Nissan Dualis ST 2WD.
Noni has back issues and is looking to replace her old Ford Laser with a car that has higher, more accessible seating. She’s thinking a petrol will be her best option as her block of units has her parking under bedrooms and also wouldn’t mind cruise control to lessen the aggravation on her bung right ankle on long trips.
$15,000 to $18,000
There are any number of compact SUVs Noni could consider that will deliver the higher seating position she craves. However, they will also typically be bigger, thirstier, less wieldy and costlier to buy than an equivalent small car.
If she really could do with some extra real estate and versatility, it’s a price that might be worth paying.
However, given she says nothing about her Laser’s practicality being deficient, we suspect she’d carrying around all that extra beef for little more than those moments getting in and out.
So we’d recommend she set her sights instead on this trio of contenders that deliver similarly compact SUV-rivalling access without diverting too far from a traditional small-car footprint.
2009-on Kia Soul, from $12,210*
This Kia’s tall and boxy body has loads of character and, more pertinently, it delivers the high seating position Noni is looking for.
The Soul is also roomy, easy to see out of, economical and offers access to essential safety gear like curtain bags and stability control. There are plenty around at this budget that will have life left to run on their five-year factory warranty too.
Noni, however, will need to look beyond base models to get the stability control, while the underwhelming performance of the 1.6-litre petrol engine/auto drivetrain could make the diesel tempting in spite of its extra grumbles. It’s also far from an on-road leader and misses out on cruise control, even on upper level models.
Read Drive’s Kia Soul reviews:
2007-on Nissan Dualis, from $12,100*
City-sized SUVs are all the rage nowadays but this Nissan was one of the first and as such offers plenty of choice at this budget.
First things first, Noni should sidestep 4WD models for 2WDs that went on sale mid-2009 as part of a general MY10 upgrade. Aside from being lighter, less complicated and more economical, they also all have curtain airbags and stability control, features that were optional on pre-update ST 4WD models.
Regardless of model, the Nissan makes a lot of sense here with its easy access, high seating, comfortable road manners, decent economy, standard cruise control and – in the topline Ti – generous specification. But the 2.0-litre petrol engine is not a particularly sprightly performer and it’s not any more functional than a small hatch, though that might not matter to Noni.
Read Drive’s Nissan Dualis reviews:
2010-on Toyota Rukus, from $17,710*
Just like the Kia, this Toyota is a style-led diversion from the company’s more mainstream small cars. Its tall, boxy body delivers a similarly high hip point and it’s also far from the last word in on-road nous, comfort and refinement.
However, the Rukus’ 2.4-litre petrol engine is a gutsier performer than the Soul’s 1.6, its cabin is roomier and more versatile (the latter due to a sliding rear bench) and every model gets cruise control, curtain airbags and stability control.
But it’s also harder to see out of, has a smaller boot, shorter warranty (three years), is thirstier and prices – by virtue of its fresher origins – are higher. For our money, its presentation isn’t as well resolved as the Kia’s either.
Read Drive’s Toyota Rukus reviews:
The Kia would be much harder to count out if it had cruise control but it doesn’t. Maybe Noni will like this characterful, easygoing and competent small car enough to forgive it this sin, but in this contest it falls short to its better equipped rivals.
Splitting the other two is harder. On paper, the Rukus does everything it needs to satisfy Noni’s requirements. It’s the stronger performer and there’s every chance she might rest firmly on the ‘love’ side of its love-it-or-hate-it looks.
But we’d sooner be putting our money behind a Dualis, in Ti 2WD form. That would get us similar functionality in a more attractive, refined, comfortable, better to drive, better equipped and – in this budget range of the used market – more attainable package.
* Values are estimates provided by Glass’s Guide based on an example averaging up to 20,000km per annum and in a well-maintained condition relevant to its age.