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Used mid-range cars review: 2009

Ask yourself: how much is that badge worth? Is it worth $15,000? Or $20,000? More, maybe? (Pic: Mazda CX-7 Diesel Sports)

The traditional prestige players are priced beyond the means of most of us -- but the qualitative difference separating the business class and the topline versions of the rest has diminished to the point of non-existence. All right, you'll look better in the car park comparison stakes if you drive the exxier choices listed here, but you're by no means always driving the better car.

WAGONS

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Skoda Octavia RS wagon
from $39,490

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Audi A4 Avant
from $60,100

One's a classy Volkswagen Group sport wagon with a direct injection turbo petrol engine with the option of a cutting-edge transmission. And so's the Audi.

The Czech-made Skoda is essentially a bigger in the body, more discreet, better riding and cheaper VW Golf GTI, the car that more than any other blurs the distinction between the prestige pack and the rest.

The handling-enhancing electronic diff of the new GTI is on its way to the RS, so while the twin clutch DSG adds $2300, the generous standard kit (including tasty 18s) and skinny options list means there's not a lot more to spend. Rare is the Audi of which that can be said.

The output of the front-wheel-drive Avant's turbo four is similar (132kW/320Nm plays Skoda's 147kW/280Nm), limited for its continuously variable transmission. Quattro and the full-fat engine sets you back another $13,000 -- and the premium is already just a bit silly.

SEDANS

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Ford Falcon G6
from $43,490

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BMW 325i
from $76,150

One's a perfectly balanced, rear-wheel-drive, inline petrol six with great steering and a six-speed ZF automatic. And so's the BMW.

All right, we're comparing a big tarted-up Aussie taxi with a thoroughbred mid-size Bavarian sport sedan here, but what of it? Priced $33K south, this Falcon is probably the best-value car in the country on a metal for money basis and that price difference buys a lot of basic unleaded petrol for that 4.0-litre atmo six with its whacking 195kW/391Nm. If there's a quickish car that rides as well as the Falcon, it's known not unto us.

As to the Bimmer, well, you'd go there if you could, even if the peerless handling comes at the price of run-flat tyres and an options list to make your eyes bleed.

DIESELS

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Ford Mondeo Titanium TDCI
from $45,990

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Volvo S80 D5
from $73,950

One's a European-built front-wheel-drive with a sophisticated turbodiesel engine and bank-vault build quality. And so's the Volvo. Now the first prestige Euro to be owned by a Chinese company, Volvo did rather well out of its association with Ford (certainly better than Saab did out of GM). But the years of proximity invite comparison.

Long the choice of UK sales reps and families, the Mondeo's marriage of the diesel with an auto and capable dynamics give it a comfortable niche position at this level of the market. The Titanium edition gives the long Ford the trim and kit to compare with the premium brigade.

Despite its more potent five-cylinder engine and Swedish aura of invulnerability, we just can't see the extra spend in the stolid Volvo.

SUVS

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Mazda CX-7 Diesel Sports
from $43,640

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BMW X3d
from $62,200

One's the best-driving compact SUV and... uh, that's the BMW, actually. We've often said that if BMW made front-wheel-drive family cars they'd handle like Mazdas, so the two brands' respective four-wheel-drives should logically be even closer.

Not quite, but not to the extent that the X3 is nigh-on $20K better. The X3's only real advantage in Australia's restricted conditions is its standard six-speed auto. Stop us if you're tired of hearing this, Mazda doesn't yet have a slusher for its diesel.

While the Mazda's engine is slightly bigger and more potent than the BMW diesel, it has to haul a nearly two-tonne kerb weight. The X3 is 250kg lighter but, within, it's also the most dated Bimmer.

How much is that badge worth, again?

Pricing

Year Price From Price To
2009 $6,820 $11,880

View all Mazda CX-7 pricing and specifications

Pricing Guides

$10,995
Based on 78 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$4,990
Highest Price
$15,500

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Classic (4x4) 2.3L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $7,799 – 11,990 2009 Mazda CX-7 2009 Classic (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Classic (FWD) 2.5L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $7,689 – 11,990 2009 Mazda CX-7 2009 Classic (FWD) Pricing and Specs
Classic Sports (4x4) 2.3L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $7,999 – 10,999 2009 Mazda CX-7 2009 Classic Sports (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Diesel Sports (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $4,990 – 13,990 2009 Mazda CX-7 2009 Diesel Sports (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$3,950

Lowest price, based on 10 car listings in the last 6 months

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