Ask the Expert: Your burning motoring questions answered
Buying a new car can be stressful.
Between the overwhelming range of options in Australia – there are more than 50 brands here – and the sudden influx of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric alternatives to traditional petrol or diesel engines, it can be hard to know where to start looking.
Every week, we’re sent hundreds of questions by new car buyers trying to find their way to the ideal new car.
Here are a few of the best, answered by Paul Gover.
Q: I wanted to ask your advice about buying a Ssangyong Musso ute. It looks OK to me, but understand it’s about the price.
A: It’s definitely about the price, as the Ssangyong falls short of the class leaders including Ford Ranger and Isuzu D-Max. The Musso has a rough-and-tough reputation and is considered reliable. In the same price range, look at the LDV as it’s likely to be more modern in design and finishing, thanks to a strong export push out of China.
Q: Is it worth paying the extra money for a Mercedes-AMG A45 over the A35? How would you rate these vehicles?
A: Both the baby Benzes are sporty hatchbacks, with the A45 definitely turning the performance dial up to 10. So the A35 is a nice, enjoyable, sporty-ish baby car and the A45 is a full-on AMG go-fast model with serious speed potential.
The A45 is considerably more costly and much more raucous, so you would need to be wanting the extreme end of the package for more of the time to pick it over the A35.
Q: I’m wondering if it’s too soon to go to electric as I’m in the market for a new car. I mainly do city driving and occasional trip to the Victorian countryside.
The two choices I’m looking are the BMW X5 40i and the BMW iX 40. They have some good deals at the moment on new cars.
A: It’s too early for most people, because of the cost. But if you have the cash to splash in a BMW showroom, and most of your driving is shorter distances, the iX should be fine.
Remember to investigate all the details, including what you do about home charging – many Tesla early adopters are big into solar – and remember there are no guarantees on future values or battery life.
Q: I am looking at the possible purchase of a used Kia Sorento around the 2018-2019 vintage with approximately 70-80,000 kilometres.
It would be to ferry three kids, and sometimes friends, as well as occasionally towing a boat or camper trailer of between 1.0 and 1.4 tonnes.
The kilometres are mostly around town and are relatively low, approx. 12,000 a year, with some freeway travel a few times a year which adds approximately 3000. My dilemma is around whether to purchase a diesel or petrol version.
I believe the diesel is the better engine but, with relatively small trips being done on a regular basis, I am worried I may have issues with the diesel particulate filter blocking up.
A: The Sorento is a good car with an excellent reputation on the secondhand market.
Better to go petrol if you’re doing mostly short trips, and the towing – where the diesel engines scores highly – will be no drama with such light loads.
Q: I was wondering if the supposed capped-price servicing of Holdens had come to an end? I recently had my Holden Commodore SS-V serviced and was shocked at the $740 fee.
I was then told my next service would be $1200.
A: Most capped-price service deals are for the length of the warranty period, unless you signed for an extended package at the time of purchase. Sometimes it is possible to buy extra coverage from a dealer but they usually lock you to the specific dealership for future work.
You should always check the compulsory work for each service – it’s in the owner’s handbook – as some dealers will pad the bill with items you don’t need. Also cross-shop the price with other dealerships and, out of warranty, independent businesses who can do the work to factory standards.
Q: I have a 2019 Mazda 3 hatchback which I love, but it’s not big enough with my grandchildren doing the school runs.
It has 37,000 kilometres currently. I am looking to upgrade to an SUV on the smaller side. I have only had Mazdas for the last 14 years and I have been really happy with them
Also, is it better to sell privately or do a trade? I’m a bit nervous about selling privately.
A: If you want to stay with Mazda, the CX-3 will work well for you. But also test drive a Hyundai Venue and a Suzuki S-Cross, to give you the information and experience for an informed decision.
If you’re going from Mazda-to-Mazda then a trade-in makes sense, but don’t expect a good price and ensure you shop more than one dealer to get the best outcome.
A Mazda 3 like yours will be very popular with private buyers.
Q: I’m after a vehicle for my mum who is in her late 60s and retired. The vehicle will be mostly used for driving to the shops and the occasional school pick-up.
She likes the SUV type or hatch and she wants to spend up to about $20,000. What would you recommend?
A: There are lots of small SUVs that will work, but that budget means you will have to be smart and buying secondhand.
On the SUV front, Hyundai Venue is an obvious pick, but for good value and a car that will do what she needs you should also be looking at a Suzuki Vitara. As a hatchback, the Kia Cerato is a good car and solid value or maybe a Suzuki Swift for short trips.
Q: My 83-year-old mother-in-law has written off her car in the last week and she urgently needs to purchase a new vehicle. Can you please give me some advice on what is best suited to her age group?
She doesn’t want a tin can but she also doesn’t want a large car either. She doesn’t mind the Corollas and she wants a hatchback.
Her budget is $15-20,000 so I’m assuming she would only get something secondhand in the range?
A: It will definitely be a used car, but there is huge demand at the moment holding prices high. A Corolla is overpriced so look at the Kia Cerato. It does the same job, is the same size and surprisingly good quality if you have not driven a late-model Kia, and will come with some balance on the new-car warranty at your budget.
Q: I am looking at buying an SUV for my wife similar in size to the Nissan Qashqai.
Ideally, I want something that is no older than 18 months to two years but would consider a brand new one at the right price. My budget is around $35-40,000 but can stretch a bit more, if need be.
I haven’t gone to physically look at dealers for cars yet but have checked online over the last few months and the Nissan Qashqai seems in that price range depending on the model you go for.
What has thrown me is that the Nissan and a few others in this size all have continuously variable transmissions. Being old-school, in my mid 60s, the idea of a one-speed auto doesn’t sit right with me. Can you please explain this to me and if they are OK?
Also, the idea of front-wheel drive doesn’t sit well with me having driven Falcons since I got my licence.
A: Just go for it – get a new Qashqai. It’s one of the very best in the class.
A CVT is not one gear, you can take manual control with artificial ’steps’, and the latest Nissan design is fine for older-timers.
Same with front-wheel drive, which is now the default design for almost everything – short of an Italian supercar – and almost impossible to pick.
Q: I currently own a 2016 Mercedes GLC 250 and I am on the list for the new 2023 GLC 300.
I would have loved the hybrid but apparently that is not coming to Australia, which is frustrating in itself.
In the meantime I have looked at the Kia EV6 GT-Line and was quite impressed with what I saw. I sat in one but was unable to have a test run as it was sold.
As we don’t change our cars too often I suppose I’m asking if I should be looking at an electric car? Or do I buy another petrol?
I have been a Mercedes owner for the past 40 years and have loved the brand, but I think the electric GLC is far too expensive and that’s why I looked at the Kia.
A: It is early to be moving to fully electric, but it would make sense if you’re mostly doing short trips.
The Kia is a top-class car, and multiple award winner, but the big problem will be getting one as Kia Australia only gets limited stocks and they are just about an instant sellout.
So stay on the waiting list for the GLC 300 and push to get an EV6.