Nine cars to buy instead of these SUVs

By topgear, 29 May 2020

1. Instead of a Honda HR-V: a used Honda Civic Type-R


It goes without saying, Honda's Jazz-based compact crossover thingy sells like proverbial hotcakes, and there are many good reasons driving that. But even with a 'sporty' HR-V 1.8RS offering available, we reckon the RM125k it commands can get you something much more interesting.

Instead of a high-riding crossover SUV with mild sports car aspirations, why not settle for one that really is a sports car to begin with? In fact, a used Civic Type-R FD2R is well within reach, with pristine (read: unmodified) ones typically trading at such figures in the used market these days.

Okay, it's going to be hard to finance this with banks or creditors, especially in these pandemic times, but it'll surely be worthwhile considering you'll score perhaps one of the greatest FWD performance sedans that only ever sold in select markets – ours, fortunately, included.

Yup, this pure sports sedan with 220bhp, 9,000rpm red-line plus a stick shift sounds much more interesting than a lifted and fattened up Jazz, no? TA

2. Instead of a Toyota C-HR: a used/recon Toyota 86


Similar to its Honda rival listed above, Toyota seems to have captured its own fan base for the sporty-looking C-HR small SUV thingy. Apart from its princely RM150k price tag and cramped rear quarters, the C-HR could almost give its HR-V rival a run for its money in some ways.

But really, is a high-riding compact crossover pretending to be a sports car really what you want in life? How about a used or recon (grey/parallel import) Toyota 86 instead? Yes, we know, predictable, but hear us out.

Many have flooded the local recon market of late, and many are similarly priced or priced well below the C-HR too, and there simply isn't another simple lightweight RWD sports coupe that's really fun to drive available for the same price. Crucially though, unlike the used Civic Type-R listed above, banks and creditors will be more keen to finance this Toyota, especially newer-aged recon ones.

Okay, the C-HR's cramped rear passenger quarters does look quite useful compared to the 86's almost non-existent one, but we know the smiles-per-miles this sports coupe is bound to deliver will convince you otherwise... TA

3. Instead of a Mazda CX-30: a used Mazda MX-5


We'll be honest, Mazda's latest small SUV darling is quite the charmer when we drove it recently, and you can even opt for an AWD-equipped one now too. However, we're certain that the sub-RM180k price tag figure the latter commands can get you something much more fun.

Once again, instead of a high-riding small SUV thing, how about a small yet very stylish and very fun to drive two-seat open top roadster like the MX-5? Yes, predictable too, we know... But wouldn't life seem a lot more interesting with some wind in hair magic?

Plenty of the current generation MX-5s have found their way into the local used car market, and a handful of the early models are priced similarly to the recently introduced AWD-equipped CX-30 too – less than RM180k, or a good RM80k less than a brand new one. Ready for a mid-life crisis? TA

4. Instead of a Subaru XV: a used Subaru WRX


In essence, Subaru's smallest crossover SUV offering isn't a bad thing entirely, and it's arguably one of the better ones to drive in its size and the RM125k price bracket. Could you do better? Of course you can!

A quick browse through our usual local online used car portals and listings tells us that used yet not so old WRX prices aren't too badly priced these days. Okay, so you won't be able to score the hotter STI version for anything less than RM200k, but the basic non-STI versions are retailing from as low as RM140k, and these aren't too shabby to say the least.

So as long as you're willing to shell out just a little bit more, a lightly used 2015 Subaru WRX seems much more interesting over what is is essentially the old Impreza that's been merely lifted. If anything, you're also putting Subaru's signature and clever rally-proven AWD system arguably to better use here than in the XV.

And lets also not forget, the WRX still has four-doors, equal amounts of seats, and a sizeable boot, all of which makes it almost equally as sensible as an XV for the daily too. Ready to turn every school run with the kids into your very own WRC special stage? TA

5. Instead of a BMW X1: a new Mini Cooper S


The second-generation BMW X1 is surprisingly decent to drive despite its bumbly SUV proportions and FWD architecture. Also, the recent facelift makes it a more appealing proposition than before. But if you’re going to unload the power to the front, the best way to do it is in a hot hatch. That’s exactly what the Mini Cooper S offers for just a fraction more than the X1’s RM234k asking price.

The fact that both cars are powered by the same 192bhp twin-turbo mill readily tells you which one will be a bigger hoot to drive. On top of being smaller, lighter and nimbler for better real-world driving entertainment, the Cooper S will easily turn more heads than an SUV, not that it matters if you’re already accounted for. In any case, who doesn’t like a Mini?

The BMW X1 has its place in the market, but not in driveways of people who don’t need the extra space for strollers, labradors and hitchhikers. Its taller ride height might sound appealing, but nothing beats a road-hugging three-door hatch that can seamlessly juggle the jobs of a zippy city runabout and weekend ride that tackles winding B-roads as well as it dominates social media feeds.

