Help Me Choose a Ute, Van or Wagon

Hi all, I am looking for some group wisdom on what i should buy as a general day to day run around and workhorse for certain tasks.

Currently have an MX5 for this secondary car but it is no longer practical, and I am itching to change.

Before the pandemic i would have been driving this to our local park and ride train station car park, and leaving it all day as i go to the city. I dont really want want the replacement to be something too expensive or flashy.

I am also fairly DIY'y so something longer/bigger would be handy.

Just looking for some anedotal use cases to see how i can sway my decision.

Currently in the mix

Holden Ute - VE/VF, I like the manual and the looks. Partially handy but not fully. Like the hardtop
Hilux - 4 door, probably 4x4, probably a hard top also
Ranger - 4 door, probably 4x4, probably a hard top also
Subaru Forester - big wagon
Mitsubishi Express - basic van
Toyota Hiace…

Keen for any views that others can share with any of the above or others.

Cheers

Comments

  • +1 vote

    Probably the only thing I can help with is the forester. I was looking at them recently and they really aren't particularity big. They are high which is nice, but quite short lengthways.

    • +2 votes

      100% agree with this.

      I have a 3rd gen Forester and while it is a really practical car, it's definitely not a long car. For context, a Cerato sedan is longer (just) than a current gen Forester.

    •  

      thanks for the heads up

  • +2 votes

    Sandman panel van - fits most of your criteria.

    •  

      apart from the price you are definitely right…cant stretch to 35k plus no matter how cool they are lol

  •  

    Do you need passenger space, 5 seats?
    Do you want to cart long/tall items?

    We have a 4x4 wagon and a dual cab ute, ute only has a soft cover. A hard canopy is too restrictive IMO. Using either as a 4wd is fun.

    Wagon has more space/comfort for passengers in the back. Luggage space is secure and water tight.

    Ute is more versatile for loads - except needs ladder racks and roof racks for long stuff that fits comfortably in the wagon. I regularly cart a tub full of dirt or mulch, often cart furniture that won’t fit in the wagon and can fit 5 bikes in the tray. Mates can’t fit one bike in the tray with a canopy on without taking wheels off the bike.

    Soft cover on the ute tub is not water right or secure so that means you need stuff in the cab which is already tight for space with passengers. Soft cover means that if I suddenly want to cart something I don’t need to organise removing the canopy or hard cover. On the other hand I don’t leave food racks on, so need to plan to cart really long items like timber.

    Haven’t had a van to compare but know the driving dynamics of a van will be horrid compared t an mx5

    •  

      5 seats not essential,

      Tall items, very rarely, long items more often.

      Was concerned with wet getting into a tray with a soft top, if you used it for anything day to day like groceries or what have you. although plastic tubs in the tray would alleviate that issue.

      Haha yes van is a bit of a downgrade on the handling front there is no doubt

      •  

        Was concerned with wet getting into a tray with a soft top, if you used it for anything day to day like groceries or what have you.

        Mines not too bad. If it rains overnight it’ll pool in the tub as mines fairly well sealed with tub liner. Gets a nice waterfall over the reverse camera at times. It doesn’t get a lot in though unless parked nose down. If it’s raining or hot groceries can go on the back seat.

      •  

        I second a ute. 4x4 is not essential unless you actually want to go 4x4ing, but may get better resale.

        A soft top is more practical when needing to load stuff that is bigger than the tub dimensions because they are easy to remove. As above though, they are water resistant not waterproof. For long items even a ladder rack at the back and front of the tub may be sufficient.

        With a budget of 25K you may struggle to find a Hilux or Ranger 4x4 less than 10y/o. The MN Tritons and D-MAX utes have a good rep. Used to be cheap second hand but maybe not since the COVID used car tax.

        A ute or van will not handle like a car, and when you go from 2x4 to 4x4 you have a significantly worse turning circle.

        Have had a few 4x4 utes with steel tray + dropsides and they are very handy, but I live in a dry climate.

  • +1 vote

    what model MX5 do you have ?

    • +1 vote

      NC 2006 electric hardtop, the 4x4 version of the MX5 haha

  • +1 vote

    Mercedes sprinter - ex Ambulance, that way you can speed thru traffic as well and the kids can sleep in the back.

    •  

      Might be a bit bigger than necessary tbh, but appreciate the input.

  •  

    Hiace Super Custom 4WD.

    •  

      really like those actually, had not heard of that model before. bit on the pricey side though since good for camping/backpacking

  •  

    Since you're looking at a Ranger or Hilux, I'll throw a Triton into the suggestion hat for a good value ute.

    •  

      Ya they are good value definitely. Have looked in a couple and their interior does not seem to hold up to abuse or else they just age poorly

  •  

    Camry

    • +1 vote

      The cause of, and solution to all of life's (car) problems haha

  • +1 vote

    I'm in almost the same situation, but need back seats… So I'm looking at a Hyundai i40 wagon. Not special so cheap insurance and easy to leave at a train station, but plenty of lockable carry space in the back.

    Then they got hit with covid crazy pricing. Ergh. I'm still holding off while I can

  • +2 votes

    Going from a car to a van is a pretty extreme in terms of day to day usage. That said I have been looking at the VW (SWB) Caddy. Apparently its essentially a Golf in a different body.

    •  

      Oh thats a great idea! Had not crossed even crossed my mind. Need to test drive one of those and see how big the load bed is. Appreciate it.

  •  

    Whats your budget if you don't mind me asking? A 4x4 HiLux/ Ranger will be very expensive in the current market

  • +1 vote

    I am firmly in the wagon camp and will tout praise for what is unfortunately a dying breed.
    If you don't plan on going off road, it's going to tick every box.

