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2022 Nissan X-Trail

The Nissan X-Trail’s giant leap

In more recent years, Nissan’s ageing X-Trail has been left behind by the likes of the Mazda CX5, Toyota RAV4 and the Mitsubishi Outlander. This Nissan X-Trail, though, takes a giant leap forward to match its competitors.

The price of the Nissan X-Trail is similar to its competitors but when you see the number of features – including the expansive list of safety systems – the car is good value.

To be a true family-friendly mid-size SUV, the vehicle needs to have space and use it efficiently. The X-Trail does this in both the five and seven-seat versions as it’s wider and taller than previous models.

Having an 85-degree rear-door opening doesn’t sound like much of a feature, but it makes a big difference when getting kids in and out of their seats. It also makes it easier for bigger people to get in and out of the car.

Nissan’s clever ‘divide and hide’ system on the five-seater models allows the sections of the cargo floor to be removed and placed vertically into slots. This turns them into dividers to create separate storage compartments.

Under the bonnet, Nissan has done well to match the 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with the continuously variable transmission (CVT), so there’s not as much engine flaring noise as in other cars. However, if you don’t like CVT you’re out of luck, as there isn’t a manual transmission option. Nissan has just released a hybrid version but it’s not reviewed here.

I found the active cruise controls to be quite intuitive, and ProPilot – the system for managing lane-keep assist – can on some occasions be quite interventionist and annoying.

Thankfully, the heads-up display is a redeeming feature that’s easy to read in all lighting conditions.

The ride, handling and cabin noise management keep road noises to a minimum on most surfaces, which adds to the feeling of quality and provides a touch of luxury.

It’s well overdue but now it’s here. Nissan is again a real competitor in the mid-sized SUV market and should be in the top half of your shopping list.

Reviewed by Mark Borlace

2022 BYD Atto 3

The car of your dreams

Could your next car be electric, and made in China? That’s the hope of the peculiarly named Chinese-owned car manufacturer Build Your Dreams – or BYD for short.

BYD’s first electric car in Australia is the Atto 3, a medium-sized SUV priced from $48,011 before on-road costs.

It was recently Australia’s cheapest electric car, before BYD jacked up prices by more than $3600 just before Christmas 2022 (making Santa very unhappy).

The BYD Atto 3 comes in two versions: the cheaper Standard Range and the pricier Extended Range, costing $51,011 before on-road costs.

Both versions use BYD’s high-tech new Blade lithium-ion battery. The Standard offers up to 320km of range compared to the Extended’s very reasonable 420km. Recharging the

Extended from flat to full takes eight-and-a-half hours using an at-home 7kW AC wall charger (which costs extra to have installed), or 45 minutes using an 80kW DC public charger.

With safety features such as seven airbags and autonomous emergency braking, the Atto 3 recently scored a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.


The somewhat conservative exterior styling contrasts to that of the quirky interior. There’s an eccentric, swooping dash design and a gear lever that is supposed to look like a dumbbell.

Behind the steering wheel is a small, five-inch digital instrument display that reminds me of a motorbike; a central, 12.8-inch infotainment display can swivel at the touch of a button between portrait and landscape orientations – for seemingly no real benefit.

BYD fitted strings of taut elastic to the lower door bins and says you can play them like a guitar… if you want.

Despite the odd styling, it all works well and is easy enough to get used to. Thanks to its long 2720mm wheelbase, there’s also ample rear seat room – and it’s light and airy owing to the large, standard-fit moonroof.

Once moving, the Atto 3 is surprisingly delightful to drive. The ride quality is plush, while the 150kW/310Nm electric motor – powering the front wheels only – provides plenty of punch. The BYD has the same lovely characteristics of all other electric cars, being smooth, quiet and responsive – and makes a petrol car feel as high-tech as something steam powered. At 1750kg, the Atto 3 is surprisingly light for an electric car – and with the weight low in the chassis, the handling is almost fun.

Read the fine-print of the warranty, and ask about the wait time. For some buyers, it’s stretched out many months.

Reviewed by Dylan Campbell


2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

Electric or petrol? Get the best of both worlds

Hybrids are perfect for the motorist who wants the low-emission driving of an electric vehicle (EV) but still requires the security of having a petrol engine to do the longer country trips where access to chargers is a concern. Hyundai’s solution to this problem in the large SUV market is the new Santa Fe hybrid.

The hybrid technology is only offered in the top two Santa Fe models – the Elite and Highlander. We tested the Highlander for this review.

The entire Santa Fe range has Apple CarPlay and Android auto smartphone mirroring, wireless phone charging, alloy wheels, a drive-mode select system and LED headlights. Interior comforts include third-row air conditioning, power outlets  throughout, Nappa leather upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, and a panoramic glass sunroof.

On top of this, there’s also a rear-view camera, rear-park-distance warning system, remote smart-parking assist, collision-avoidance reversing system and heads-up display. All of these features make the Santa Fe the best value in the large SUV hybrid market.

The Santa Fe range offers seven-seat options, however the Hybrid Highlander can be configured with six seats. This arrangement includes a pair of second-row captain’s seats, making it easy to walk through to the third row.

The panoramic glass sunroof provides a well-lit and spacious feel, with a motorised sunblind for when shade is required. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of some headroom for people sitting in the middle seats.

The hybrid system combines a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine and a 44.2kW electric motor, which draws power from a 1.49kWh lithium-ion polymer battery.


The Highlander drives and handles like a smaller SUV on country roads and off road has the four-wheel-drive system delivering power via a newly developed six-speed auto. It also has a full-size spare tyre, which gives more peace of mind if you’re travelling off-road.

The electric motor seems to do most of the work when the car accelerates to 20km/h, contributing to the city-driving fuel savings.

It recovers charge back to the battery via regenerative braking as the car decelerates. One downside of the hybrid is that its towing capacity is reduced to 1650kg compared to the other Santa Fe models at 2.5 tonnes.

For those who travel remotely, hybrids are a good compromise between EV and petrol vehicles.

Reviewed by Mark Borlace


2018 Kia Carnival SLi

Kia Carnival: a prime people mover

The best people movers are designed to do just that rather than modifying a commercial van into a minivan. The Kia Carnival typifies the successful people mover recipe with ingredients like space in all three rows, an uncluttered and functional interior, and a car-like ride.

The bad news for used-car buyers is that the 2018 Carnival has held its value. The good news is that it still has a seven-year unlimited-kilometre warranty. 

Part of the Carnival’s success as a family car is its safety technology. The likes of autonomous emergency braking, lane departure and radar cruise control help protect your precious cargo.

They’ve been a popular rental car, so it’s best to check the life history of any used Carnival you’re interested in purchasing, and look for scratches and wear to the seats and cargo area.

The popularity of seven-seater SUVs has been driven in some part by the high-riding driver’s seat position that provides the driver a clear, confident view out of the car. The purpose-built Carnival gives you all that without the downside of an inefficient 4WD system that is rarely used and the handling instability of an SUV.

The powered sliding side door and rear tailgate are very convenient and make the Carnival popular for hire car companies and hotel transfer businesses. The plethora of storage spaces, with 10 bottle and cup holders and six power outlets in the cabin, makes the Carnival family-friendly. To cap it off, there’s an exceptional amount of cargo space even when all three rows are full.


The Carnival’s Australian-tuned suspension gives the people mover more of a car-like ride compared to other brands’ vans. The more responsive 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine is a better choice of engine than the 3.5-litre petrol.                                                                                                                             

The eight-speed automatic transmission makes the most of this power with seamless shifts, and its two-tonne towing capacity is also a useful asset. The Kia Carnival is one of the best value-for-money people movers and, for good reasons, it’s highly sought after in the used car market.

Reviewed by Mark Borlace

Looking to buy a car?

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