for the past year or so we’ve been thinking of getting a bigger car. Mostly it’s an accessibility thing for Ben. My current car is a Hyundai Getz and while I love the shape of it (rectangles FTW), it is small, getting old and … it just kind of feels like that time, you know? Also, I’m a tall (enough) person. I’d like to be able to use the sun visor in a car. I can’t use the sun visor in the Getz because I’m so tall it just blocked the entire field of view. Good first car, time to move on, is where I’m at. 


SUV Shopping, Part One


SUV Shopping, Part One


What We’re Looking For

But car shopping… oh geez. We’re looking for a small-mid SUV. Good space (doesn’t feel crampy inside). Seats must fold flat (I have trauma from trying to fit CRT TVs in sedans from back in the day when CRTs were TVs). Preferably comparable fuel mileage to what we get now (which seems like an ask on the surface, but I’m quite surprised at the reality of this being possible).


I might buy new, might buy second hand. It comes down to which specific model I decide to go for and exactly what it costs. I’d prefer to stay as close to $20k as possible. It’s not that I can’t get a bigger loan, but those repayments are more comfortable for my budget. The biggest bummer is that I haven’t had a car loan in years (I paid off my first car in like 6months becuase government salary and I miss that salary)…so boo to that.


Extras like sky light (sun roof?), keyless entry, heated seats and whatnot are funky and I even want some of them, but I’m not willing to actually PAY for them, you know? They’re a want, not a need. 


The thing is… small and mid SUVs aren’t feeling much bigger than my Getz, which is leaving me a bit WTF. Why would I pay for something that is the same? So far, small SUVs are actually more cramped, but have a slightly higher driving position. That’s not really an upgrade for me. 


The Rejects, So Far

One of the first small SUVs I looked at was the Suzuki Vitara. Sounds really good on paper. It’s just…small. Which sounds silly, becuase it is small. But … it’s small! Plus the staff member at Suzuki seemed annoyed that I didn’t mind if I bought new or second hand. Seriously? I want the car that’s right for me. It might be new. It might not be. I’m not judgey on such things.


There were quite a few Fords I wanted to look at in the SUV range, but my local Ford dealer had exactly zero of their SUVs in stock. Super weird. I guess I’ll have to go to another dealer to look at those options as there are a few I’m interested in comparing – Escape, EcoSport and Kuga. I have a friend with a Kuga and I was impressed with size and comfort when I first took a ride in it. It doesn’t seem to be made anymore and has been replaced by the Escape. The EcoSport is certainly in my budget new, but I have a suspicion it’s one I’ll get in and be “nope, too small”. But we’ll see when I get to try one. For all I know it could surprise me.


Later on in a second hand car lot I climbed in a mini van of some kind. Could have been a Kia Grand Carnival (put it this way, it looked similar when I googled it)… not sure. I was a bit bored and just playing at this point. Um, whatever minivan it was, was really super comfy. Obviously I have no need for a car that big and THAT designed for multitudes of kids, but I was super impressed by it. And it was very far from new and in good condition.


I estimated we could fit 20 dogs in the back of the car but Ben thinks we could only fit 12. I said that dogs will sit on each other happily so 20 dogs is totally doable. (Yes, these are legitimately the conversations we have while car shopping.)


We also looked at a Nissan Qashquai. It assumed it would be crap as it has a dumb name, but it was decent. There was nothing to love in it but also nothing we could really fault. It’s not a top choice but it could be a contender if our other options don’t pan out upon test drives and other variables. Though we don’t want to buy it because of the name. It sounds like Cash Cow and we despise morning TV, so having a car that reminds us of that very literally puts us off of considering it. 


I was happy to find a Mitsubishi ASX in a non Mitsubishi car yard and sat in it. Nope. Weird. Small. Cramped.


Pretty similar feeling to the Mazda CX5 – the handbrake was too close to my thigh, it’s positioned in the centre console close to the driver, rather than just in the middle. 


The Shortlist

So far our shortlist from Part One of SUV shopping is… drumroll please…


They are all ones that were comfy enough to be in and have decent folding/boot space. However, I need to look further into them/the models. Becuase…


My Problem With The Holden Trax

We were in the Holden dealership and I was playing with the back seats of the Trax. I heard a salesperson coming and kept my head in the car, pretending to give a crap about the drink holders in the backseat arm rest (seriously, I am never going to use them) hoping that Ben would dispose of the salesperson. But apparently I was too interesting with my head stuck back there (something I often get in job interviews too, they want to be entertained by my past, but that’s a different rant) because they stuck around. I actually hadn’t worked out how to put the seats down, so I let the salesperson do it. The bottom half of the front seats slide down and then the backs fold down – it’s a bit weird. Also he got stuck part way so that was both funny and not much of a brag for the Trax. 


He did try to go into some sales stuff… asked me what I was looking for. I said four wheels, and an engine. To his credit, he didn’t look confused at that and went with it (better than the person who looked confused earlier in the day when I said I was looking for a car). I said that I did have one question for him – can I get different seats in the Trax because I hate them? And somewhat to my surprise, he agreed.


Apparently nearly everyone hates the seats in the base model, because the sides (while not a bucket seat) are sort of high, and very firm and dig into your thighs. He suggested I try the next model up, as the sides of the seats are leather in that and much softer. Yep. I agree with him. Much more comfortable. However, I find it highly irritating that to have basic comfort, they want me to spend more? If a dealer sales dude knows everyone dislikes it, it’s clearly a wide ranging enough problem. And why haven’t Holden done something about it? Is it to make you spend more on the next model up?


I put that exact question to them:



That was a very PR response – aka completely useless for someone like me who is looking to purchase. 


