The Road Ahead : August 2013
QUEENSLAND'S LARGEST CLUB 45 AUG/SEP 2013 THE ROAD AHEAD THE SPORTS UTILITY Vehicles (SUV) under $40,000 category is one of the most prolific in terms of makes and models in our annual Australia's Best Cars awards. And not through coincidence -- this is where more and more buyers are looking for their new vehicle. Mazda, Mitsubishi and Subaru are but three of the popular makes to recently add new, or upgrade, models to the segment; covering all bases by offering various specification levels, a choice of two-wheel or four-wheel- drive and diesel or petrol engines. Think CX-5, Outlander and Forester, respectively. On its release last year, the CX-5 won applause from buyers and plaudits from motoring writers alike, although some (us included) were a little underwhelmed by the petrol engine offering. We felt the 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G, while highly- efficient and smooth, needed a bit more power and torque to handle everything that might be asked of it. Mazda redressed the performance shortfall last February by releasing a 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G unit (producing 138kW of power and 250Nm of torque) to replace the 2.0-litre unit in its all-wheel drive (AWD) Maxx, Maxx Sport and GT models, and debut in the new range-topping Akera. The impressive newcomer, we felt, made a worthy contender for a square-off against similar-sized AWD competition from Mitsubishi (Outlander 2.4), Subaru (Forester 2.5) and Toyota (RAV4 2.5). In a perfect world, the CX-5 Maxx auto ($32,880) and RAV4 GX auto ($34,490) would have closely matched Outlander ES CVT ($33,990) and Forester 2.5i CVT ($32,990) on pricing and specification levels. However, it was the Maxx Sport ($36,620) that Mazda provided, while Toyota's offering of a RAV4 2.2-litre turbo- diesel AWD made it the odd one out (look for a separate review in the October issue). VALUE FOR MONEY The price is right for Outlander, though CX-5 and Forester claw back ground in having better forecast residual values from Glass's Guide (Mazda and Subaru 40, Mitsubishi 38 percent). But the latter has longer servicing intervals at 12 months/15,000km (CX-5 has six months/10,000km and Forester six months/12,500km) and the benefit of capped price servicing ($295 a service up to four years/60,000km) which adds to its ownership appeal. The most generous warranty of five years/unlimited kilometres (Mazda and Subaru are three years/unlimited km), along with an annual insurance premium some $100 cheaper, further sweetens the deal. For relatively large petrol engine vehicles, all boast impressive ADR fuel consumption combined figures and run on cheaper ULP. On test, though, the Subaru averaged 10.1 litres/100km (2.0 above its ADR combined cycle), compared with Outlander 10.2 (7.5) and Maxx Sport 10.5 (7.4). That said, the bulk of the driving was on the open road, where the benefits of the Mazda's iStop and Subaru's stop/start fuel- saving systems were not able to be maximised. In terms of standard equipment common to all, tick the boxes for central locking, climate-control airconditioning, cruise control, tilt/reach steering, audio system with CD player, six speakers (Outlander also gets a pair of tweeters), MP3 and bluetooth compatibility, auxiliary input and USB; and trip computer among other things. A comprehensive suite of safety equipment on each includes dual front/side/curtain airbags (Outlander and Forester also get a driver's knee airbag), anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, height adjustable front and rear headrests, height adjustable front seatbelts with load limiters and pretensioners, and electronic stability/traction controls. For a near $4000 premium over Outlander and $3000 over Forester, Maxx Sport buyers get -- in addition to the afore mentioned dual-zone climate-control and two extra speakers -- 17-inch alloys, auto on/off headlights; leather wrapped gear knob, handbrake handle and steering wheel; 40/20/40 split fold rear seat instead of 60/40; centre fold-down arm rest; illuminated vanity mirrors, rain-sensing wipers and sat nav. For relatively large petrol engine vehicles, all boast impressive ADR fuel consumption combined figures and run on cheaper ULP. ROAD TEST | MOTORING IMAGE: LEFT HAND PAGE, MAZDA CX-5 MAXX SPORT, MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER ES AND SUBARU FORESTER 2.5I.