27 September 2023

Ask the Doctor

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By Paul Gover.

Q: I am a uni student and a first-time car buyer, I’ve been perusing the market for a couple of months now, and I’ve narrowed my search down (mainly) to the Subaru Forester.

I love the look and I’ve heard nothing but good things.

I’ll use the car for a fair bit of inner city driving, but I also love to go down to the surf semi-regularly.

I’m writing to you to ask if the 2009 model is a smart, economic, and roomy enough car for a first-time buyer.

I’ve considered the 2006 model as well as I like the look better, being honest, but I wonder about the lack of safety features and the minimal legroom in back seat.

Another point I’ve been reasonably particular about is the odometer, going for a reading of around 150,000.

Not that I’ll have the car forever, but I guess I don’t want to run it into the ground by next year. Do you think I could be more lenient with this?

Lastly, as a side note, how do you think the Forester compares with the late 2000s Nissan X-Trail and Pathfinder.

Michael O

A: The Forester is a great pick for a first car as it’s practical, reliable and there should be plenty of choice. It’s also more like a car than a heavyweight SUV, which means it should be lighter on fuel and safer in a potential emergency. Although the X-Trail and Pathfinder are bigger, the Forester scores in all other areas. On mileage, you’re on target as more cars are relatively trouble free before they hit 160,000 kilometres.

Q: I own a Kia Seltos GT Line and a friend of mine has just collected his Seltos Sport+.

He was most disappointed to find the vehicle is now supplied without an owner’s manual.

He has borrowed mine to swat up on information that you obviously need to know with a new vehicle.

Kia customer service could not, and would not, help with a positive outcome.

Ron S

A: The official response from Kia is that it have been moving to digital manuals since October last year. It’s obviously a way to save money, but it says: “Digital manuals ensure the latest and most accurate owner’s manuals are available to the customer and also frees up room in the glovebox so it can be used as a practical storage space. In order to help customers familiarise themselves with their vehicle, a printed Quick Reference Guide (QRG) is fitted to each vehicle. The QRG contains basic vehicle functions and controls, with the back cover providing a QR code and instructions for navigating the Kia website to access the full owner’s manual. The website provides the Vehicle Infotainment System Quick Reference Guide, full owner’s manual and Quick Reference Guide for each vehicle. Seltos can be found here: https://www.kia.com/au/owners/manual.html Kia dealers can order a printed manual on behalf of a customer if that is their preference, however there is a cost involved”.

Q: I have a rotten gas smell emanating from the exhaust of my 2021 Subaru Impreza hatchback

I took it to my local Subaru dealer and explained the situation and that I had obtained my information from Google.

The dealer stated that they didn’t need to look at the converter but I should change the type of petrol I was filling with from Unleaded 91 to Premium 95.

He also said that petrol blends are different in summer and winter and this also could be a likely problem.

Is this dealer spinning me a load of crap or is he correct?


A: The smell comes with what’s called ‘catalytic ageing’ of the exhaust. It was very common in the 1980s and usually disappears after a couple of thousand kilometres of driving. It can be worse with some types of fuel, but will go away over time. And you will notice the smell a lot more if the car is just sitting and idling. It’s a pretty rare problem now, but if the owner’s manual for the Impreza says 91 fuel then it will be fine. The dealer is at least right on one point, that fuel blends are very slightly different between summer and winter.

Q: My wife and I have owned our Mark 7 Volkswagen Golf GTI Performance since new in 2014 and it has travelled 120,000 trouble-free kilometres.

We are close to retiring and have contemplated updating it with something that is of a similar size, is reliable, cheap to service and enjoyable to drive.
We have looked at a Toyota Corolla hybrid but worry that it would feel underpowered.
Or should we keep the Golf and drive it until its eventual demise?

David B

A: The Corolla will certainly be efficient, but I think you’ll miss the sporty drive of your GTI. Another GTI is a logical choice, but you should also drive the Hyundai i30N as it’s a cracking hot hatch. An alternative if you’re looking for something a little different is the Kona N, also from Hyundai. It’s essentially the i30N drivetrain in a small SUV body. The Hyundais come with long warranties and there are attractive service plans available.

Q: We currently have a 2009 Toyota Kluger which we have found great, but it’s now a bit dated and we would like to change over to an SUV which is a bit more economical.

We are wanting to get a medium sized SUV, on the larger size if they’re much different from each other.

We are open to getting a new one and understand there can be lengthy delays in getting these.

Models like the Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson all appear to be popular and good vehicles, but I haven’t heard much about the Nissan X-Trail so I’m asking your thoughts on this one and the CVT transmission.

We live in Portland, Victoria and have no dealerships here, so we would be hopeful of using a local mechanic for ongoing servicing rather than travel out of town. We would also be wary of any make that costs excessively more than others in terms of maintenance and parts etc.

Rod F

A: The X-Trail is hugely outdated and an all-new model is coming later this year, so definitely wait on that one. But it will need to be very very good to trump the South Korean twins, Sportage and Tucson, that currently top the class. The Sportage is slightly ahead on value but also has one of the longest waiting lists, with Hyundai quoting Tucson deliveries from June. The RAV4 is also good, but best as a hybrid for city-and-suburbs work for improved economy, and it is also costly with a long wait.

Q: I was wanting your opinion on the Genesis GV70 2.5 AWD petrol model.

I’m looking for a mid-sized SUV, bit Mercedes, BMW and Audi seem a lot more expensive for what you get.

Possibly because they are better vehicles with a better resale value?

Lastly, is it worth the extra to go for the GV80 or is this a much larger vehicle to handle?


A: The GV70 is a very, very good car with a great value package and the only downside, for now, is uncertain resale values. The GV80 is a much bigger beastie and if the 70 works for you r needs then there is no need to go for the extra size and expense.

Q: I have a 2008 Honda Civic that needs replacing.

Would you recommend the new Honda Civic or a good secondhand one as they are very pricey>

Or perhaps something equivalent for a late 70s lady.

Julie W

A: There is far better value in the small-car class than the Civic and, considering your current car is so old, you could actually move down a class and get similar cabin space. But don’t skimp on safety and a touch of luxury. In the mini class, the Skoda Fabia is from the Volkswagen group and an excellent choice. It’s a car to recommend to friends. If you are thinking SUV for easier access, then do a comparative test drive with the Kia Stonic. Both will be a lot cheaper than a Civic and you can get something new with a good warranty for sensible money.

Q: I get my Hyundai Getz serviced each year and was advised last year that at my next service I will have to get the left-hand driveshaft boot replaced as it has a split.

The cost quoted at the time was $599, but does this issue sound like something that could occur and is the price reasonable to fix?

Another recent problem I have is with the automatic door locking system. I am finding that sometimes the two doors and boot are not locking at the same time when I lock the driver’s door. I am hoping this may be just a loose wiring problem and not too expensive to fix.

I don’t know anything about cars but I am expecting problems to start arising as my car is getting older. I bought it new in 2006 and it has been a terrific car and very economical to run.

I may have to consider getting a new car if problems keep occurring due to age and I was wondering if you could suggest any cars which would be similar to the Getz, in both size and price, with an automatic.

Julie W

A: The driveshaft boot is a common failure across all sorts of makes and models, but the door locking is a bit more worrying as it sounds electrical and that can be the start of a downward spiral. The Getz is very small, so perhaps either a Kia Picanto or a Suzuki Swift will work with your needs and a tight budget if you go ahead with a replacement. They are very economical but not the best on safety or equipment, so for a slightly bigger spend the Skoda Fabia can be a smart choice.

If you have a question for the Car Doctor, send an email to [email protected]

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