SUVs are positively de rigeur. Every suburban street is littered with them - from the minuscule, compact crossovers (like the Sonet and T-Cross) to gargantuan luxobarges (like the X7 and Range Rover Vogue).
If you want a bit of luxury and refinement infused into your SUV, you normally have to pay for it - most premium examples are on the north side of a million. However, there are a handful of examples that manage to come under R1 million and still offer the plush, luxury experience. We're covering the mainstream brands here, with the premium brands to follow in a future article.
Mazda CX-5 2.2DE AWD Akera - R686 200
What is it?
Mazda's top of the range SUV offering. The striking styling and fastidiously build cabin are just two of the many plus points the CX-5 has going for it. When painted in Soul Crystal Red Metallic, the 'Kodo' design philosophy really shines through. A great ride and superb economy from the 2.2-litre turbodiesel make it an excellent car to drive on the daily.
The Akera has a cabin blessed with fine materials. Electrically adjustable (for the driver) leather seats, navigation, six airbags, keyless entry and LED headlamps are just a few of the myriad standard features. Of course, luxury isn't about equipment. On the highway, it rides with sublime composure. It's soft and cosseting. The four-pot turbodiesel motor can sound a touch gruff at lower speeds, but settles down nicely at high speed.
The main draw card for an SUV is the practicality on offer. Mazda's CX-5 is no different. The boot measures 442 litres, but fold the rear bench down and you've got a capacious 1 914 litres on offer. Mazda claims fuel consumption of 5.7 L/100 km, but from what we've experienced, you'll average closer to 7.5 L/100 km. The Akera is sold with a three-year/unlimited km service plan.
Interested in buying a CX-5? Click here.
Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TSI 162 kW 4Motion R-Line - R710 000
What is it?
Ostensibly, the Tiguan is South Africa's favourite mid-sized SUV. It combines all the things people could expect from a family car - it's comfortable, safe, luxurious and refined. In the case of the range-topping 2.0 TSI R Line, it's got performance too. Using the same motor as the outgoing GTI, the 162 kW Tiguan is pretty brisk.
Like the Mazda, VW's Tiguan offers six airbags, climate control and LED headlamps. However, a number of personalisation options makes the Tiguan more customisable. Matrix LED headlamps are available at extra cost, as is adaptive cruise control and a panoramic sunroof. Even with the larger 19-inch alloys fitted to the R-Line, the ride is unaffected.
Even though VW offers a larger Allspace derivative, the regular Tiguan still offers impressive levels of interior space. Boot space ranges from 520-615 litres (depending on where the sliding rear bench is positioned) to 1 655 litres with the seats folded down. Being the performance oriented model in the range, the Tiguan isn't as fuel economical as the Mazda above, but VW says it can still average 8.3 L/100 km. There is a cheaper turbodiesel model available. The Tiguan comes with a five-year/90 000 km service plan.
Interested in buying a Tiguan? Click here.
Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4x4 VX - R837 100
What is it?
The Fortuner is a firm favourite in South Africa. From the quiet towns in the Free State to the leafy suburbs of Cape Town, Toyota's Hilux-based SUV is everywhere. We've included the most expensive model available, the four-wheel drive VX model. 150 kW and 500 Nm of torque gives the big Toyota plenty of punch.
While the interior may lack some of the soft touch materials one would expect at this price level, you have to remember that the Fortuner is a pukka off-roader. In situations where posh leathers and plush carpeting may get damaged, the Toyota's sturdy plastics come into play. That being said, the Fortuner still has soft leather-trimmed seats and plenty of luxuries - seven airbags, climate control, lane departure warning, keyless-entry and an electric driver's seat are all standard equipment.
Versatility is the name of the game here. With seven seats, the Fortuner has plenty of space for a large family, while the standard four-wheel drive means it can go virtually anywhere. The high ground clearance (279 mm) means obstacles are tackled with minimal fuss. A nine services/90 000 km service plan is included.
Interested in buying a Fortuner? Click here.
Ford Everest 2.0 Bi-Turbo 4WD Limited - R848 600
What is it?
The Fortuner's fiercest rival, Ford's handsome Everest offers everything the Fortuner does (jn terms of capability) but with a different persona. Like the Fortuner, it's based off a bakkie - in this case, the Ranger - but distances itself sufficiently from the workman-like attitude of the double cab. This range-topping Limited derivative is seemingly stuffed with luxuries. 157 kW/500 Nm 2.0-litre turbodiesel is excellent and is mated to a 10-speed automatic.
The Everest Limited has a soft-touch dashboard which gives it a premium ambience. While the door cards are trimmed in coarse plastics, there are leatherette inserts that give a plusher feel. You won't be left wanting for luxuries, though. Seven airbags, an electric tailgate, climate control, leather seating and dual sunroofs all add to the luxurious atmosphere.
Like the Fortuner, Everest Limited is fitted with seven seats. Fold the rear most bench down, and you have over 1 000 litres of packing space. With both benches folded down, you have a truly cavernous 2 010 litres of utility space. Ford claims the fuel economy to be around 7.6 L100 km. During our time with the big Ford, we saw closer to 9.5 L. The Everest is sold with a six-year/90 000 km service plan.
Interested in buying an Everest? Click here.