Family cars for $50k? Here's what our journos would buy
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Mum, dad, two kids and a dog. Sure, we’re heavily stereotyping here, but this is the closest we can get to a typical family, and for that we need a typical family car. So while we’ve covered off medium SUVs in the past, First Learner cars, as well as last week’s popular Sub-$30k SUVs, this week we need to look at the family run-around.
We also looked at our picks from the Toyota and Mazda ranges that partly cover off these picks, but this is, after all DRIVEN’s personal picks, and one man’s meat is another man’s vegan tofu burger. So we each have subtlely different interpretations of what a family means to us. And so it should.
So with a decent $50k in hand, we’ve gone shopping for what we think are the best picks in the market for the family.
Editor, Dean Evans: Mazda CX-5 GSX
Wow, what a choice we have here! OK, for me it’s Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid at $46,490, close the book, I’m done. Though, to be fair, I’ve nominated that before in our Medium SUV, so let me choose another.
Let me dispense with some other great options via process of elimination, as I have eight on my short-list. Hyundai’s Tucson II in 1.6 Turbo would be considered, but priced a little high at $47,990 for the entry level model. Mitsubishi’s Eclipse Cross 1.5P XLS is just $43,690, another one to take for a test drive.
Ford’s new Escape ST-Line is appealing at $47,990, the new FWD model offering 183kW/387Nm and an eight-speed auto. Honda’s CR-V in 2WD Sport 7 spec is also one to consider, at $48,990. As is Skoda’s Kodiaq Ambition+ TSI at $48,990. And of course there’s the Forester 2.5 Sport Plus, an award-winner with large glass area and great practicality, as well as the ideal family and dog carrier, for $47,490.
Deciding which one would be half the fun with test drives, deals and comparisons, but aside from the RAV4, my money would go down on the Mazda CX-5 GSX AWD. At $46,745 it hits the spec and price sweet-spot in the CX-5 range, has a brilliant petrol 2.5-litre engine with 140kW/252Nm and 7.4l/100km and is full of luxury and tech and character and leaves some spare to option the Soul Red – a surprisingly cheap $300 option.
Head-up display, active cruise control, 8in touchscreen and a cabin that looks and feels European, it’s one of the best-selling vehicles in NZ for a reason. RAV4 or CX-5, either is a right decision and I’d personally be happy with either parked in the driveway and personally paid for.
And the dog? Just a Boston Terrier named Mr Bond, for our two (plus one) kids, so no need for big boot spaces more than the usual swag of school bags and sports gear.
Deputy Editor, David Linklater: Toyota Prius Prime
There’s a problem with a $50k family car and it’s this: given the choice I wouldn’t buy an SUV and there are precious few really good station wagons on the market at this price.
According to the editor’s brief, for the purposes of this exercise I have two children (actually, I do) but I’m also being forced to have a dog. So in my case, I'm going with a Whippet, because it's the canine version of a Prius, right?
There was a study published back in 2009 and cited on the BBC’s Ethical Man website that claimed it was more damaging to the environment to own a dog for a year than it was to run a large SUV. It used a weird calculation and was discredited by many, but I do like the idea of that.
So I’ve decided that my $50k family car should be really eco-friendly. You know, to make up for the dog.
It could be the Ford Mondeo hybrid wagon, which I like - but that’s over budget. So the Toyota Prius Prime it is! Bear with me. The Prime is the most underrated EV on the market: excellent electric range (claimed 63km, an easy 50km in the real world) and no range anxiety with petrol-electric hybrid operation when you need it.
It’s a pretty decent hatchback for a family of four, but the high boot floor actually makes it pretty good for Rover as well. And of course there’s the trademark Prius glass panel between the tail lights, giving a canine peephole into the following traffic.
You can currently buy the flagship Prius Prime with the leather upholstery option for $49,490.
Digital Writer, Andrew Sluys: Subaru WRX
For the seven years I have held my licence, I have managed to avoid owning an SUV, and I don’t see why a family should change that, and I’ve always really wanted a modern Subaru WRX.
As a traditional sedan, the WRX can seat up to five occupants, meaning that two kids and a dog will be able to fit across the back, only the dog will have to be rather small, and be the best-behaved pooch on earth. Also, the WRX features an enormous boot that’s more than capable of carrying any small child-related apparatus that you’d need on a day out.
In the Subaru's case, I think that a Bichon would fit the bill nicely. The white fluff would match the car's exterior, and it wouldn't take up too much of that precious space across the back seats.
What’s more, the WRX is the only vehicle in our picks that can be had with a manual transmission, making it infinity more appealing. Like all WRXs that came before it, a turbocharged 2.0-litre boxer engine sends power to all four wheels. The official figures are 196kW/350Nm, contributing to the 0-100 time of six seconds flat.
At $48,990, the manual WRX doesn’t get any of the driver assistance technology that the other entries on this list get, making do with just a regular cruise control system. Opting for the auto gets you into a WRX with Subaru’s full Eye Sight safety suite, but the $2,000 price hike means that the budget is blown out by $990. On top of this, it could be argued that ditching the manual means that you’re ditching the fun of it.
So it might not be the most sensible choice, but the WRX is the family car choice for the car enthusiast that loves to drive, and isn’t happy settling for an SUV.