The perfect car for dog owners
I need to replace my 2006 Holden Commodore VZ wagon. I take my two dogs to shows, sometimes travelling 10 hours, so need lots of space. I sit in the back seat to keep them company. I'm frustrated nobody makes a "real" wagon any more, forcing us into SUVs. All wagons I've tried, including the Skoda Superb, aren't large enough. I've looked at large SUVs. Some are too huge to drive (Holden Acadia, Ford Everest), others too expensive (Volvo XC90, Land Rover Discovery). I'd prefer diesel and my budget is up to $70,000.
Sue Henderson, email
Your VZ Commodore wagon is a monster of a car, more than 5m long and with 1402L
of boot space to the roof or a van-like 2752L with rear seats folded. If the Skoda Superb wagon - the class leader for space - doesn't cut it, we'll have to think outside the box.
Kia Sorento Sport AWD diesel, $53,121 drive-away
The closest SUV to your requirements, it's a solid, attractive choice. Your dogs have 605L of space with five seats in place or 1662L with middle row folded (up to the window line). This split-folds if you want to ride in the back. The diesel engine is punchy and should return about 6.0L/100km on long highway trips - you won't grieve for your old Commodore's economy figures. You'll appreciate adaptive cruise control, auto emergency braking and lane keep assist. Kit includes leather seats, eight-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, satnav, rear camera and 18-inch wheels. It drives comfortably and easily and comes with all-wheel drive, full-size spare and seven-year warranty.
Citroen C4 Grand Picasso Exclusive HDi, about $50,000 drive-away
A people-mover may be the answer - the Citroen doesn't feel cumbersome to drive, is comfy for long trips, has smart cabin space and looks like a spaceship. The three middle row seats fold independently and slide on runners. You get 793L of boot space to the window line with five seats up, or mighty 2181L with them down. Solid pooch space there, even with a seat up in the back for you. Fuel economy is excellent and there are satnav, Apple CarPlay, 7-inch touchscreen, 360-degree camera, panoramic sunroof and advanced safety kit. The column shift and temperature control take some getting used to. The base of the boot is lower than most SUVs for easier access. The warranty is five years but a Citroen's resale value plunges like a stone and services are pricey.
Kia Carnival Si Diesel, $55,221 drive-away
Yes, another Kia, and even less sexy than the Citroen people-mover. It's boring and looks like a van but you quickly forget this as you're so enamoured with how practical the Carnival is.
With five seats up there's a cavernous 2200L boot room. That's the presidential suite for your dogs, while the centre seat in the second row can be completely removed for even greater roaming room. It's not fun to drive but is effortless, safe and - with its 147kW/440Nm diesel - has enough punch. Fuel economy of 7.6L/100km is good for its size. Goodies include an eight-inch screen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, tri-zone aircon (you don't want hot dogs), satnav and 360-degree camera.
2016 Volvo XC90 Momentum diesel, about $60,000
The cheapest version of the big Volvo is $100K drive-away, so consider a preloved version. You'll find 2016 XC90s from about $60K and if there may be some of the three-year warranty remaining. All occupants will enjoy a luxurious cabin with rich materials and superb finish, sumptuous leather, advanced safety gear and huge 12.3-inch touchscreen. For an SUV, boot space is mighty: 1102L with five seats up, or 1951L with middle row flat. All seats fold and slide individually. Find one with optional air suspension and you can lower the car for the dogs to get in and out. Ride quality is excellent, while performance and economy are strong. It's super expensive to service.
A tough choice - there's no modern replacement for your giant Commodore wagon. The Kia Carnival has business-class space for your dogs and wins the practicality battle but the Sorento will be the more enjoyable everyday car. The Kias win on warranty and ownership costs - I'd pick the Sorento if the dogs will fit.