I was window shopping for a future comfortable family car in the sub-RM130k region. Here’s what I look for in a future family car:
- Reliable, low maintenance Japanese brand that can last at least 9 years.
- Max budget of RM 130k for brand new or 2-year max used.
- Must have rear independent suspension setup for superior ride comfort & handling.
- Excellent safety features (5-star crash test safety rating, min 6 airbags, etc).
- Have brake hold feature, a necessity for KL traffic.
After extensive YouTube research, my personal top 3 picks that ticks all the boxes above are from 3 different segments (sedan, crossover & SUV):
- Honda Civic Turbo – Sedan
- Subaru XV – In between a sedan & an SUV
- Mazda CX-5 – SUV
I bet motoring journalists will think my comparison between 3 different segments is stupid and not fair. But does the average car buyer cares? By the end of the day, buyers will look at the price, features, and how the car makes them feel.
Before we dive into details for each car, here’s the financial summary:
|Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo
|Brand New Price
|RM 132k – RM 174k
|2 Year Used Price
|RM 110k to
RM 150k (-14%)
|1.5L + Turbo
|2.0L No turbo
|213 Nm to
|First 2 Services are Free
|3 Years Free
|5 Years Free
|Yearly Road Tax
|RM 439 to
|From RM 3,882
|RM 405 to RM 600
- All 3 cars have tires that are expensive, at least RM 400 per piece.
- The most fuel-efficient and lowest road tax is the Honda Civic.
- You won’t spend on dealer services on a Mazda for the whole 5 years until the warranty ends.
- The Subaru has the highest depreciation, which would make sense to get it used.
Now we have the financial logic out of the way, I went ahead and test drove all 3 cars, and here’s how I feel:
Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo
The Honda Civic is the best-selling C-segment family sedan in Malaysia due to its overall complete package as a family car. I have a family member who owns the Civic turbo, so my review of this car will be a little more thorough:
Pros of the Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo
LOOKS: This will be subjective. I love the looks. The long, wide, and low body with a fastback design make it look sporty and capable of slicing through the air on the highway.
I also like the bulge design on the front hood. Making it look like there’s a powerful engine under the hood, which it does. The bulge also helps to predict the front end during parking maneuvers:
ENGINE: Powerful turbo engine with 240Nm of torque. To give you a perspective, the BMW 318i only has 220Nm of torque. Despite being powerful, the Civic can achieve a max fuel efficiency of 20km/l if you’re gentle on the throttle, with a realistic average city and highway average of around 15-17km/l.
SPACIOUS INTERIOR: If interior space is essential for you, you can stop looking at the other cars. The Civic is your answer. Comes with rear air-conditioning vents:
HANDLING: The steering doesn’t have much feel, but it is predictable. Coupled with a low center of gravity, and sports tires as standard, the car is very stable and grips in the corners, even at 140km/h. The 2016 Civic turbo also has a rear strut bar preinstalled from the factory that improves handling:
RIDE COMFORT: Despite being a low riding ‘sporty’ car with sporty tires, the Civic rides over bumps very well. Thanks to its independent rear suspension setup and clever engineering. Passengers will be very comfortable in this car.
REMOTE START: This is my favorite. If you park in the sun, the interior could get very hot. You can start the car remotely, and the AC will be on full blast. By the time you reach the car, the cabin will be nice and cool. Fantastic to keep you and your family comfortable.
RESALE VALUE: Although you shouldn’t buy a car solely on resale value, Being such a sought after car, it’s nice to know that you’ll have some residual value when you want to trade in your car for a new one later down the road.
Cons of the Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo
TURBO ENGINE: Some might be put off with the added complexity of a turbo. But as long as you change the oil on time, you should be fine. The service interval is every 10,000 km, and the car’s computer is smart enough to notify you for an earlier oil change if you have a heavy right foot.
LOW HEIGHT PROBLEMS: The low height is great for handling, but it might be challenging for older people or people with knee problems to get in or out.
The plastic and metal skid plate under the engine are prone for damage if you hit a pothole or speed bump too fast:
PARKING: Although the Civic is easy to drive, parallel parking will be a little tedious as this car is very long. The first-generation Civic (2016) also doesn’t have front parking sensors, which is ridiculous for a car this long.
TOO COMMON: Due to the overall excellent package of this car, everyone has one. If you like to drive an exclusive vehicle, the Civic is not for you.
AGING MODEL: The current generation Civic is already 3 years old, and the new 2022 model will debut in a few months that looks more upmarket. So if you’re interested in the Civic, you might want to wait for the new model:
The Civic is hard to beat, but if you want to be a little bit more unique, let’s take a look at the next contender:
The Subaru is such an underrated brand. It’s taller than a sedan but not as tall as an SUV, hence the crossover classification.
Pros of the Subaru XV
BODY RIGIDITY: The first impression that I get when sitting and driving in the Subaru XV is that the car’s body feels very stiff, and I feel cocooned in safety. I think the XV’s body feels the most rigid from all the 3 cars that I test drove. Almost like sitting in a European make car.
ALL WHEEL DRIVE: This means, the engine powers all 4 of the wheels all the time. It makes you feel more confident on the road, especially in slippery and off-road conditions. Although nice to have, you don’t really need this feature if you live in the city.
