New cars are getting more expensive and out of reach of many shoppers, but there is value to be had in the second hand market if you know where to look.
I’m planning on doing “The Big Lap” around Australia, so am looking for a second-hand medium SUV or ute up to $30,000. Most important are reliability, economy, room for some camping gear, an auto gearbox and preferably a full-size spare. Any suggestions?
Jason Moss, email
Many lapping Australia require good towing capacity for a caravan or camper trailer. As
you’re only taking camping gear we can find you something smaller and more efficient. Mild off-road ability would allow some remote unsealed driving – it’d be a shame to not indulge while touring. As you’re sticking mainly to bitumen, ignore those who insist you need a LandCruiser 80 Series or Mitsubishi Pajero for The Big Lap. Let’s prioritise comfort while lowering fuel bills. All on this list have very necessary full-size spares.
2020 SUBARU FORESTER 2.5i-L, ABOUT $30,000 DRIVE-AWAY
It’s a tough choice between this and Subaru’s slightly larger Outback, but your budget buys a newer Forester. The cabin’s superbly spacious with a tall roof: ideal for camping gear and even sleeping inside in fair comfort. Road trip panoramas are enjoyed through massive windows, while this 2.5i-L grade adds comprehensive safety gear and heated seats for cold mornings.
With rear seats down there’s vast luggage space, while the 220mm ground clearance, side
and front-view monitors, all-wheel-drive and smart X-Mode for varied terrains make this the pick for remote exploring – it’s surprisingly capable.
Easy and comfy to drive on 17-inch alloys, there’s an 8-inch touchscreen, LED headlights and dual-zone climate control.
The 136kW/239Nm 2.5-litre petrol engine’s the sticking point for long trips. It’s no firecracker and drinks 7.4L/100km. There’s still some of the five-year warranty remaining, but services are expensive.
2019 TOYOTA RAV4 GX 2WD, ABOUT $28,000 DRIVE-AWAY
You can’t buy a desirable preloved hybrid RAV4 for this money but the 127kW/203Nm non-hybrid 2.0-litre petrol still returns an acceptable 6.5L/100km. This entry-level GX was the only model with optional full-size spare, while safety kit’s extensive – radar cruise control, road sign assist and blind-spot monitor are boons for long trips.
There’s still warranty remaining, services are dirt cheap and Toyota dealerships are everywhere – great peace of mind if you have an issues or require parts when in the wilds.
The cabin’s bland but comfy, there’s an 8-inch screen with smartphone mirroring and sat nav, and decent luggage space with the rear seats down. You’ll not be able to stray far off the bitumen, but this 2WD RAV4’s a head-over-heart choice.
2019 HYUNDAI TUCSON HIGHLANDER DIESEL, ABOUT $28,000 DRIVE-AWAY
Let’s boost the luxe and cut the fuel bills. This flagship Tucson is your diesel option, the
2.0-litre offering 136kW and a chunky 400Nm with eight-speed auto and all-wheel-drive.
Combined fuel use is 6.4L/100km, but you’ll get in the fives on the highway. It’s also the
best engine Hyundai put in the Tucson – super smooth and whisper quiet – while these SUVs corner impressively. The Highlander’s in budget, and you’re in for some treats to help soak up the kilometres.
There’s a panoramic sunroof, power and heated faux-leather seats, a heated steering
wheel, power tailgate, wireless phone charging, an 8-inch screen with sat nav and
comprehensive safety gear.
Its space with seats folded can’t match the others and it’s perhaps a rung down on overall ride comfort. There’s all-wheel-drive security, but gravel roads are your limit. A smidgen of warranty remains and service costs are average.
2018 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT ALLTRACK 140TDI, ABOUT $28,000 DRIVE-AWAY
More of a jacked-up plush wagon than an SUV, it’s out of warranty and parts and
service may be harder to access and pricier due to the badge. But what a brilliant, luxurious thing in which to lap Australia.
The Passat Alltrack’s 2.0-litre offers 140kW and 400Nm while returning an excellent 5.4L/100km, and 4.9L/100km on the highway, which means cheap fuel bills. Its DSG auto
gearbox can be hesitant in town, but is smooth on the open road, while the diesel
has real guts.
Ride quality’s generally good and there’s decent off-road ability with all-wheel-drive,
reasonable 174mm ground clearance and underbody bash plates. With the rear seats down, luggage space is massive. It’s a riskier choice, but has goodies such as power, heated and massage leather seats, radar cruise, an 8-inch screen with sat nav, auto tailgate and extensive safety equipment.
The Passat Alltrack would be wonderful, but the safer choice, if you really won’t do any
off-roading, is the spacious and economical Hyundai Tucson.