We tried out lots of cars over the last week. Then yesterday saw the Toyota Highlander, tried it, son fits comfortably finally. He loves it. Hubby really happy. I love it too. It’s more expensive than my budget but seeing how comfortable it was and how well it drives I think we will get one. I didn’t want the one we test drove because it’s paintwork was damaged. It looked like it had been driven on gravel roads, it was covered in nicks out of the paint and looks like kids had scraped the paint off around doors with their shoes. Also paint was badly scrapped off around headlights?! it had lots of other damage as well to the interior despite being only 4 years old.
I am now looking for another Highlander in reasonable condition.
Thanks everyone for all your suggestions. I have investigated a lot of these and it has helped a lot. I hope to be buying a car very soon. I will get an AA check done before I buy. I was hoping to get my mechanic to look at it as well.
Good to hear you found something that works. Sound's like the search was frustrating, but finding something everybody likes is a big win.
I drove one as a rental car 1000km around the south island. Great car for that application. Good space (incl cargo in 5 seat mode), heaps of power 225kW, good ride comfort, reasonably quiet, reasonable handling, runs 91 octane.
Main criticisms would be that it is a pretty big vehicle to park, 3rd row seats only fit children, and that the fuel consumption is relatively high. Plus it is generally pretty bland as a vehicle.
With regards to the fuel consumption, it is a powerful engine pushing a big body. I found the fuel consumption on the rental one (AWD, 6 speed auto) fine on the open road, but pritty high (14L/100km dash reported) in urban running.
Newer highlanders are fitted with an 8 speed auto which would improve economy a bit (unlikely to be in your expanded budget). Sadly the hybrid variant is not available in NZ.
They are quite popular in rental fleets, but somewhat less popular with private buyers. Rental fleets typically forbid off road use, and generally prefer petrol vehicle so the company doesn't have to pay for RUC's or charge the customer a per KM fee to recover them. Frankly as a renter, paying more money to rent a Prado is pritty pointless. The Highlander has similar or better interior space, and is a nicer vehicle to drive. Private buyers looking for higher priced larger suv's often want more than the 2T tow rating of the highlander, or better off road capability, or nicer styling. Also diesel power is sort after in this size of vehicle meaning other brands that offer diesel engines attract more private buyers
Given a lot of these cars will be ex-rental, it is not surprising to find relatively new vehicles looking quite tired. That said there seems to be a decent number to choose from at an asking price of $33k or below.
Look into the spec levels, and work out what features are actually useful for you
One nice thing about buying this model is that they are not sold in japan (actually they are built in the USA), so there is unlikely to be a flood of cheap used imports in a few years, as would be the case with the RAV4