Get­away ve­hi­cles

Most SUVs are made for the sub­urbs, but some still cater for those look­ing to live the great Aussie dream

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story - RICHARD BLACK­BURN richard.black­burn@news.com.au

THE SUV isn’t what it used to be. Once an all-pur­pose es­cape ma­chine, it has been largely con­fined to the cul de sac in re­cent years. Off-road work is limited to climb­ing the odd kerb and park­ing on the grass at the lo­cal sport­ing field.

De­spite the ex­plo­sion of city-friendly, bush-baulk­ing two-wheel-drive SUVs, there are still some keep­ing the great out­doors dream alive.

Toy­ota’s RAV4 and Subaru’s Forester are able off-road­ers, with four-wheel-drive and ex­tra ground clear­ance for scout­ing out that se­cret fish­ing spot, de­serted wa­ter­way or hid­den surf break. In diesel form, they also make light work of tow­ing a run­about, jet­ski or pop-up car­a­van, adding to their get­away ap­peal.

Our third con­tender is the diesel AWD ver­sion of the coun­try’s best-sell­ing SUV, the Mazda CX-5. The Mazda’s had a midlife tweak, while the Forester diesel is now avail­able as an auto.

MAZDA CX-5

Most buy­ers will fall for the CX-5 be­fore they take the test drive. The in­te­rior feels up­mar­ket, with soft-touch sur­faces, a big colour touch­screen with sat­nav (the only one in this com­par­i­son) and ar­ti­fi­cial car­bon-fi­bre and al­loy high­lights. Solely in this trio, it has an elec­tronic park brake and push-but­ton start.

But the beauty of the Mazda isn’t skin-deep. The diesel en­gine un­der the hood is more re­fined and pow­er­ful than those of the Subaru and Toy­ota, and it’s also the most fru­gal, thanks to tech­nol­ogy that shuts down the en­gine when the car is stopped at in­ter­sec­tions. The six-speed auto is well matched to the grunty en­gine, which has 20 per cent more torque, or pulling power, than the other two here.

Through the twisty stuff, the Mazda stays flat and com­posed, with well-con­trolled sus­pen­sion that soaks up the bumps. The steer­ing is di­rect and well weighted and there’s lit­tle lean through cor­ners. The down­side is that the Mazda has the least ground clear­ance of the three, which won’t pre­clude it from dirt roads, but may prove a chal­lenge on deeply rut­ted tracks or sand.

The Mazda also goes with­out any 4WD lock func­tion, and doesn’t have hill de­scent con­trol (avail­able on both ri­vals).

The rear load area isn’t as deep as the Toy­ota or as long as the Subaru, but there’s a re­tractable cargo blind and the rear seats can be folded in­di­vid­u­ally via con­ve­nient levers in the cargo area.

For those look­ing to tow, the Mazda can pull a re­spectable 1800kg (same as the Subaru) and should do it eas­ily, given it has as much torque as some much larger SUVs.

SUBARU FORESTER

The new con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion (CVT) in the Forester sounds like a recipe for noisy mo­tor­ing. CVTs (which have only one gear) can drone, es­pe­cially when matched with diesels, But Subaru has added ar­ti­fi­cial steps, mim­ick­ing a nor­mal trans­mis­sion. It works well.

TOY­OTA RAV4 GX DRIIVE--AWAY PRIICE $40,,227--$40,,748 THIIRST 6..5L// 1100km SAFETY 7 ai­ir­rbagss,, rreverrssi­ing ccamerra WEIIGHT 11640kg SERVIICIING COST $ 11080 (( 3 yearrss)) SPARE Spacce-- ssaverr ENGIINE 2..2-- lli­it­trre 4-- ccyll di­ies­sell,, 11110kW// 340Nm BOOT 506L TRANSMIISSIION GROUND CLEAR­ANCE 1176mm 6-- sspeed autto;; AWD (( on de­mand)) TOWIING 11000kg (( br­raked))

DIIESEL DUEL:: The CX--5 ((ffr­rontt ll­efftt)) haass tthe sst­tr­reett ss­maar­rttss butt tthe For­resst­terr ((ffr­rontt rri­ightt)) and RAV4 arre morre offff-- rroad ffoc­cussed

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