Best compact SUVs under $30k

A few years back, when car companies started asking compact SUV customers if all wheel drive was an important factor in their purchase, many responded "Oh, really . is my car one of those?"

Fact is, most people don't care how many wheels do the driving, as long as the car actually moves when the relevant pedal is pressed.

So it's no surprise that many compact AWD wagons are now also available as front wheel drives. And while AWD delivers better traction and security on low grip surfaces, the stability control system on front wheel drives now does a similar job, at a much lower price.

So for city driving - which is the main tour of duty for most of the compact SUV brigade - it's a case of 'two wheels good, four wheels good - if you want them'.

With that in mind, our pick of the best compact SUVs under $30,000 includes some of each. But all on our list are chosen for their quality and value at this price point.


A pair of back stalls folds easily out of the cargo floor and kids under teen age fit OK. The Nissan Dualis ST five seater is also great value from $24,990.Seven seats for less than $30,000 (OK, ten bucks less) is a top deal, and although it won't win any performance shootouts, the Euro-designed Dualis +2 is a stylish, practical, easy to like kid carrier, with tidy handling, A grade quality, reasonable fuel economy and heaps of storage, including a chilled glovebox.

The continuously variable automatic adds $2500. Its slipping clutch effect sounds weird until you get used to it, but the CVT is a much smoother, more efficient transmission than a conventional auto, so it's a box worth ticking.

Nissan Dualis
Price: from $24,990
Warranty: 3 year/100,000km
Resale: 54%
Service interval: 6 months/10,000km
Economy: 8.1l/100km, CO2 192 g/km
Safety equipment: 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control, stability control Crash rating: 5
Engine: 2-litre, 4-cylinder, 102kW/198Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or CVT auto, front-wheel drive
Body: 5-door wagon
Dimensions: 1783 mm (W), 1606 mm (H), 2630 mm (WB)
Weight: 1960kg
Tyres: 16" alloys, 215/65 R16, full-size steel spare.

There's no automatic or DSG option. Strange. The Tiguan is the punchiest, smoothest, most enjoyable drive here, with great fuel economy/emissions numbers, and because it's a VW it's also solid, safe, comfortable and bankable at trade-in time.The base model front wheel drive/six speed manual Volkswagen Tiguan, at $28,490, has one of the world's best engines, the supercharged and turbocharged 1.4-litre wunderdonk, as also used in the Golf. So think of the Tiguan 118 (as in kilowatts of power) TSi as a Golf that morphed into a compact SUV, because that's exactly what it is.

The boot's small, though, and servicing costs are not cheap. You can buy the same car, with a 1.2-litre engine for $26,290. It's the Skoda Yeti. Tip: Buy the VW.

Volkswagen Tiguan
Price: from $28,490
Warranty: 3 year/unlimited km
Resale: 65%
Service interval: 15,000km or 12 months
Economy: 6.9l/100 km, CO2 162 g/km
Safety equipment: Six airbags, ABS, ASR, ESP Crash rating: 5
Engine: 1.4Ll, 4-cylinder petrol, 118kW/240Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body: 5-door wagon
Dimensions: 4427 mm (L), 1809 mm (W), 1686 mm (H), 2605 mm (WB)
Weight: 1493 kg (tare mass)
Tyres: 16" alloys, 215/65 R16, space saver spare.

Performance and fuel efficiency are both much better with the CVT. If you like to get your wheels dirty once in a while, the XV offers tenacious all-wheel drive grip, the best handling in the class, on bitumen or dirt roads, a comfortable ride and ample space for four.If you've always wanted an orange car in your life, you'll be a happy traveller in Subaru's new Impreza-based XV 20i, from $28,490. Please, spend an extra $2500 on the CVT transmission. The notchy, ambitiously-geared six-speed manual doesn't cooperate well with the 2.0-litre petrol engine, which is seriously short of grunt, especially compared with the Tiguan.

The boot's small though. Generous base spec includes auto start/stop, Bluetooth, Data Dot security, seven airbags and 17-inch alloys.

