Top 6 Affordable Alternatives to SUVs Under $10,000

White FORD MONDEO WAGON Suv Alternatives Feature


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The car-buying masses may be flocking towards SUVs, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily need to follow. While we certainly understand the appeal of SUVs, there are plenty of SUV alternatives out there that can still serve up practicality, style and, in some cases, a high-set driving position.

Here’s the Gumtree Cars guide to six options that include a people-mover, wagon, high-riding wagon, MPV, funky urban car and, yes, even a city car…


black CITROEN C4 PICASSO is an SUV alternative

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CITROEN C4 PICASSO (2007–2012)

There’s an art to moving big families in a practical fashion, so Picasso was quite an apt name for this pretty clever people-mover from France, making it to the top of our SUV alternatives list.

Seven seats aren’t out of the ordinary, of course, yet Citroen gave the interior plenty of thought. There’s a drinks cooler in the dash, tray tables behind the front seats, sun blinds for the rear side windows, and a removeable, rechargeable torch in the tailgate.

And just in case things are getting a bit whiffy after a sweaty family day-out, the Picasso even features a perfume dispenser. How French!

Lots of nooks and crannies for storing odds and sods, too.

Few people-movers can be described as exciting to drive, and the Citroen C4 Picasso is no exception, though the ride is generally comfortable and the all-round vision is fantastic – helped by the Citroen’s vast, steeply raked windscreen.

Two refined engines are available, but the 2.0 HDI turbo diesel is the pick over the 1.6-litre petrol for its stronger performance and lower fuel use. Watch out for a 2012 model-year upwards that might sneak under the budget and features an upgraded version of the diesel.


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SUVs are essentially tall-riding (tall bodied) wagons, so why not come back down to earth a bit with the traditional version?

And for $10,000, you’ll struggle to find a wagon with as good a combination of enjoyable driving characteristics and interior spaciousness as delivered by the Ford Mondeo.

With a 542-litre boot that expands to an abundant 1733 litres with the rear seats folded down, the Mondeo even has more cargo space than a Holden Commodore wagon of the same period.

There’s enough room to swing a cat in the back seat, too.

Go an older model-year and you may well find yourself a top-spec Titanium with all the bells and whistles, though we’d be happy with a mid-range Zetec that adds some nice features over the base LX – such as 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, front and rear sensors (handy for what is a long car), and a Sony hifi system.

From 2010 onwards there was a choice of engines for wagons, but this money will allow you to forgo the slightly underpowered 2.3-litre petrol for the TDCi turbo-diesel engine with its pleasant flexible performance that matches best to the Mondeo’s excellent driving manners.


KIA SOUL (2009–2011)

It’s boxy like a traditional 4WD, and it rides higher than a traditional car… The Kia Soul is certainly adventurous, just more in terms of its bold design than its ability to go anywhere.

But the Soul doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a simple, front-wheel-drive urban car tempting younger buyers with its funky styling, five-door practicality, and variety of personalisation.

The customisation options range from exterior sticker graphics to body kits and various alloy wheel designs. (So it may take a bit of searching to find a used example suiting your tastes.)

There are plenty of interesting exterior paint options, too, though we wish Kia had offered colour choices for the interior trim rather than just the range-topping Soul 3 for this first-generation model (sold from 2009 to 2014).

However, the cabin scores highly for ergonomics and space, with excellent headroom and good legroom in the back seat. The boot is on the small size, but flip down the rear seats and the Soul will accommodate a mountain bike without having to remove any wheels.

It doesn’t cost a fortune to run, either, whether you choose a 1.6-litre petrol or 1.6-litre diesel, which were both available with either a five-speed manual or four-speed auto.


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The popularity of this baby Benz is down to more than the appeal of the famous three-pointed star on the front and rear.

An upsized (and uplifted) version of the A-Class hatchback, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class has higher seating more in common with an SUV than a passenger car – also making it easier to get in and out of the car.

Then there’s the ‘sandwich’ concept that not only helps to keep the engine and gearbox clear of occupants in a frontal crash, but also gives this compact car the interior space of a large car. (Mercedes claimed rear knee room wasn’t far short of that offered by the S-Class limousine.)

The B-Class doesn’t finish there on the practicality side, either. Up back, the boot featured a height-adjustable cargo floor and the rear seats can be folded or completely removed. (There was even an optional removable front passenger seat that creates a pretty incredible 2245 litres of cargo space.)

While the B-Class is a rare Mercedes that drives the front wheels rather than the rears (or all four wheels), it has decent on-road manners backed by good engines (petrol or diesel).

The first-generation B-Class debuted in 2005, but look for models from late 2008 onwards that gain a variety of welcome upgrades.


black subaru outback suv alternatives

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SUBARU OUTBACK (2010–2011)

Subaru even calls the Outback an SUV, but another industry term – ‘crossover’ – is more apt for this large car that merges a wagon body style with the jacked-up suspension of a 4WD. Older models of the the Subaru Outback are one of the most popular SUV alternatives in Australia today.

Its success has been as massive as the remote interior of Australia with which it shares its name, with buyers loving its blend of permanent all-wheel drive, all-terrain tyres, and rugged, body-cladded looks that give it respectable off-road ability.

The fourth-generation model released in 2010, and within sight of a $10,000 budget, even raises ground clearance further from the previous model.

More importantly for families, though, is a big increase in cabin space that finally gives the Subaru Outback generous rear legroom, as well as a bigger, wider boot (490–1690 litres).

There was a new Subaru diesel around this time, but it was manual only and far from perfect. The 2.5i petrol is the best option (with the 3.6-litre six-cylinder 3.6R needing a bigger budget).

Don’t fret if you can afford only a third-generation Outback (2003–2009). Its more Euro-like styling probably wins more fans than the US-focused fourth-generation model, while it was also a car that pleased keen drivers more. You’d also likely get a higher-spec model with more features.

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Jez Spinks

Automotive Journalist