We help choose the ideal car for your needs and your budget: this time, a seven-seater SUV for under R300k…

Age: 42
Budget: R300 000
Status: Family of five
Vehicle type: Seven-seater SUV

Requirements:

This family plans to go on holidays and weekend trips that will also involve some off-roading. A hardy ladder-framed chassis is preferred.

The vehicle:

It must house the entire family and still have space left for luggage. Diesel is best for better fuel economy.

Our choice: Toyota Fortuner 2,5 D-4D

0 to 100 km/h: 12,70 seconds
Top speed: 170 km/h
Power: 106 kW
Torque: 343 N.m
CO2: 211 g/km
CAR fuel index: 9,6 L/100 km

Toyota Fortuner

With the arrival of the all-new Fortuner in 2016, there are more than enough previous-generation models available in the market. This is good news, because these vehicles are super reliable and will be doing their SUV work for many more years to come. The not-so-good news is that everyone knows how good they are, so don’t expect to find any real bargains.

The engines are possibly the most reliable diesel mills in the market, with very few problems encountered. Ask any motor mechanic; they will probably tell you that they can’t comment because they never see them in the workshop. If something does give up, it will be a clutch wearing out or some injectors needing a rebuild after a long life of use.

Drawbacks inside are bulky rearmost seats that fold up to the sides and reduce packing space. Many owners unbolt these and store them.

There are a variety of versions to choose from, including 4x2 and 4x4, and manual or automatic gearboxes (both five-speed). The most common engine is the 3,0-litre D-4D but a more affordable option is the 2,5-litre engine that arrived later in the Fortuner’s long life-cycle. Despite its output of 106 kW, this unit feels strong.

Remember these engines use a timing belt but, again, it is a reliable component and needs changing only every 150 000 km.

Space: 7 seats, 208/544-1 360 L
Safety and aids: 2 airbags, ABS/EBD/stability control
Cost of 4 tyres: R8 600
Road test: April 2012

Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2,5 D-ID

0 to 100 km/h: 11,90 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Power: 131 kW
Torque: 400 N.m
CO2: 225 g/km
CAR fuel index: 10,2 L/100 km

Mitsubishi Pajero

When we tested a 3,2-litre Pajero Sport in 2009, we really liked the vehicle but considered the R414 000 price tag excessive at the time. Our next test was in 2013, with a more reasonable relative-to-market sticker price of R445 900.

It’s easy to praise newer engines for their higher pressure/more complex fuel-injection systems that provide quieter running and reduced emissions. And this was true when comparing Mitsubishi’s 2,5-litre with the older-generation 3,2-litre. Still, there are many who have spent some time with both and prefer the older engine for its easy-going flexibility. The new one is a bit rougher at low speeds but punchy once on the boil. Fuel consumption, as expected, showed an improvement over the larger engine.

One of the unusual features of this car is the paddle shifters on automatic models. These are oversized aluminium items and can add a touch of fun when you are bored with wafting along as the conventional auto ‘box does all the thinking for you. This ‘box can vacillate between being a bit lazy, to swapping cogs too often when not absolutely necessary. There’s a manual gearbox available.

At 96 litres, luggage space behind the third row of seats is the smallest of this trio, but utility space is the largest at 1 512 litres.

Space: 7 seats, 96/416-1 512 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ABS/traction control
Cost of 4 tyres: R8 500
Road test: December 2013

Chevrolet Trailblazer 2,5D

0 to 100 km/h: 11,59 seconds
Top speed: 180 km/h
Power: 120 kW
Torque: 380 N.m
CO2: 198 g/km
CAR fuel index: 8,90 L/100 km

Chevrolet Trailblazer

GM introduced the Trailblazer in 2012 and the SUV impressed from the start. There were two four-cylinder turbodiesel power units (and a 3,6-litre V6 petrol): the 2,5 delivered 110 kW and 350 N.m, while the 2,8-litre had 132 kW and 470 N.m. With the facelift in 2016, the 2,5-litre’s outputs were increased to 120 kW and 380 N.m, so be aware which model you’re considering. These early models can be purchased for less than R200 000.

The engines use camchains and owners generally praise the fuel consumption and towing ability (tow ratings at 2 500 and 2 950 kg for the 2,5- and 2,8-litre, respectively), although we have heard complaints that some consider the units too noisy and others have complained of iffy radio reception.

The interior is spacious, with the last two rows of seats folding almost flat into the floor. Space for passengers in the third row is generally a problem on these types of vehicles – although the Trailblazer is more spacious than some – and if all seats are used, there is only 112 litres for luggage.

As the years pass, spares may become difficult to source, but there are about 70 available for sale at any time so scrapyards could be a last resort for parts.

Space: 7 seats, 112/392-1 264 L
Safety and aids: 6 airbags, ABS/EBD
Cost of 4 tyres: R8 712
Road test: November 2016