Subaru XV
Price: from $28,490
Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited km
Resale: N/A
Service interval: 6 months/12,500km
Economy: 7L/100km (man) 7.3L/100km (CVT) CO2 168g/km (man) 168g/km (CVT)
Fuel: 60L tank, 90RON
Safety equipment: 7 airbags, stability control, ABS, Vehicle dynamic control, Hill start assist Crash rating: ANCAP 5 star rating
Engine: 2.0-litre, 4-cyl petrol boxer, 110kW/196Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, CVT; AWD
Body: 5-door wagon
Dimensions: 4450 mm (L), 1780 mm (W), 1615 mm (H), 2635 mm (WB)
Tyres: 17" alloys, 225/55 R17, steel temporary spare.


The 2.4-litre petrol engine is strong enough, handing holds no nasty surprises, there's plenty of back seat room (though the boot is small), it's bulletproof and will go places that other SUVs wouldn't even think about.The Grand Vitara badge has been around since the 1980s, when off-road cred - including low range gearing -- was must-have hardware, and the soft roader SUV hadn't been invented yet. The 2012 model is priced from $24,990 with three doors or $28,990 with five.If you want a fair-dinkum, go-anywhere 4WD for less than $30,000, your options are limited to a couple of shockers from China's Great Wall Motors, the similarly uninviting Ssangyong Actyon or this tough little truck from Suzuki.

Suzuki Grand Vitara
Price: from $24,990
Warranty: 3 year/100,000km
Resale: 59%
Service interval: 12 months/15,000km
Economy: 8.9l/100km, CO2 212 g/km
Safety equipment: 6 airbags, ABS, EBD
Crash rating: 4
Engine: 2.4-l, 4-cylinder, 122kW/225Nm
Transmission: 5- speed manual, 4-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Body: 5-door wagon
Dimensions: 4500 mm (L), 1810 mm (W), 1695 mm (H), 2640 mm (WB)
Weight: 2100kg
Tyres: 16" steel, 225/70, full-size spare.


The 2.4 generates solid grunt and works nicely with the six-speed automatic, while the ride/handling compromise on the base model's 17-inch wheels is comfortable and controlled. Useful stuff includes parking sensors at both ends, electric park brake, hill holder and plenty of oddment storage; less appealing is no Bluetooth or USB port, and a few chirps, sizzles and squeaks in the cabin.The Holden Captiva 5 (as in five seats) offers maximum metal for your dollars: $27,990 with a five speed manual, or $29,990 with a six-speed automatic. If you need a big interior for the kids and all the gear than goes with them, or a load it up weekend escape machine, Captiva is an honest, value for money choice.

Holden Captiva
Price: from $27,990
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Resale: 57%
Service interval: 15,000km /12 months
Economy: 9.1l/100km, CO2 217g/km
Safety equipment: Front driver/passenger airbags, front/rear side curtain airbags, ABS, ESC, traction control Crash rating: 5
Engine: 2.4-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine, 123kW/230Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, 6-speed auto, two-wheel drive
Body: 5-door wagon
Dimensions: 4596 mm (L); 1850 mm (W); 1761 mm (H); 2707 mm (WB)
Weight: 1852 kg
Tyres: 17" alloys, 235/65 R17, 16" steel spare.

ALSO CONSIDER

The Kia, and its Hyundai ix35 twin under the skin, both start at less than $27,000 in front wheel drive form, but the base 2.0-litre engine is a gutless, obnoxious thing and the handling is pretty loose. In both cases you're better off spending the admittedly considerable extra cash on all-wheel drive and the punchy 2.0-litre turbodiesel (from $35,490) or the refined, flexible direct injection 2.4 petrol (from $32,490).

Kia Sportage
Price: from $26,720
Warranty: 5 year/unlimited km
Resale: 61%
Service interval: 15,000km/12 months
Economy: 8.7l/100km, CO2 208g/km
Safety equipment: Front driver/passenger airbags, front/rear side curtain airbags, ABS, ESC, traction control Crash rating: 5
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol, 4-cylinder, 122kw/197Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body: 5-door wagon
Dimensions: 4440 mm (L); 1855 mm (W); 1635 mm (H); 2640 mm (WB)
Weight: 1980kg
Tyres: 17" alloys, 225/60 R17, full-size spare.


