Pick the SUV that is right for you and your pocket, from the affordable Cherry Tiggo, shown here, to the strongest Merc.
Be honest, you don’t REALLY need an SUV, you just want the look. Common sense dictates either the Renault Sandero Stepway ( above) or the Toyota Etios Cross ( below). Both are high- riding hatchbacks that can use their front wheel drives to pull well over most dirt roads, if you ever go there. Dealers will easily match prices at just over R180k and both have about the same power under the hood. But the Pretoria- built Stepway has 193 mm road clearance to the 155 mm under the Cross and Renault offers a longer warranty — five years or 150 000 km to Toyota’s three years or 100 000 km. The India- built Etios does have the better looks with all that protective Tupperware though … PHOTOS: QUIKCPIC The 1,6 Cherry Tiggo is the most affordable dirt rider in SA today. I have to date done 12 mountain passes in one day in Mpumalanga as well as traversed the West Coast’s worst dirt roads in the wet in a Tiggo and I remain delighted at how it comes into its own over the rough stuff. The warranty is an good five years or 120 000 km, with a service plan of three years or 75 000 km. Counting against the Tiggo is how you need to get the rev needle to about 5 000 to feel the 93 kW and 160 Nm from the 1 598 cc when loaded, hence I recommend the Tiggo only for a road trippingpp g couplep on a budget.g PHOTO: ALWYN VILJJOEN The 470 Nm Everest can pull a braked- trailer weight of three tons, in theory. In practice, once you subtract the Gross Vehicle Mass ( which is the weight of everyone inside, their luggage, the weight of the trailer and a full tank of fuel) from the Gross Combined Mass, ( which is the maximum your vehicle and trailer can weigh on the road), those three tons may shrink by some 500 kg. Still, over 2,5 tons is a lot of luggage and for R634 900 the Everest 4x4 XLT comes with every driving aid known to man, including a trailer stabiliser and reverse cameras. All comes with the factory in Pretoria’s warranty for four years, or 120 000 km and maintained for five years, or 100 000 km. As bonus, we can still recommend the old Everest. The SAPS Rapid Response Unit tell me they can’t break them, which should tell you all you need to know, really. PHOTO: QUICKPIC The new Fortuner is not the strongest engine, but it is sold at over 200 dealers in southern Africa, which clinches the deal for more sales than any other SUV in SA. The 2,4 engine hits the sweet spot with its 110 kW and 400 Nm, but get the sixspeed manual. Yes the auto has as many ratios, will spare the clutch and costs R7k less, but the engine is detuned to only 245 Nm, which is not nearly good enough. Also counting against the Fortuner is its short warranty — three years compared to the Everest’s four and Captiva’s five — and a service plan distance that is 10 000 km shorter than Ford’s 100 000, but then Toyota is asking a lot less for its KZN- built ute and its spares. PHOTO: QUICKPIC Mahindra’s designers say the XUV 500’ s fog lights are shaped like the dark tear ducts of a leopard and those rear wheel arches suggest the haunches of the cat about to pounce. I used the seven- seater to lug children all over the Midlands’ steepest hills and quickly took to using the automatic hill descent control everywhere. Uphill the variable van turbo makes 320 Nm from 1 600 rpm with zero turbo lag, dads also fit into the third row of seats and don’t tell anyone, but this ute is so planted, it can do handbrake turns on dirt too. Add a generous five- year or 150 000 km warranty and maintenance plan, plus standard extras like reverse camera and a small fridge in the elbow rest, and you understand why those in the know are buying this all- wheel- drive Injun for under R375k. The only thing counting against the XUV500 is the scarcity of dealers. But if there is one near you, do go for a test drive. PHOTO: MAHINDRA Here’s the shocker, at about R620k the Mercedes- Benz GLC 250d is both cheaper and stronger than the Ford Everest. OK, so it’s a really a soft roader made for snow and sand, but if those are the worst surfaces you plan to drive over, Merc’s quietly rumbling diesel makes 500 Newtons at 1 600 rpm — ideal to keep the tyres turning when you are driving over Namib dunes — as we did — while the work rate of 150 kW will keep the cruise control where you set it over the long, boring roads towards those dunes. All models are covered by a six- year or 100 000 km Premium Drive maintenance plan. The drawback is the latest consumer surveys show you may be calling on that warranty often, as the nine- speed auto and sound system do not always live up to Merc’s reputation of reliability on the long run. PHOTO: ALWYN VILJOEN Our recommended family luggers on the left are ( clockwise from the top) the Nissan Xtrail, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX5 and Chevrolet Captiva. The Xtrail starts cheapest at under R400k and has a five- year warranty for 90 000 km, as does the Tucson. The Tucson and CX5 are dearest at about R500k, but come with a three- year warranty and 60 000 km for the Chev and unlimited kilos for the Mazda. All give a high seat, big wheels to go over potholes, five- star safety ratings and reasonable fuel consumption. Test drive them at the closest dealers and wrangle for discounts. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED