WhichCar should I buy : SUV under $40,000

Doug is after an SUV under $40,000 that's easy to use and has AWD. What should he go for?

Subaru Snow Story CG 12 Jpg

Hi Which Car,

 I’m looking to upgrade to a new car from my trusty Toyota RAV4, which is a few years old now. I’m a musician, so I need payload for my gear – guitars and amps etc. I don’t want anything too big and bulky, but nothing too small either – so something around the same size as a Rav.

I live in a rural area, so I need something AWD - I’m not going off-roading, but will sometimes encounter ice and dirt tracks. I don’t want anything that is going to cost a bomb in servicing and I want to be able to live with it for about five years. My budget is maximum $40k. What are my best options?



Hey Doug,

You’ve got a heck of a lot of cars to choose from! Since you bought the RAV, the SUV market has literally exploded, and there is a vast number of cars you can look at. Let’s have a look at three potentials – but first, I’m going to assume that when you say ‘payload’, you actually mean volume or area to carry instruments.

Honda CR-V 1.5 VTi-S

At around $35,490 for a base model all-wheel-drive, the CR-V falls into the budget, and it’s pretty well sized, to boot. You’ll also get niceties like a powered tailgate, which should make loading up your gear a bit simpler.

It uses a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that is happy enough using regular unleaded, and it’s linked to an AWD drivetrain that uses a continually variable transmission, or CVT. It requires a period of adjustment to get used to the idea of how it uses engine revs to work, but it’s a good solution. Its all-wheel-drive system operates as a front-drive for most of the time, until it senses that rear grip is needed.

2017 Honda CR-V VTi-L

The CR-V excels as a cargo-lugger. Its tailgate opens wide, and the lip to the cargo area is low. You can fold all the rear seats flat, using boot-mounted handles, making it a cinch to carry all kinds of outsize loads.

Cargo volume for the five-seater measures 522 litres with the rear seats in place, or 1084 litres with them lowered.

Hyundai Tucson Active X diesel AWD

The $39,150 Hyundai Tucson is another five-door, five-seat SUV, and the diesel engine adds both better fuel economy and more torque for easier cruising.The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel uses least fuel of the three engines available in a Tucson, consuming as little as 6.4 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined). This diesel four-cylinder – which Hyundai calls the 2.0 CRDi – is also the most powerful engine in a Tucson. And every diesel Tucson drives all four wheels.

 It’s not the best engine for dawdling around town, though; frequent 30-minute highway drives to prevent clogging of its particulate filter, which prevents exhaust soot from dispersing into the atmosphere

The stylish but conventional shape of the Tucson gives you 488 litres of room, and with the second row folded (60-40), cargo capacity increases to a cavernous 1478 litres. You need to pay more for items like AEB and adaptive cruise control, which is part of a safety kit.

Subaru Outback 2.5i

I reckon that this might be the one for you, though. The Subaru Outback is big, solid and dependable, and offers an all-wheel-drivetrain and a frugal 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine.

The Outback has a big boot that is long and fairly wide. The floor is flat, albeit quite high, and it’s easy to load things.

The back seats fold in a 60/40 configuration and there’s a choice of two levers to operate them: one on the top of the seat-backs (for pushing from behind), and one on the edges of the seats themselves (which are easier to get at from the seats), so it’s pretty practical. It has 512 litres of space with the seats up to a van-like 1848 litres with them down; easily the most here.

For me, though, it’s the ease of use that tips the scales. There is nothing weird or difficult about the Outback. It has a great safety system called Eyesight that just plain works, the seats are comfy, the multimedia system is simple to use and it’s easy to drive. It also sneaks in under your $40,000 budget, and there are loads of dealers around, too.

WhichCar recommends; Subaru Outback 2.5i


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