The current Honda CRV is due for retirement this year, so Honda will be flogging it at discount rates. Even so, at $28,090, the base model 2.4-litre all wheel drive still works a treat as a suburban warrior if you have a couple of young kids. You get the blue chip Honda badge, top class quality, grief-free ownership, a big interior, reasonable handling and strong resale values.

Honda CR-V
Price:
from $28,090
Warranty: 3 year/100,000km
Resale: 64%
Service interval: 10,000km/6mths
Economy: 10l/100km, 237g/km
Safety equipment: Front driver/passenger airbags, front/rear side curtain airbags, ABS, ESC, traction control Crash rating: 4
Engine: 2.4-l, 4-cylinder, 125kW /218Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, 5-speed auto with Grade Logic Control
Body: 5-door wagon
Dimensions: 4565 mm (L), 1820 mm (W), 1680 mm (H), 2620 mm (WB)
Weight: 1580kg
Tyres: 17" steel, 255/65 R17, full-size spare.

If your weekends feature mountain bikes, gardening, mud wrestling or any pastime that involves coating the interior of your car in dirt, you need an Nissan X-Trail. The front wheel drive ST uses the same 2.0-litre engine as the Dualis, and starts at $28,490.This could almost have made top five on the strength of its brilliantly designed cargo bay, which includes flat folding seats, a washable, removable floor and storage drawers.

Nissan X-Trail
Price: from $28,490
Warranty: 3 year/100,000 km
Resale: 62%
Service interval: 10,000km/6 months
Economy: 8.5l/100km, CO2 202g/km
Safety equipment: ESC, front/rear curtain airbags, front airbags, traction control, ABS Crash rating: 4
Engine: 2.0 litre, 4 cylinder petrol, 102kW/198Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body: 4-door wagon
Dimensions: 4635mm (L); 1790mm (W); 1700mm (H); 2630mm (WB)
Weight: 2000kg
Tyres: 225/60R17 tyres, full-size spare


A late 2011 nip and tuck saw the Renault Koleos (a Nissan Dualis with lightly modified DNA) emerge as a viable contender, though resale values for the French brand remain weak. It's certainly safe, comfortable and well equipped, though. You get a five years/unlimited kilometres warranty; dual zone air, 17-inch alloys and navigation are also standard on the base 2.5-litre petrol front wheel drive Expression, at $28,490.

Renault Koleos
Price:
from $28,490
Warranty: 5 year/unlimited km
Resale: 62%
Service interval: 10,000km/6-months
Economy: 9.6l/100km, CO2 230g/km
Safety equipment: Dual front, side, front/rear curtain airbags, ABS/EBA, ESP Crash rating: 5
Engine: 2.5 litre, 4-cylinder petrol, 126kW/226Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Body: 4-door wagon
Dimensions: 4520 mm (L); 1865mm (W); 1695mm (H); 2690mm (WB)
Weight: 2120kg
Tyres: 225/60 R 17, full-size spare.


Like Captiva, it's a big wagon, with a useful 2.4-litre engine, and handy touches including a horizontally split tailgate, chilled glovebox and a generous warranty: five years/130,000 kilometres and 10 years/160,000 (non transferable) on the drivetrain. Capped price servicing is also available for four years/60,000 kilometres.The Mitsubishi Outlander comes into calculations here with six airbags standard for 2012 across the range, including the base LS front wheel drive, from $29,340.

Mitsubishi Outlander
Price:
from $29,340
Warranty: 5 year/130,000km
Resale: 63%
Service interval: 15000km/12 months
Economy: 9.2l/100km
Safety equipment: ESC, ABS, front driver and passenger airbags Crash rating: 4
Engine: 2.4 litre, 4-cylinder DOHC 16 valve MIVEC engine, 125kW/226Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Body: 4-door wagon
Dimensions: 4665 mm (L); 1800 mm (W); 1720 mm (H); 2670 mm (WB)
Weight: 2270 kg
Tyres: 215/70R16 99H, full-size spare.

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