Booming D-Max sales lift Isuzu into Australia's top 10 for the first time! New ute trails only Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux
Isuzu forced its way into Australia's top 10 brand list for the first time ever...
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The recent launch of Toyota’s Yaris Cross is further proof of the rise and rise of the crossover vehicle. Even the tiniest ones.
It’s not just the Yaris Cross that’s hitting the market, either, the whole category is a who’s who of pretty much every serious volume carmaker operating in the country.
But the proof of the segment’s importance can also be seen in the attention to detail that Toyota applied to the Yaris Cross.
While it could have simply tacked on some wheelarch flares, jacked up the ride height and called it a crossover, instead the butchest version of the Yaris got technology including a hybrid driveline and even the option of all-wheel drive.
As we saw with the launch of the cooking-model Yaris a few weeks ago, the flip side to all this new tech is a rising price tag, and that means these hot sellers from Toyota (and other makes) are out of reach for a lot of buyers.
But there are options; second-hand crossovers that can match the Yaris for its all-wheel-drive option and its general purpose in life (if not the actual technology).
And they’re cheaper than you might think.
Let’s start with the Nissan Juke (2013 on).
In its all-wheel-drive form, the Juke was only fitted with the turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine and exclusively in Ti-S specification.
But that’s no bad thing, because the turbo engine is a zippy little unit and endows the rather odd-looking Juke with plenty of performance thanks to outputs of 140kW and 240Nm.
The only transmission you’ll be offered in this trim is a CVT and the all-wheel drive is an on-demand arrangement by means of an electrically operated centre clutch-pack.
Watch out for CVTs that have never ben serviced, as a zero-maintenance gearbox was what Nissan was claiming at the time.
Experience in the trade, however, has shown that this gearbox is much happier with regular, 50,000km fluid changes.
Expect price tags for good cars with service histories to start at about $9500.
Although the base model was a front-drive car, everything else had all-wheel drive, which was an on-demand system with an electronic multi-plate clutch-pack doing the torque shuffling.
Interestingly, the centre clutch could also be locked for permanent 50:50 front:rear torque distribution, suggesting that Suzuki figured the car had a place with the snow-bunnies and other recreational users.
Regardless of what version you bought, you got a 1.6-litre engine with 86kW and variable valve timing but no turbocharger.
Like most modern Suzukis, the S-Cross seems pretty reliable and durable over the longer term, but have any potential purchase checked by a dealership to make sure a handful of recalls have been carried out.
Prices start at about $12,000.
Something a little more left of field? How about the Fiat Panda Trekking?
Sold here for just a couple of years from 2013 to 2015, the Trekking badge denoted the all-wheel-drive option and was available only as a 1.2-litre turbo-diesel with 55kW and as a five-speed manual only.
In normal conditions, the Panda sent as much as 90 per cent of its torque to the front wheels, but when the need arose, could use its electronic centre differential to funnel torque rearwards and maintain grip.
But the Panda’s real party-piece was the little button behind the gearshift that operated front and rear electronic diff locks; a feature that even most full-sized off-roaders don’t boast as standard.
But even with those diff locks and the Trekking’s extra 50mm of ground clearance, the Panda couldn’t get away from inherent problems such as oil contaminating the DPF, clogged air filters and timing chain problems.
If you can find one now, the seller will be asking something like $10,000 and upwards for it.
No, the Cruze we’re dealing with here was essentially a rebadged Suzuki Ignis that happened to be sold through Holden dealerships.
Power came from a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine good for 74kW and available with a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
The all-wheel-drive system was standard on the Cruze and amounted to a viscous centre coupling that would send drive to the rear axle if the front wheels suddenly started rotating faster (spinning) than the rear wheels.
The Suzuki influence comes through in the Cruze’s apparent ability to keep on keeping on with minimal problems, but it’s definitely an old-school ride these days in dynamic terms.
Interestingly, although Suzuki did, indeed, sell the Ignis in Australia at the same time as the Cruze, the Suzuki wasn’t made available in all-wheel-drive form here.
Cruze prices start now start around the $3000 mark.
Beware high-milers that have ben worked hard by florists, delivery drivers and as loan cars at panel beaters and workshops.