The large SUV segment is among the biggest in the Australian passenger car market, but our three SUV picks aren’t the bestsellers in the class. Rather, they’re the three that road-test experience suggests offer the best blend of practicality, value and driving enjoyment.
The likes of the Subaru Outback and the Toyota Prado and Kluger command the biggest slice of sales, but the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento have longer warranties.
The Koreans’ other strengths include seven seats and powerful and economical turbo-diesel engines and terrifically well-equipped top-level versions with lashings of convenience and safety extras, including a crash-preventing autonomous emergency braking system.
Meanwhile the award-winning Mazda CX-9 is about as polished and pleasant to drive as SUVs get.
Hyundai Santa Fe
Price range: $39,350 - $57,090
Like the Kia and Mazda, the Santa Fe is a great alternative for those who need seven seats, on a realistic budget, and don’t wish to venture into the unfashionable people mover realm. Our pick of the line-up is the V6 petrol Active X which brings plenty of style, luxury, power and driver assistance tech.
Pros: Terrific turbo-diesel engine; stylish interior
Cons: Petrol engine works hard on hills or with a full load.
Price range: $42,990 - $58,990
The Sorento and Santa Fe, from Korea’s Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, are similar machines, although the Sorento is more refined and comes with plenty of standard equipment including automatic emergency braking and active cruise control.
Pros: Well-built and well equipped; industry- best seven-year warranty; gutsy yet smooth turbo-diesel
Cons: Thirsty petrol V6, no petrol AWD
Price range: $43,890 - $64,790
Since the dawn of the “zoom-zoom” era at the beginning of the noughties, Mazda has put few wheels wrong. But the previous CX-9 was less convincing. That’s all changed with the spacious and classy new model, which has taken all before it including 2017 Wheels Car of the Year.
Pros: Attractive exterior styling with a stylish cabin; refinement; road manners; engine performance
Cons: Lack of a diesel engine alternative; no air-conditioning outlets for third row.