Car Buyers' Guide: On hunt for something different
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Richard is looking for a vehicle that provides a measure of practicality mixed with a point of difference.
"SUVs seem to be all the go at the moment but I'm looking for something that offers similar benefits but different looks. I don't intend going off road or doing any extreme driving, but could do with reasonable amounts of interior space for the occasional weekend away with the wife," says Richard.
He likes the look of the Skoda Yeti but wonders if the two-wheel-drive 1.4-litre model is up to the task and wants to know if there are any other options he can consider and compare online before venturing into the new-car showrooms.
The Budget: $35,000
"I always like to check out all the various options in my own time before facing any retail sales staff," adds Richard.
Yes, the internet is a great tool to do your own comparisons and to check the differences in specification levels between brands and models.
Power output is a good example. Don't be put off by looking at the engine size only. Checking and comparing the actual power and torque figures can mean a particular vehicle is worth a test drive at least, rather than an instant dismissal.
The various websites will also provide information such as length, width, height and interior space. It certainly beats standing back, looking and assuming one vehicle has some advantage over another.
Once armed with some prior knowledge, you will also be in a much better position to seek answers to specific questions and ask for a demonstration on how a particular feature may work once in the showroom.
Skoda Yeti City
The $36,100 front-wheel-drive Yeti is a surprise package in more ways than one. The petrol-fuelled, turbo-charged 1.4-litre engine has a healthy power output of 90kW but an even healthier 200Nm of torque. Combined with a 7-speed Direct-Shift Gearbox (DSG) the claimed combined fuel consumption is an achievable 6.6l/100km. You can also place a tick against safety which includes front curtain and driver's knee airbags, electronic stability control and activation of warning lights during panic braking. Another big plus for the Yeti is its interior space options, including the easy removal of the individual rear seats if extra room is required. The interior layout is also simple but effective with high overall quality levels. Driving is easy both around town and on the open highways with plenty of all-round vision.
Kia Soul SX
The $33,490 all-new Soul takes design to the point where it can polarise customers. It's more user friendly than the previous generation and makes good use of the boxy design. Specification-wise it's a winner with features that include: climate A/C, reverse camera, leather trim, electric driver seat, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring system, front and rear curtain airbags, cruise control, 18-inch alloy wheels and keyless entry. The 1.6-litre engine and six-speed automatic transmission combo is where competitors start to claw back some advantages, however. Power output is 91kW but lack of low-down torque (152Nm @ 4850 rpm) is where the Soul can feel a little lost at times. The transmission is good but often changes are felt and there can be lots of them at times. From an all-round driving perspective a DSG or even a CVT unit would do wonders for this vehicle and help improve on fuel consumption - a claimed combined figure of 8.2l/100km.
Nissan Juke Ti
The Juke ($34,290) is another body shape that can have instant appeal for some, and not others. Often called the Qashqai's little brother, it retains a lot of the SUV features such as a high seating position and good all-round vision. Its reasonably well specced, has a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating while the 1.6-litre engine produces 86kW and 158Nm (4000 rpm). Rear passenger space would be okay for young children but may feel a little cramped on long journeys for adults. The CVT transmission helps in claiming a combined fuel consumption of 6.3l/100km.
The Kia wins on overall specification levels but the Skoda is a great drive with a touch of class about it. The quirky body design of the Juke does not lend itself to copious amounts of interior space but it's a fun and funky vehicle to drive.