CROSS OVER BODY: Do you need more ground clearance for going over flooded roads in KL or tired of scraping on curbs in the city but don’t want to drive a tall wobbly SUV? Then the Subaru XV makes a lot of sense. It’s taller than a sedan but not as tall as an SUV:
SMOOTH BOXER ENGINE: The 2.0L engine’s cylinders are positioned horizontally as opposed to vertically, which results in less engine vibration (smoother) and bringing most of the engine mass, and the car’s center of gravity down.
HIGH-QUALITY INTERIOR: The interior finishing does not exude luxury, but the plastic and fabric materials feel high quality and well put together, even if you get the lower-spec.
Cons of the Subaru XV
TINY BOOTSPACE: In order to fit the all-wheel-drive mechanism, the boot space had to be sacrificed. Bring your baby stroller to the showroom and test if it can fit in the boot before you decide to purchase this car.
NO REAR AIR COND VENTS: Quite unacceptable for a family car being sold in hot Malaysia.
NO AUTO HOLD BRAKE: Without it, driving this car in crawling heavy traffic could be annoying:
UNDERPOWERED ENGINE: The engine revs happily and is adequate for commuting and bringing your family around. But if you want to get your hooligan boy racer out, you will be disappointed.
The Subaru XV is an excellent family car. But if you want to have a car that feels premium-ish, consider the last contender:
The Mazda CX-5 is an SUV designed for the city. There are a few engine choices, and the most financially responsible option is the smallest, 2.0L. But because the sales person at Mazda gave me their top of the line 2.5L Turbo as my test drive unit, all financial logic went out the window and I have to consider the 2.5L turbo in my list.
Pros of the Mazda CX-5
LUXURIOUS INTERIOR: This is the best thing about new Mazda’s. You’ll feel like you’re in a luxury car that costs a lot more than the Mazda. Definitely the car I would choose if I am spending a lot of time stuck in traffic and ferrying people around:
ENGINE CHOICES: If you’re financially responsible, get the 2.0L, end of story.
If you’ve made the same mistake I did by test driving the 2.5L turbo, all financial logic will be tossed out the window, and your heart will take over the buying decision. With a staggering 420Nm of torque, jab the gas pedal on the highway and watch all of your worldly problems disappear in the rearview mirror.
To give you a perspective, the BMW 330i has 400 Nm of torque. The Mazda 2.5L Turbo beats the BMW by 20 Nm, and it costs half of the BMW, talk about value for money!
HANDLING: For a tall SUV, the Mazda CX-5 handles surprisingly well with the help of the clever GVC electronics to control the car’s character during cornering. But if you like to take corners at high speeds, consider the Civic instead as it’s a lower sedan. No amount of electronics trickery can defy simple physics.
RIDE COMFORT: The SUV runs over bumps very well despite riding on large 19 inch tires. Some road imperfections could not be felt at all. Soundproofing is also very good and refined. Includes rear air-cond vents. The CX-5 definitely feels like a class above.
Cons of the Mazda CX-5
TALL SEATING POSITION: Although the Mazda CX-5 handles confidently for a tall SUV. If handling is what you’re after, let’s not kid yourself and acknowledge that an SUV is not for you. The only reason I even consider the CX-5 is because the 2.5L turbo engine is only available in this model in Malaysia.
EXPENSIVE RUNNING COSTS: Be prepared to fork out RM 830 a year in road taxes for that sweet 2.5L turbo engine.
Fuel consumption will also be a lot higher with a big capacity engine and the addictive turbo that will seduce you to accelerate hard all the time.
Expensive, yes. But with a big smile on your face, I think it’s worth it if you can afford it.
LINEAR BRAKING CHARACTERISTICS: The brakes on the Mazda is nothing like I’ve ever driven before. It’s very linear, meaning you have to press quite a lot to have a lot of braking power. The good thing about this is that you can control precisely the braking amount. However, I prefer the brakes on the Subaru and the Honda.
Personally, I would only take the Mazda CX-5 2.5L turbo version if I can afford the running costs. Drop by any Mazda showroom and ask for a pre-registered CX-5 that can run a tasty RM20-RM30k discount from retail.
Conclusion – Which is Your Pick?
There you go, this is my comparison, both from the POV of financial logic and what I felt when I test drove these vehicles. There is no one perfect vehicle, but the best for each purpose are:
- Best overall package & value for money: Honda Civic
- If you want a luxury feel car: Mazda CX-5
- Largest interior & boot Space: Honda Civic
- Best Engine Performance: Mazda CX-5 2.5L Turbo, followed by the Civic 1.5L Turbo
- If you hate whiny CVT gearboxes: Get the Mazda CX-5
- Best handling: Civic due to its low height
- Quietest cabin: Mazda CX-5
- Most rigid feeling body: Subaru XV
The car I’d buy with my head: Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo
The car I’d buy with my heart: Mazda CX-5 2.5L Turbo
The car I’d buy if I need off-roading capabilities: Subaru XV
How about you? What is your experience in shortlisting your family car? Let me know in the comments below 🙂
If you want to see how to sell your car for a better price than what the used car dealer is offering you, check out my guide on how I sold my car for RM 8,150 higher than the trade-in value.