Top 6 Budget SUVs
As both articles were pitched towards cars which would interest the high-end market, I thought of writing my 3rd car related hub which would appeal more to the mass car-buying public - buyers who're typically in their mid 30's to early 40's, earning average incomes to support a mortgage and a family and reside in your average suburban neighborhood. People in this strata of society typically love a reasonably priced 4x4 or family-friendly wagon with the space and practicality to handle your weekly groceries for the household and taking your kids to school and sports while also being tough enough for off-road family adventures or camping trips.
There're quite a few choices of cars available in this segment, but I've hand-picked 6 cars including the Toyota RAV4, BMW X1, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru XAV Honda C-RV and Audi Q3.
Please also take the time to read my article about compact luxury SUVs (which typically fall in the next class up from budget SUVs), where I've reviewed the likes of the Range Rover Evoque, Audi Q5 and the brand new Porsche Macan.
For quite a few years, the Toyota RAV4 was considered the benchmark within the compact to mid-size SUV/4WD segment with its supremacy being challenged only by the fellow Japanese and equally good looking Honda C-RV.
The RAV4 was quite a compact and quite little thing (especially in its sporty 3-door variant from back in the 90's and early 00's) and has evolved as one of the most stable production cars coming out of Toyota's stable.
There was talk of retiring the RAV4 and pushing ahead a successor, but a recent facelift (to keep up with newcomers like the Mazda CX-5 and the Peugeot 5-series have ensured that it is here to stay.
The newly face-lifted RAV4 comes with many options as standard (on the mid to top-tier variants) such as Bluetooth, SatNav, IPod/Smart Phone connectivity and Reverse cameras and buyers have the option to choose from either a 2 or 2.5 litre petrol engine or a disel engine.
As far as prices are concerned, the RAV4 in Australia starts out at roughly $32,000.00 AUD (American prices are a good $10,000 cheaper!!) and the top-end disel variant (called the 'Chaser') sells on the road for $50k.
Unlike the flimsy looking Honda CR-V, the RAV4 looks rugged and owners can be rest assured it will be backed by Toyota-levels of global reliability (fingers crossed too many recalls don't plague the company again!)
Toyota RAV4's American review by Autoguide.com
Honda's CRV, while being pretty stylish even since the time I remember seeing it back as a boy in the 90's, never really cut it through to the top in comparison with the RAV-4 or even Mitsubishi's Pajero due to its very elegant yet 'plain-Jane' like rugged appearance.
Nevertheless, the CRV, like the RAV4, has stood steady, passing the test of time but amazingly going through just 3 major facelifts - the most recent one being in 2012-2013 to match competition.
The CRV predominantly carried underpowered engines under its bonnet and 2WD setups, but recent upgrades by Honda to both design and technology have cemented the C-RV's future amongst the budget 4x4 segment as a worthy contender amongst both Japanese and European marques.
As of 2013 and in Australia, the CRV is sold in roughly 8 variants but with the option of only a 2 L and 2.4 L engine with pricing directly in line with the RAV4's - with the cheapest Australian CRV (The 2L manual VTi retailing for $30,000.00 to around $50,000.00 for a 2.4L VTi-S with 'Lane-Assist' technology. As of now, there's no diesel engine available in the CRV but it has been confirmed for a 2014 release.
Lastly, the CRV comes with many tech-features on its 2012/13 facelift with satnav, Bluetooth, lane-assist, DVD player etc. coming as standard (or as options, depending on the variant).
CarBuyer UK's review of the Honda CRV
The Q3 is what one would say right at the top-end of the budget 4x4 segment, with the most expensive diesel variant costing around the $60k AUD mark.
Still, there're a fair number of car-buyers out there who're likely to choose a cheaply priced Audi or BMW (like the BMW X1 which I'll be reviewing further below) over their Asian counterparts simply due to either the badge or the fact that European 4x4's (even the small and compact models) are tough and are built to outlive their Japanese competition and the Audi Q3 is no different.
The youngest and smallest of Audi's 'Q' family (the generation which began with the massive Q7 in 2007/08) is mated to a 2L petrol engine (one of them squeezing out 20 more KW of power as against the other) and a 2L turbo diesel engine. While all models are 4WD with a rugged build, Audi's notorious for charging extra for almost every conceivable option but if someone's willing to fork out some more cash to spec up their Q3, they can drive it with gizmos like a Bose Surround System, Active lights, Xenon headlights (instead of HID's available in the RAV4 and CRV) etc. with longer-interval servicing requirements and manufacturer's warranty.
