Know how much you can spend on a car but haven’t made up your mind which one to buy? We recommend two sensible options, plus a left-field choice. This time we're looking at seven-seaters for under R320 000...

SENSIBLE: Ford Everest 3,2 TDCi 4x4 AT

0-100 km/h: 11,20 seconds
Top speed: n/a
Power: 147 Kw
Torque: 470 N.m
CO2: 217 g/km
Fuel consumption: 9,84 L/100 km

The all-new (current-iteration) Everest was launched late in 2015, some time after the much-liked first-generation model was discontinued.

Thanks to keen pricing and lower resale value than the Fortuner, you can opt for the latest-generation, pre-facelift Everest. The 2,2-litre four- and 3,2-litre five-cylinder engines are on offer but there was a delay in bringing the former options to market. Prices vary considerably, from R320 000 upwards.

The Everest may be bakkie-based but offers a comfortable ride, helped by rear coil springing in place of the Ranger’s leaf springs. The second-row seating can be fully adjusted, so there is sufficient space for adults even in the two rearmost two pews.

The six-speed auto transmission can drive the rear wheels or all four, and has a low-range transfer case. Fuel consumption is acceptable but you may want to look at the 2,2-litre if frugality’s a priority. The gearbox is initially a bit sluggish but thereafter it performs well.

The majority of owner complaints focus on the ’box. If there is slip between second, third and fourth ratios, have it inspected by a specialist. The service plan on earlier models lasts for five years/90 000 km, with servicing every 20 000 km.

Space: 7 seats, 152-416/1 376 L
Safety and aids: 7 airbags, ABS with EBD and BAS, stability control
Cost of four tyres: R12 382
Road test: December 2015

SENSIBLE: Toyota Fortuner 3,0 D-4D 4x4 AT

0-100 km/h: 12,30 seconds
Top speed: 170 km/h
Power: 120 Kw
Torque: 343 N.m
CO2: 259 g/km
Fuel consumption: 11,80 L/100 km

We would have preferred to slot in the all-new Fortuner launched in 2016 but the cheapest of these models is still priced more than R400 000. At our budget, opt for the original 3,0 D-4D. These remain highly sought after, hence the elevated prices. Still, their proven reliability over high mileages is well documented, hence the popularity. A recent conversation with an owner revealed that his car had done more than 300 000 km while still using the original clutch. If the mileage of your proposed purchase is high, consider testing the fuel injectors for the correct calibration.

When folded to the sides, the rear seats can get in the way of loading so many owners unbolt and store them when they don’t require seven seats.

We tested the 2,5-litre manual version (which delivers 106 kW and 343 N.m) in 2012 but the most popular engine remains the 3,0-litre D-4D. It uses a timing belt that is changed every 150 000 km. Don’t neglect this crucial step.

Speaking of servicing, this is required every 10 000 km. If you do your own work, do frequent oil swaps. Further benefits of ownership include reasonable cost of spares and a superior dealer footprint compared with the industry standard.

Space: 7 seats, 208-544/1 360 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, ESC
Cost of four tyres: R7 946
Road test: April 2012 (2,5 D-4D)

LEFT-FIELD: Kia Sorento 2,2 CRDi SX 4x4 AT

0-100 km/h: 9,52 seconds
Top speed: 203 km/h
Power: 147 Kw
Torque: 440 N.m
CO2: 174 g/km
Fuel consumption: 7,92 L/100 km

Finding a less obvious choice can be tricky at the budget should you want to avoid tired luxury SUVs, such as Land Rover Discovery 4s and Volvo XC90s. We chose the Sorento, which is presently one of our favourite family SUVs. The Hyundai/Kia 2,2-litre turbodiesel is especially impressive when mated to an auto ‘box.

The vehicle is not bakkie-based but rather a monocoque design and is thus refined, powerful and economical. Safety standards are up to date with six airbags and stability control.

The unibodied Sorento is surprisingly hefty at over two tonnes but you hardly notice with both performance and fuel efficiency impressive thanks to high power and torque outputs.

High-quality interior appointments on the SX model includes heated and cooled front seats, an electric driver’s chair, keyless go, easily accessed USB and aux ports, and cruise control. The infotainment screen is small but this is a minor issue.

Note the two 4x4 versions are badged EX and SX. The latter has seven seats plus a panoramic sunroof with an opening front section. The rear seats fold completely flat for increased load capacity.

Kia offered a five-year warranty and maintenance plan. Servicing is required every 15 000 km.

Space: 7 seats, 112-392/1 264 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, stability control
Cost of four tyres: R9 650
Road test: October 2015

Second hand cars for sale