    There are some great options around, from domestic (probably wouldn't touch them given the withdrawal of support networks) to European / Japanese.

    Since you're already a Mazda driver, the Mazda 6 does come in wagon trim. I have no experience with them, however.

    I'm always excited to see another wagon on the road and not a 4x4 ute. :)

    •  

      I own an old Mazda 6 wagon. Good trims and drives well. Maybe it is unlucky mine just keep having air-conditioning faults and costs a fortune to fixing it repeatedly. But I love wagon. Also I have a Falcon BA wagon.

      •  

        BA falcon wagon is a great vehicle. Comfortable, room for 5 in comfort, plenty of cargo space and simple solid construction.

        I had an AU2, BA then BF wagon for work. Did over 400000km combined in them. Barely had any problems across the work fleet either and they had a hard life.

    •  

      I do like wagons a lot, they dont get the love in Australia that they deserve, and as such the level of options are limited in the second hard market. I used to have a Mazda 6 and it was a great car!

    •  

      I'm also a wagon nerd/advocate/lover and the Mazda 6 wagon is very highly regarded. I extensively test drove one and thought it was very good.

      I ended up choosing a Subaru Liberty but that was more due to second hand stock availability and price. I've also found it very good with the exception of recommended 6 month servicing.

      I'm a big mark for the Skoda Superb and Skoda Octavia actually. If I could have found a secondhand one in the generation I was looking for I would have gone with that.

      •  

        I was in the market for a Skoda Octavia (RS) but at the time (March 2020) there was little on offer for what I wanted, and brand new examples were being asked too much for.

        In the end I ended up with a new Golf R wagon, and I think just in time given the availability and price increase of the second hand market.

        It has been a brilliant car, and ticks every single box for my use case.

        •  

          Oh yes Golf Wagon also good! I forgot about that. I only discounted it at the time because I was after a bigger car than that.

  •  

    Volvo v70r or 850r
    Do it

  • +2 votes

    I do not agree with these "Help me choose" posts

    They indicate a high level of laziness on the part of the poster.

    I suggest like most of the intelligent ones here that OP goes and does their own research and test drive the short listed cars since only OP can determine exactly which is best for their requirements..

    This is because other peoples' experiences, priorities and requirements may be totally irrelevant compared with OPs hence they end up with the WRONG car.

    Plenty of professional and unbiased car reviews online for OP to read too

    • +1 vote

      Tend to agree with you, but it depends on the responses.

      Some people will not hesitate to say ‘you need an xxx’. This doesn’t normally give any help at all. Everyone is different and without teasing out plenty of details about the OP how can you make a decent recommendation.

      My responses tend to be more along the lines of outlining my experience and offerinng some pros and cons to help OP make a decision (see above). I believe this is the most appropriate response. While I won’t give advice offers questions for the OP to ponder and then make a decision.

      At least this post gives some indication of what the OP wants, rather than ‘choose a $30k car for me’ and not much more info. Or ‘what tyres are best’ without anything other than a vehicle type.

    •  

      Ya my problem is that i like cars too much, and have probably driven or been in nearly every imaginable thing either for interest or just devilment.

      With changing the car my problem is i cant see the wood for the trees, so was keen to get some unbiased and perhaps not so guided pieces of feedback from the aussie collective hive mind.

  •  

    What usage are you particularly looking at.
    Write a list.
    A ute exposes your goods. Even a tarp would result in snoopers.
    The Subaru is too small.
    You may need a van, or go for a larger 4x4

    •  

      Good way to think about it, some of my use cases are below.

      I would like to be able to go to Costo and do a massive shop once every 6 weeks and stock up the home freezer,

      Head to bunnings, get a few sheets of plywood or pieces of decking, timber to carry out odd jobs and repairs at home.

      Bring lawn equipment from place to place, i mow the lawns for some less able family friends and not a massive fan of the petrol smell in the cabin

      Pick up gym equipment, or or large items without having to jenga it into my car or stick it out a window

      This was a really good way to think about it, and i believe it narrows it down to a open back ute or a larger van…appreciate the alternative thinking mate.

      •  

        Perhaps a RP series Kia Rondo with the second and third row seats folded then? Especially as 5 seats are not essential.

        Or if you need something bigger - a YP series Kia Carnival. Just try to filter out the initial ones that are rated only 4-star ANCAP, as they offer below par leg protection IIRC.

      •  

        Based on that I’d say ute. Especially with the petrol in cab issue.

        If you don’t plan on going off road you could aim for a 2wd model to save a few coins. Even possibly lower it for better driving experience.

  • +1 vote

    If a Hiace or Express are both on your list, what about a 2WD ute or a 'high rider'? They'd be better to drive and would be more modern than the vans, but would be a helluva lot cheaper than the 4x4 utes.

    TBH a Commodore wagon would be my pick. Just deal with the petrol smells when the lawn mower's in the back, and have roof racks for extra long bits of timber from Bunnings.

    •  

      Just deal with the petrol smells when the lawn mower's in the back

      Or set aside $6-700 for a decent battery lawnmower before the upgrade.

      •  

        Didn't even think of that. If that's the main reason why OP wants a ute or van over a wagon then a battery mower would be a very wise investment.

  •  

    My partner owns a VE commodore wagon and it has been great for us. It can easily fit long things with the seats folded down, even a small mattress to sleep in during camping trips. We surf too and it can fit a Malibu board but that's as long as it gets and it's sticking between the front seats.

    I see you mentioned gardening equipment; I have easily fit a mower and other stuff in it. We look after it but it does get a bit messy but for the convenience of what it can do is great. I haven't checked prices recently but commodore wagons are well within your price range. You could even look for an old falcon, they are like driving a boat they're so big