The Q3's available in a limited selection of colours (the exceptional colour being the sapphire Orange metallic) and can be mated to a different selection of rims (options not available on the CRV and RAV4).
Audi Q3 review by CarBuyer UK
The Mitsibishi Outlander was perhaps the only other Japanese budget 4x4 which was as sort after as the RAV4 for much of the 00's before the Europeans began building baby SUV's towards the end of that decade to appeal and compete in that segment.
However, thanks to Mitsubishi's recent facelift, the car's undergone a radical change of styling and from certain angles, it actually resembles the Honda CRV's contours in many different ways.
Having said that, the Outlander seems to carry a lot of bang for its buck considering the different levels of trim, technological enhancements and probably the only one in its class which offers 7-seats as standard - the most expensive variant (the 2.2 Litre Aspire) still available for no more than $52,000.00 AUD (American prices hovering round the $35-$40k mark).
In Australia, Mitsubishi did suffer a major setback due to high production costs (with their factory in Adelaide shutting down for good a few years ago) but nevertheless, the company's maintained a solid existence since the factory's demise and the Outlander's certainly strong performing budget 4x4 across most major markets.
Mitsubishi Outlander Review by CarBuyer UK
As some of my followers would've expected, I really wasn't going to write a car-review without not saying anything about the world's 'ultimate driving machine' - and BMW's new baby SUV the X1 (which was launched in direct competition against Audi's Q3) doesn't disappoint at all.
Since its launch, the X1 has certainly caught the attention of auto enthusiasts the world over, considering it gives Audi a run for its money in almost every conceivable way possible however they seem to have an obsession for launching their cars in Orange (with both Audi and BMW offering the Q3 and X1 in a very similar metallic-Orange combination).
The X1 shares its production platform in America along with the X3 and X5 and thanks to BMW's obsession with eco-driving dynamics, it is available in slightly less powerful petrol and diesel setups (beginning with believe it or not, a 1.8 Litre 4 cylinder petrol engine!).
Nevertheless, BMW's on-board technology is world-renowned and the car easily offers things like a Harmon Kardon Surround Sound, professional/business-spec satnav, internet functionality via your phone (Yes, if you're within 4G range, you can tune your on-board computer to offer you internet on your screen using your phone's data connection!). With very stylish interior leather trims and enhanced driving assists such as pro-eco modes and start/stop technology along with a better choice of colours as compared to the Audi, the X1 has proven fairly popular.
Pricewise, Australian prices are a shade cheaper as against the Audi Q3, with the 1.8 L starting at $52,000 including taxes but with more options on the BMW being standard, the Audi Q3 remains the most expensive of this lot.
BMW X1 Review by 'Car and Driver'
The newest member of the budget 4x4 family and probably the most striking of them all, Subaru's new XV has practically redefined how a SUV (even if doesn't cost your estate) should look and perform and at even half the cost of a Land Rover, it can still turn heads wherever it goes.
Inspired by Subaru's rally-bred history (including its all wheel drive WRX Impreza and Liberty/Outback Wagon), the XV (even when fully kitted out with all toys and gizmos) is not only the cheapest out of the 6 budget 4x4's listed here, but also easily the most rugged looking and shouty!
Available in some brilliant colours (including the famed Orange-metallic) and striking black 17 inch wheels and a tough shell and high body-clearance, the XV can clearly traverse most off-road capability (as compared to a CRV, RAV4 or even the Outlander, which also boasts as possessing some serious off-road capability).
Reviews for the XV have been very favourable thanks to its rugged good looks and colours and a stance compared to a Range Rover Evoque (which at full spec costs nearly 3 times as much) and unless the rest of the Japanese fleet can improve on their car's staid boring looks (claimed in the name of elegance), the XV will clearly be a front-runner in this segment. As far as on-board technology goes, things are no different as compared to the rest of the lot with Bluetooth, satnav, reverse cameras etc coming as standard
Australian prices cap out at roughly $45,000.00 and unlike its competitors, there's only one 2 Litre boxer engine available with Subaru's famed AWD setup. and the only difference in the 3 variants is the level of trim - this sort of marketing and manufacture actually lets Subaru balance out their costs while offering their customers a lot more car for a lot less as against their competitors.
Subaru XV review by CarBuyer UK
You might also consider
These cheap SUVs are ideally meant for the young couple who earn average incomes and are just beginning to start out a family and set up a house.
If you're still not willing to appear a 'family man' or are looking for something cheaper, you might want to read about some very cheap new cars which I've previewed here.