It was time to say goodbye to the Silver Shadow – the name I'd bestowed upon my ’97 Honda Prelude. It had served me well during our seven years together, but sadly its low ride and two doors were not suitable for a soon-to-be family man.
When I first got the Shadow my main concerns had been performance, low maintenance and how much bass the speakers pumped out. But now, with a stork’s visit imminent, my priorities have shifted.
Now I need – or rather, we need, as my beautiful partner and I share a ride – something safe, economical, practical, with easy access to the back seat for locking in a child seat, plenty of boot space for lugging a pram around, and decent speakers for pumping out bass. Well, some things never change…
To get the skinny on what would be a suitable vehicle for a new family I cornered the AA’s motoring guru, Andrew Bayliss. I told him we had around $15,000 to spend on new wheels, and had our eyes on Mazda’s desirable CX5 SUV/Crossover.
I did not care for his first piece of advice: "Forget about buying a CX5," he said. “SUV’s are the flavour of the month, so on the secondhand market they hold their value well.
“People like them. They’re perceived as ‘cool’ and that has value. They’re outdoorsy for carrying bikes or snowboards or what-have-you. SUV sales account for 30% of the market so they’re very in demand.”
"Well, that sucks," I said.
“You’re in an odd price range,” he mused. “You could buy an older SUV from the mid-2000s but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’d have high mileage and be a real gas guzzler. Fuel efficiency has improved tremendously.”
I did not care for his second piece of advice either: “Have you considered buying a people mover?”
“No,” I replied flatly.
“They’re a reasonable proposition. In real terms they’re affordable, reliable and can carry five to seven people. Mazda’s MPV and Premacy are good. As is the Honda Odyssey.”
“We’re having one kid, not five of them,” I said.
“Your child will have friends,” he parried.
“We're not getting a people mover.”
“My wife said the same thing,” he laughed. “You should look into station wagons. They have plenty of space for everything and they’re in your price range. The Mazda 6 is very good. It depends what you want.”
Now he’d brought it up I found myself liking the idea of a station wagon. My partner, on the other hand, fancied a hatchback, like the Mazda 3. But I harboured reservations that a hatch would be a tad small.
“Not necessarily,” Andrew said. “They’re deceptively roomy. The Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic would all be good choices. "They’re economical to run and those models have good safety ratings. I’d consider those to be your entry level, size-wise. Toyota’s Swift, Echo and Yaris I’d say would be too small for what you want.”
Leaning back in his chair, he thought for a moment then said, “I’ll tell you what, the traditional mid-size family sedan would be an excellent choice. The Mazda 6 sedan, the Honda Accord, the Toyota Camry are all good options. You used to see everyone driving a mid-size sedan but they’ve all jumped out of them and into SUVs. This means there are good bargains to be found. With your money you could get a lot of car in that range.”
From the initial disappointment I’d begun to like where the conversation had gone, and now I’m on the hunt for a decent wagon or mid-size sedan.
Personally, I’ve ruled out hatchbacks because I think the extra space is a necessity – though the boss may still get her way...
Reported by Karl Puschmann for our AA Directions Spring 2020 issue