Top 6 Best Used SUVs Under $15,000

Red Mazda CX5 - Best Used SUV Under 15000 Australia Feature


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If you’ve read our Top 6 Budget Family SUVs article, you’ll know there are some great buys for a relatively small outlay. But what if you could stretch your spend to $15,000?

Well, you could simply buy newer versions of the six SUVs Under $10,000. Or, you could consider some other options that now come under the radar.

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FORD KUGA (2013–2014)

Forget any 2012 Ford Kuga you might see, as this was an older European model introduced to Australia just a year before an all-new version arrived.

Even with a $15K budget cap, you can dip into the middle of the Kuga range released in 2013 – the Trend that brings lots of notable extras over the base Ambiente.

These include bigger wheels, electric driver’s seat, higher-grade seats, dual-zone climate control, and a nine-speaker Sony audio.

And because it’s easy to get distracted by the kids when they’re playing up in the back, look for a Trend fitted with an optional Tech Pack.

The pack includes adaptive cruise control for taking care of accelerating and braking on the freeway, lane-departure warning to help stop you veering accidentally into another lane, and autonomous emergency braking that can stop you hitting another vehicle if you haven’t reacted in time.

The Ford Kuga was based on Ford’s Focus small car, and it drove with similar enthusiasm. The 2.0-litre diesel is the pick over the 1.6-litre turbo petrol.


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FORD TERRITORY (2011–2014)

Kids’ drinks bottles, snacks, books, games, handbags, wallets… There can be a never-ending collection of stuff you need to find a spot for in your car, and there’s an SUV designed and built right here in Australia that’s one of the best for accommodating all of it.

‘Abundant’ would be the right word to describe the Ford Territory’s array of storage spaces: up to 33 of them, depending on model.

These included a removable bin and a tissue box holder in the centre console. As a large SUV (based on the Falcon sedan), there’s also space galore and versatile seating (up to seven with the optional third-row seats).

And because the Ford Territory is engineered specifically for Australian roads and conditions, there’s great steering and a superb ride whether you go for rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive variants. Plenty of easy-going torque from the six-cylinder petrol engine, too.

This extended budget makes it possible to get into a relatively new model – the SZ Series II introduced in 2014 as the Ford’s final update before it was sadly discontinued in late 2016.

That likely restricts buying options to the TX base model, yet by now all Territorys were standard with seven seats, front/rear sensors, rear-view camera, and Ford’s more advanced Sync infotainment system.

It’s likely you’ll need to go pre-2014 if you want all-wheel drive and the even stronger yet more fuel efficient 2.7-litre turbo diesel – borrowed from Land Rover and introduced in 2009.


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HONDA CR-V (2012–2013)

CR-V featured in Gumtree Cars’ Top 6 SUVs Under $10,000, but here extra dollars open the doors to the newer fourth generation released in 2012.

While it’s still missing the removable picnic table of earlier models, there’s more than a crumb of comfort in the fact this Honda CR-V beats its rivals of the time for rear legroom and boot space.

It also features an ‘easy fold’ rear seat with 60/40 split-fold seatbacks that go flat with a simple flick of a lever.

And with the gear lever positioned on the dash, that leaves room on the centre console for a trio of cupholders (with cover) and a console bin lid that doubles as a sliding armrest.

A big positive on the safety side, too: this was the first CR-V to achieve a maximum five-star crash rating.

A front-wheel-drive model was a new addition for the CR-V line-up, though we’d recommend opting for AWD – simply because it came with a bigger 2.4-litre petrol engine that wasn’t underpowered like the base variant’s 2.0-litre.

The VTi 4WD also adds roof rails and a cargo cover over the VTi 2WD. (For now, higher-spec VTi-S and VTi-L models are out of budget range.)


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HYUNDAI SANTA FE (2012–2013)

Here’s further proof, following the Territory, that you don’t need a huge budget to get into a quality large SUV with seven seats.

The Santa Fe is a model that just keeps getting better and better, and up to $15,000 taps into earlier model-years of the third-generation Hyundai Santa Fe released in late 2012.

Hyundai’s reputation for good equipment levels certainly isn’t spoiled here: seven seats, all-wheel drive, alloy wheels, rear-view camera and rear sensors are standard on every model.

As is a practical interior combining plenty of space and versatile seating. The second-row seats feature both slide and recline functions plus one-touch folding (in a 40:20:40 configuration), while the two rear seats can be individually folded flat into the floor.

Opt for an Active base model if you want the newest Santa Fe possible. Or, if you don’t mind trading a bit of extra age, then there’s the mid-range Elite that brings extras such as navigation, leather trim and a premium audio system.

You have a choice of petrol or diesel power – the latter is definitely the way to go. Hyundai’s 2.2-litre turbo diesel is one of the company’s best engines, with almost double the torque of the 2.4-litre petrol and better fuel economy.


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KIA SORENTO (2009–2013)

It’s no coincidence the Sorento is among our picks here: it’s the twin to the Santa Fe you’ve just read about.

It isn’t quite as good to drive as the Hyundai (or indeed the rival Territory also featured in this article), yet the second-generation model introduced in 2009 offers so much for used-car hunters.

Continuing to showcase the ever-improving quality of South Korean car manufacturing, the Sorento is a spacious, practical seven-seater that also maintains Kia’s generosity for standard features.

The MY13 base-model Si that’s within striking range of a $15,000 budget, for example, includes 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, fog lights and front/rear sensors.

You’ll probably need to go for a pre-facelift Sorento if you want all-wheel drive, the turbo diesel shared with the Santa Fe, or a higher-grade variant, though the styling changes introduced in October 2012 were fairly minor.

And unlike Santa Fes from 2012 onwards, the Kia Sorento is available with a good-performing 3.5-litre V6 that is more fuel efficient than similar engines from rivals of the time.


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MAZDA CX-5 (2012–2013)

Congratulations! A $15,000 budget can get you into the most popular SUV in Australia.

While that still limits options to the earlier models of the CX-5 released in 2012, the range sweet-spot is, well, in range: the Maxx Sport AWD petrol.

From February 2013, a 2.5-litre petrol engine was introduced – giving the Mazda the performance its spirited handling deserved.

The underwhelming petrol previously offered, a 2.0-litre, is retained on the front-drive Maxx models, with the 2.5-litre employed by all other variants (which were also offered with a turbo diesel that was stronger though more expensive).

As the first vehicle to feature components created under Mazda’s SkyActiv technology umbrella, the CX-5 offers excellent fuel efficiency with its 2.2-litre diesel. And the 2.5 petrol ain’t too bad.

It’s true the CX-5 doesn’t set any benchmarks for space in the boot or back seat, but it’s sufficiently practical for families.

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Jez Spinks

Automotive Journalist