TOP 6 ALTERNATIVES TO MID PRICED SUVS ($15,000–$45,000)
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Looking for alternatives to mid priced SUVs? Stop! Before you commit to a luxury SUV as your next vehicle, it’s worth double-checking it’s exactly what you need to fit your lifestyle requirements. Here’s Gumtree Cars’ guide to six different options to SUVs, that might just fit the bill.
AUDI ALLROAD (2007–2015)
It seems someone at Audi in the late 1990s had noticed Subaru’s success with the Outback – a jacked-up Liberty wagon – because by 2001 the German brand had released a higher-riding, plastic-bumpered wagon based on the A6.
In those days it was simply known as the Audi Allroad; today there are two versions to choose from: the A6 Allroad and the more compact A4 Allroad.
Both models share the same aim: to give owners all the practicality of an A6 or A4 Avant (Audi’s name for a wagon) with a higher degree of confidence for hitting gravel or dirt tracks through the increased ground clearance and extra protection for the lower body and underneath.
(Just don’t kid yourself too much, as neither are proper off-roaders.)
The original Allroad was eventually offered with a selection of engines, including a V8, though the later models we’re concerned with here keep things simpler.
The A6 Allroad is powered by a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo diesel; the A4 Allroad features a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel. The smaller engine is good but the diesel six is a super-flexible cracker with noticeably more torque (580Nm v 400Nm).
A big difference in pricing just means you’ll find newer versions of the A4 Allroad, which is sufficiently practical (though the latest-generation versions of each are too new to fit into this budget).
BMW 2 SERIES ACTIVE TOURER (2014–2016)
This may be the most controversial BMW of all time – the first ever to drive the front wheels rather than the rear wheels (or all wheels).
The Active Tourer, which debuted in 2014, most certainly isn’t the ‘ultimate driving machine’, and ride quality isn’t perfect, yet this BMW offers lots of practicality in a relatively compact size (smaller than a Mazda 3).
As an answer to rival Mercedes-Benz’s successful B-Class (another model you could definitely consider), the Active Tourer’s cabin provides excellent versatility.
The rear seatbacks split-fold in three stages (40-20-40), and the rear bench can slide back and forth in a 60-40 split to vary cargo space and rear legroom.
A handy 468-litre boot expands to 1510 litres with all rear seats flattened.
The high-quality cabin is also spacious, while infotainment comes from BMW’s benchmark iDrive system.
A high driving position provides a good view of surroundings, and a tight turning circle helps in the city.
The most expensive variant, the 225i, features a strong turbo petrol engine, while other options include a 218i petrol and 218d diesel that otherwise feature identical equipment. The most popular is a 220i petrol model (the only engine retained as part of a 2018 update).
MERCEDES-BENZ R-CLASS (2007–2013)
Part SUV, part people-mover, part wagon. The 2006 R-Class is definitely an alternative to mid priced SUVs, but it isn’t easy to pigeonhole. It has a hybrid body style combined with the all-wheel-drive underpinnings of the company’s ML 4WD.
Slow sales led to the R-Class’s eventual disappearance from Australia in 2013, yet as a used buy there’s plenty of appeal to a model with greater versatility (and higher seating) than an E-Class wagon, especially in long-wheelbase form.
R-Class LWB models offered more than 2050 litres of cargo space with all rear seats folded, with a 2.2-metre load length. The standard-wheelbase model wasn’t much less generous.
Plenty of leg room and vast headroom for six adults, too – make that seven from 2007 onwards after the seating layout added an extra seat to the middle row.
A late-2010 update abandoned V6 and V8 petrol engines previously offered and focused on a single-spec, standard-wheelbase R-Class powered by a carry-over turbo diesel and loaded to the hilt with features.
If performance is important then look at a pre-2010 R500 that could accelerate from 0–100km/h in 6.9 seconds. (Or good luck trying to find an ultra-rare R63 AMG version that’s even faster – and thirstier!)
MINI CLUBMAN (2008–2017)
The huge success of BMW’s 2001 retro-inspired Mini prompted the German car maker to find new variants beyond the hatch. One of the outcomes was a model that harked back to stretched ‘estate’ Minis of the 1960s and 1970s.
It even features twin, side-hinged barn-style doors just like the Traveller, Countryman and Clubman Estate models of yesteryear.
The biggest bonus for the modern Clubman is extra rear legroom over the cramped hatch, as well as some extra cargo space.
Practicality isn’t perfect on the first-generation (new) Mini Clubman sold between 2008 and 2015.
There is only one rear door, and for Australia it was on the wrong (road) side. (Oh, and the rear-hinged ‘coach’ door can be opened only once the driver’s door is open.)
If you’re willing to spend most of a $45,000 budget, it’s possible to slot yourself into the latest Clubman (late-2015 on) that sorts out those (big) bugbears.
This time there are two proper rear doors – making for six doors in total as the barn-style rear doors are retained.
And this newer Clubman is a five-seater from the off whereas a fifth seat was optional in the previous model. Boot space is now 360 litres, up to 1250 litres with the rear seats folded, and of course for a later model there’s more tech and better quality.
Power options consist of a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo for the base Cooper, and a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo for the sportier Cooper S. (The even hotter 170kW John Cooper Works variant is currently out of budget reach.)
VOLKSWAGEN AMAROK (2011–2017)
A ute just has to be in our pick of alternatives to mid priced SUVs, and not just because Australia invented the car-with-a-tray.
Dual-cab utes have transformed over the years into fantastic lifestyle vehicles – able to slog away on work sites and the like during the week before transporting the family and its various sporting toys on a weekend getaway with increasingly car-like manners.
And the most car-like in terms of both handling and cabin comfort is the Volkswagen Amarok, which has been around since 2011.
The spacious, five-seater cabin is smartly presented (if slightly disappointing for missing curtain airbags), while its tray is the biggest in its class – and perfect for loading with big items. You can even make it more SUV-like with a canopy accessory that fits over the tray.
On the road, there’s smooth steering and a firm but comfortable ride on the Amarok’s no-cost Comfort suspension. (A heavier-duty suspension with a bigger payload capacity is standard.)
A petrol engine was dropped in 2015 but that still left a quiet yet muscular twin-turbocharged diesel, which was linked with an automatic offering the most gears in the segment: eight.
There’s also a mighty V6 diesel, though you’ll probably have to spend more than this budget’s $45,000 ceiling – or wait longer – to find used examples of the higher-powered Amarok.
VOLKSWAGEN MULTIVAN (2008–2014)
Another Volkswagen and another different style of option to run with instead of a mid priced SUV.
And the Multivan is a relative of the original VW Kombi that first showed how a van could be turned into an effective people carrier.
The latest (T6) generation was released in 2015 and only just about creeps into the absolute upper limit of a $45,000 budget, so you’ll find more choice among later versions of the T5 model out since 2005.
The VW Multivan’s driving position is higher than many SUVs, and behind that is a lounge-like cabin with two swivelling captain’s chairs and a three-seater bench at the very rear. A fold-out table is even an option for games of cards or Monopoly to help pass the time on long drives.
Find a model fitted with the optional Good Night Package and you can even transform the cabin into a place to sleep (great for saving on motel bills).
Access to the cabin couldn’t be easier, either, thanks to sliding doors on each side – electrically operated with key fob control on the higher-spec Highline that sits above the Comfortline.
Engine choices for the T5 included a petrol at one stage, though turbo diesels in various tunes are the mainstays of the Multivan range.