It may not be big on space, but the Mini still manages to squeeze a tonne of trending keywords – hipster, minimalist, Instaworthy, etc. – in a small but exciting package. DL

6. Instead of a Renault Captur: a used Megane RS


There used to be a time in the not-so-distant past when TC Euro Cars (TCEC) looked more like a specialised distributor of Renaultsport than the bigger Renault brand itself. It doesn’t take an expert to see that a pair of RS models – the Megane and Clio – doesn’t constitute a profitable product portfolio, which is where mass-targeting models like the Captur come in. And boy has the little French crossover delivered.

The Captur is an increasingly common sight on Klang Valley roads, which is partly due to TCEC’s subscription service and car-sharing platform GoCar adopting it into their fleets. While this says a lot about the Captur’s practicality and value proposition, the instant association with subscription and rental services doesn’t quite serve everyone’s idea of a desirable car.

RS remains the two most desirable letters in TCEC’s line-up. And for the price of a brand new Captur, you might be able to snag an RS265 hailing from a time when the company was more synonymous with track days rather than subscription fees. With that in mind, you do have to put aside a considerable sum to keep the three-door hatch in good, running order as chances are, it may have had a bit too much fun in Sepang in its younger days.

Ride height and comfort aside, there shouldn’t be any concerns about practicality as the Megane RS is essentially a sportier version of the Megane hatch, which is one size bigger than the Clio underpinning the Captur, after all. Sporty isn’t always impractical, you know. DL

7. Instead of a Porsche Macan: a proper Porsche


After a customary tour of Porsche’s typically long options list, a brand new Macan can easily cost more than half-a-million Ringgit on the road by the time you’re done ticking away. And while we don’t deny you’ll get what you’re paying for, the traditionalist in us can’t help but wonder what else you’d be able to spend such a substantial kitty on instead.

We’re talking about a brand built on a history of sports cars after all. And if we’re doling out that kind of money on a Porsche, we’d want it to be a proper one: two doors, RWD and a boxer engine preferably located behind the driver, if you know what we mean.

With a starting price of RM530k, the Porsche 718 Cayman fits our bill. But if you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you could get an early 991 for about the same amount of money, if you know where to look. If you’re concerned about how difficult it might be to maintain a used 911, or if you can get one in ‘pristine’ condition in the first place, a Porsche might not even be the car for you. This, and the general rules of economics are why SUVs like the Macan exist in the first place.

As more sports car manufacturers succumb to these financially-motivated machines alongside EVs that make great CSR tools, the preservation of unbridled track icons like the 911 is a rescue mission of greater importance than ever. DL

8. Instead of a Perodua Aruz: a used Nissan Serena S-Hybrid


Perodua markets the Aruz as a seven-seat SUV, but with prices kept below the RM80k mark, it’s really more of a compact MPV trying to look more rugged than it actually is. That said, it’s still an incredibly stellar effort at giving the rakyat the versatility of a people mover in a modern and trendy package at low-end B-segment prices. Value and practicality are the keywords here, so we’ll try not to recommend another needlessly racy alternative in the case of the only Malaysian entry in this list.

Instead of buying a compact MPV pretending to be an SUV, you could just buy a full-sized MPV – one that’s pretending to be a hybrid – for the same price if you’re willing to look into the used market. The Nissan Serena S-Hybrid is a full-fledged eight-seater that’s basically a hostel room on wheels. And RM70-RM80k will easily get you a 2015-2016 unit that’s basically a facelift of the previous generation, one that packs a CVT cooler that was curiously omitted from the pre-facelift at that.

If you’re worried about long-term maintenance costs typically associated with hybrids, fret not. The Serena S Hybrid’s ‘hybrid component’ is merely a beefed up electric starter motor which is primarily used to manage the MPV’s start-stop system and give the two-litre engine a quick boost lasting mere seconds. It’s certainly not as complex as a full hybrid like the Toyota Prius or a PHEV like Volvo’s T8 models, which is good to know if you’re in it for the long haul. DL

9. Instead of a VW: Tiguan: a new Golf, like we told you in the first place. Sheesh


As professional car people, we’re often asked by family members for advice on future automobile purchases. Seems like an easy enough transaction: have a big decision to make, consult an expert. And yet we always seem to recommend something that falls by the wayside, especially after the advent of SUVs.

Case in point: we recommended a Golf, which in its current R-Line form, isn't too shabby to say the least. Yet, for reasons we cannot fathom, we still find more and more folks driving out of dealerships in the Golf's lifted and fattened up SUV cousin the Tiguan.

This left us to ponder a few points. One: does any other profession have its advice so easily overridden? If a doctor said their patient needed to start taking insulin, would the patient respond with “No, I think I’ll have a heart transplant instead, because that feels like a better fit for this stage of my life”? Or maybe a spine extension, because they “really like being up higher”? Two: why, if people want to see better, do they need to be up higher? Race drivers sit about an inch from the ground, and they manage to race, wheel-to-wheel, for hundreds of miles. And three: if the siren song of SUVs is so strong to seemingly everyone else, why does it sound like endless repeats of Eiffel 65 to us?

So, please, take our word on the Golf R-Line. Because it handles better, because it rides better, because it uses less fuel and fits just about the same amount of stuff in it... TG