I’m a bit soured on the thought of being asked to pay more to get basic comfort. It’s like womens shoes. “Comfort” ranges of shoes cost more. So I have to pay for padding to walk comfortably? Being able to walk comfortably should be the minimum, not an extra. Same goes for car seats.


The Honda HR-V

Ben really liked the Honda HR-V, and I agree, it ticks nearly every box. But again, there’s one thing I’m not sure I can get past. The seats have a bit of the lumpy bump side like the Trax, but it’s not nearly as annoying.


HRV Seat


However, the seat belt basically felt like it was digging into my thigh. (There is a video of it but I’m currently sick and too lazy to edit the video.) I don’t know if I can live with that. Maybe it’s different with the seat belt plugged in. Maybe it’s worse. It’s a car that is very high up our list, but as the driver in the household, I need to know I’m going to be comfortable, above all else. I feel like they put so much into the giant centre console that it forces the seatbelt too close to you.


The Mitsubishi Outlander

The surprise contender was the Mitsubishi Outlander. Super impressive cargo space and comfy in the front seats. I didn’t check how the back seats folded down though, which is something I am super picky on.


Other Things I Want To Say:

  • Small and mid size SUV manufacturers: Why, why why why why why flipping why are you so obsessed with making the seats have big lips? Why? 
  • Second hand car dealers: we notice when you’ve vacuumed the car within an inch of its life and there’s still a funky smell or sneezy feeling. Deal with the smell, please. (Or give us the car for free in exchange for taking more hayfever medication.)
  • A lot, lot and LOT more attention needs to go into design. I feel like lots of stuff is just slapped in and no one has ever sat in the car and asked “Is this comfortable?”. Of course comfort changes for every person, but I think this is an area all car manufacturers could work on.



14 Replies to “SUV Shopping, Part One”

  1. I hate car shopping. It’s about as bad as house shopping. Two things I happily avoid doing! After driving a Koleos on holiday, I decided if could ever move on from the 17yo Falcon I had, I wanted a small-sized SUV so I could just slide in and out at the same level as me. Not fall down in, or climb up, like I had to when we had a Land Cruiser. After a whole long story I ended up with a Hyundai iX35. I’m not into cars…they go places, they’re expensive, if you’re lucky they are a pretty colour other than white. I have to say, I adore my car, in the rare Blueberry colour. Seat warmers, blue tooth, right height…totally happy!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      The ix35 is one I do want to look at. The slide in and out easy is pretty much the main factor we’re looking at. I kind of wish you didn’t have to go in person to test that though haha.

  2. I’m so impressed with your extensive research but it’s such a big investment, hey? I can’t drive so I’m chauffeured around in our car, so my own personal criteria is having a car name that I can pronounce! Good luck – hope you find your wonder wheels soon!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface! I don’t know what most people buy based on but I really feel it’s not the comfort and accessiblity factors that we need. I’d love to be chauffeured around!

  3. Have you looked at the Sante fe? We had one for years and LOVED it!

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      I haven’t yet; I like my Getz but the local dealers were crap with service quality (they forgot to screw my engine back in properly once, among other issues) so it’s making me think twice about another Hyundai at all, purely from a service perspective. I will test some before I make a decision though. I do like the Santa Fe’s, but I’m not sure if they’re too big for our needs.

  4. Oh I feel you. We’ve just been through this. I hate car shopping but we had to buy a bigger car for our family of 4. There are just so many options it is overwhelming. One thing that annoyed me was that most of the SUVs had small boots. We’ve got a double pram and when we go on holidays we’l l be taking two cots, highchairs etc. We ended up buying a station wagon.

    1. Vanessa Smith says: Reply

      They really do have small boots. It’s ridiculous. The Outlander was pretty impressive on boot size so that’s the main reason it could be a contender for us.

  5. I have absolutely no idea about cars. I just know that I need a new one! Once you find a good one, let me know!

    1. It’s such a big job to find one. I think it’ll take us a few months to be honest!

  6. I too get bored with car shopping but you have to do it because you are the one who has to sit in the damn thing. I also hate that when you are the woman accompanied by a man they talk to the man. We bought new cars in January & Feb 2015 that were cheaper at 2014 models. I tried a qashiqiu thingy (price was good) but in the end I went with both heart and head and got the XTrail which is the best car I have ever had. I wish you luck!! Oh and don’t get suckered in by the after sales talk of add-ons like protection for car paint etc. I am sure no-one would ever do that to you! But they still try. Denyse #teamIBOT

    1. I have been in the older Xtrails – the only newish one I sat in recently was actually the second hand and very smelly/allergic so I didn’t stay in it long to see if I actually liked it or not!
      The only add ons I like with cars are headlight protectors and dash mats. Nothing else interests me.

  7. Argh, we need a new car too and I’m not looking forward to it. Lucky for me there are really only a couple of options (I’m a Toyota girl through and through) so that won’t be too bad. Have you looked at an older Subaru Forrester? My sister had one and we borrowed it a few times and it was really good. Not too big but big enough, comfy seats, a surprisingly big amount of boot space for an SUV even with the seats up. My only complaint with it was the headrest (which I find with a lot of new cars these days, seriously why do they all push your head so far forward?!?!).

    Good luck with your search, can’t wait to read more reviews!

    1. Oh I have thought about the Forresters! My ride down to ProBlogger last year was in one and I liked it a lot for the size and shape. I’m just not a car enough person to buy second hand if it doesn’t have some new car warranty left – I wouldn’t know if I’m getting a good deal or not. My SIL has a Rav4 and I can’t remember it feeling small when we had 4 adults in it.

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