Written by Tim Marsh:
Selecting the best SUV – particularly in today’s populous SUV cars, trucks, and crossover market – can be exhausting if not overwhelming for some prospective buyers. As more manufacturers recognise the demand for these vehicles, the diversity and quality of options requires additional research and consideration to ensure that the best purchase is made. We have compiled a list of the top 10 affordable SUVs and crossovers to help prospective buyers locate the best SUV for their use – whether it’s shopping in Sydney or a weekend countryside adventure.
The 2014 Patriot keeps the rugged feel of a Jeep SUV, making it an attractive choice for those who need to operate outside of urban areas as well. The base Sport package, which starts at $25,700, includes most of the expected standard features, with only climate control as a notable absence. An $8300 upgrade to the Limited includes heated seats, four-wheel disc brakes, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and upgraded stereo. Both storage and seating space are plentiful, with several reviewers noting that passengers have plenty of headroom in both the front and back seats. The Patriot can be thirsty, however, guzzling 8.9 litres of petrol per 100km in optimal conditions.
The SX4 is undergoing a major redesign in 2014, including additions to length and interior space to address common complaints in the previous model of the Suzuki SUV about seating comfort. It is currently one of the better values in the SUV cars and crossover market with a base model starting at only $18,990, but those looking for four-wheel drive and an automatic transmission will likely see a price tag closer to $26,000. The 2.0 litre engine is neither particularly powerful nor fuel efficient, consuming 8.0L/100km.
Drivers looking for some more muscle in a Dodge SUV may look to the Journey’s 3.6 litre engine for an additional kick, though it comes at the cost of fuel economy. Chrysler’s experience in interior design shines through here, as it comfortably seats four adults or a surprising amount of cargo. The $32,400 SXT comes standard with keyless entry and push-button start as well as additional features not usually seen in base models; the premium R/T model of this Dodge SUV includes luxury features like leather seating and premium sound at only a slight increase to $35,700.
Kia has taken steps to refresh its Sportage in recent years, resulting in an athletically styled and suitably powerful Kia SUV that leans farther toward a hatch than a full-sized truck. While it gets impressive power out of its four-cylinder petrol or diesel engine, some reviewers have observed that headroom in all seats and legroom in the back is somewhat restricted for passengers in the Kia SUV. The basic $25,490 SL model is well-equipped, and those looking to upgrade to more luxurious surroundings or all-wheel drive will have to upgrade to the Platinum and SLi models, respectively.
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
The 2013 version of the Outlander brought a significant overhaul for the Mitsubishi SUV, giving it a new fresh look and keeping up in a crowded SUV car market. The 2014 model adds features from the Mitsubishi SUV catalogue while cutting its price down to $27,640 for the entry-level ES. As it’s larger than many other vehicles in the category, the Outlander offers room for seven passengers, though the third row may be cramped for full-sized adults. A 2.0 litre petrol engine is underpowered for the size of the vehicle, resulting in mediocre performance and limiting the Outlander’s off-road capabilities.
The 2014 ix35 is a further sign that the Korean manufacturer is continuing to address Hyundai SUV performance on Australian roads. Performance updates over previous models have resulted in improved handling and ride comfort, while three engine options (2.0L and 2.4L petrol, 2.0L diesel) provide an increased boost. Those looking for more power or included features in this Hyundai SUV can choose from three trim levels: Active, Elite, and Highlander, which range in price from $26,990 to over $40,000. Safety ratings are high, with standard stability control, anti-lock brakes, and side curtain airbags all standard. Fuel economy is good, but not great – 8.2/100km petrol and 7.2/100km diesel.
A sharp design reminiscent of its older sibling, the Grand Cherokee, is the calling card for this Jeep SUV. The 2014 model has also revamped interior styling, softening a bit while keeping the rugged soul that Jeeps have come to be known for. However, some reviews still found the ride and interior comforts on the harsh side, which is especially noticeable in comparison with other crossover SUVs. The base model price of $29,000 is higher than many other crossover SUVs, but the Compass also includes standard features like keyless entry, fog lamps, and all power accessories that aren’t typical of other, lower-priced vehicles.
Suzuki Grand Vitara
The Grand Vitara has been in demand for quite a while in Australia, making the new model of the Suzuki SUV a point of interest for many would-be owners. The 2014 model is offered in both 4X4 and two wheel drive configurations as well as multiple trim levels that provide price options between $24,990 and $38,990 for the top-of-the-line Prestige model. One of the most coveted options is a high-resolution touch screen that serves as an extensive infotainment platform including media playback, hands-free, and satellite navigation. Standard features include the much-coveted leather-wrapped steering wheel, four-wheel disc brakes, and four sets of airbags that boost the Grand Vitara’s safety rating.
The Nissan Juke occupies the small end of the Nissan SUV range, lining up behind the Pathfinder and Dualis as the brand’s quirky, small urban runner. While its unconventional styling can be polarizing, those who appreciate it can look forward to a sporty ride and surprisingly flexible interior that is both family- and cargo-friendly. This Nissan SUV is available with a 1.6-litre petrol engine that provides good performance with respectable fuel economy (6.0/100km) with an entry price of $21,990. Standard features include keyless entry and Bluetooth streaming with options for a color VGA LCD screen, satellite navigation, and an upgraded six-speaker stereo.
The recently introduced CX-5 filled a hole in the Mazda SUV lineup and sold up a storm in Australia, especially after offering a 2.5 litre engine next to the standard 2.0, addressing one common complaint about the vehicle’s lack of pep. For 2014, this small Mazda SUV gets small visual and interior tweaks while avoiding the necessity of a significant overhaul. The range stretches from the $27,880 entry-level Maxx model to the top-of-the-line Akera, which brings with it standard Bluetooth, satellite navigation, parking sensors, and a Bose audio system.