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Used small SUVs review

Still popular... The Toyota RAV4 (above) was an early player in the compact SUV segment in Australia.

More and more manufacturers are realising they can attract extra sales by creating two-wheel-drive versions of their 'soft roaders'.

2WD buyers are looking for the practicality of the wagon - a commanding driving position, perhaps a little higher ride height for a short drive down a dry dirt track, the 'look' of an SUV, strong suspension, and in some cases seven seats - without getting a people-mover.

If they don’t need to go offroad, in the snow, through muddy tracks, they don’t need the four-wheel-drive ability. But they can get everything else they want with 2WD versions of the SUV.

What’s the benefit of 2WD?

By opting for the 2WD version, the vehicle costs thousands of dollars less because that second set of drive-shafts, differentials, wheel joints and bits are not in the vehicle. And that means the 2WD versions weigh considerably less. Less weight means less fuel, a cost saving to the owner and lower exhaust emissions for the planet. And less weight means better performance in acceleration and handling.

The month of May this year was the best-ever May for new-vehicle sales in Australia. Part of the reason was a staggering 29 per cent growth in SUV sales over May of last year. Clearly Aussies still love their SUVs and many of those extra sales were because of 2WD versions.

Toyota offering its large Kluger in 2WD and 4WD, in all trim levels. The choice (between 2WD and 4WD) will give buyers an alternative purchase decision based on their real needs. Toyota also offers the RAV4, which gets revised gear ratios for with 2WD.

Ford launched its Territory SUV in 2004 in 4WD and 2WD right from the start. But some brands don’t offer the full choice of models of the 4WD. For example, the Kia Sorento 2WD cannot have Kia's excellent turbo-diesel engine of the 4WD, but it's recognised that 2WD buyers are looking for lower buying and running costs and so only a base model engine is provided.

KIA SORENTO - $36,490
image Drives well with good ride; six-speed automatic, fuel economy
image Engine sometimes works hard to move 1814kg weight

A much better onroad wagon than previous (4WD-only) model. The 2WD Kia Sorento is available only with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine to keep down cost.

Engine: 2.4-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 128kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 226Nm @ 3750rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic; front-wheel-drive.

image Low price, plenty of Holden dealers for back-up
image Modest power, tows only 1500kg, no auto option

The Holden Captiva 2WD gives wagon motoring to Holden followers not wanting a V6 or V8 Commodore Sportwagon. Captiva has been selling well lately.

Engine: 2.4-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 103kW @ 5200rpm
Torque: 220Nm @ 2400rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual; front-wheel-drive.

image Engine power, full model range, including seven-seater
image Large, blunt design, fuel use

The larger option from Toyota can be had in all the trim levels of the Kluger 4WDs, which means seven-seaters as well. The well-known 3.5 V6 engine is a good 'un.

Engine: 3.5-litre, V6, petrol
Power: 201kW @ 6200rpm
Torque: 337Nm @ 4700rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic; front-wheel-drive.

image Torque at low revs, parts costs, seven-seat option
image Size to park, fuel use, dating body shape, auto only a four-speed

The only Australian-designed and built SUV, Territory uses Ford Falcon running gear and is a popular vehicle, especially now that Falcon wagon is ceasing production.

Engine: Four-litre, six-cylinder, petrol
Power: 190kW @ 5250rpm
Torque: 383Nm @ 2500rpm
Transmission: Four-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive.

BMW X1 sDrive18i - $43,500
image BMW owner pride, diesel option, equipment, fuel economy, 1430kg weight
image Expensive parts and servicing

BMW's new compact SUV in two-wheel-drive form is known as the sDrive. It is one of the low-cost ways of getting behind the famous BMW badge and suits Yuppies.

Engine: Two-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 110kW @ 6400rpm
Torque: 200Nm @ 3600rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual (optional six-speed automatic); rear-wheel-drive.

TOYOTA RAV4 - $28,990
image Fuel economy, Toyota reputation, modest kerb weight (1525kg), price
image Tows only 1500kg

RAV is the most recent 4WD SUV available in 2WD and uses the Toyota Camry 2.4 engine. RAV started the compact SUV segment and has kept updated nicely since.

Engine: 2.4-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 125kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 224Nm @ 4000rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual (optional four-speed automatic); front-wheel-drive.


Year Price From Price To
2010 $8,300 $48,290

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Pricing guides

Based on 19 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

(base) 3.5L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $4,600 – 7,370 2008 Kia Sorento 2008 (base) Pricing and Specs
EX 2.5L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO $6,300 – 9,790 2008 Kia Sorento 2008 EX Pricing and Specs
EX Global Circuit 2.5L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO $5,500 – 8,470 2008 Kia Sorento 2008 EX Global Circuit Pricing and Specs
EX-L 2.5L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO $7,100 – 11,000 2008 Kia Sorento 2008 EX-L Pricing and Specs
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.