We had our doubts about the first-gen Range Rover Sport. Some thought it was too flashy for a brand that traded on understated elegance, while others took umbrage with the heavy Discovery-based underpinnings. For version 2.0, Land Rover has made the wise decision to base the Sport on the accomplished aluminium full-monocoque underpinnings of the flagship Range Rover. And it has transformed the vehicle. The newcomer feels appreciably more wieldy and surefooted than its predecessor, yet it manages to ride with close-to the surety of the donor car and almost matches its stellar levels of refinement, too. Three excellent engines are available – the 3,0-litre biturbo-diesel is our first choice – as well as three trim levels, while the spacious cabin further cements the newfound sophistication. Our only gripes are somewhat mean spec on entry-level S models (leather is a pricey R20 600 option!) and an outdated infotainment system.
Hyundai Santa Fe
We’ve overlooked the Santa Fe’s solitary engine option and voted it second because on-road it’s one of the most accomplished SUVs around. Space, luxury, comfort and performance are all excellent.
Yes, we know the Cayenne range is miserly equipped considering its pricing, but underneath the skin resides a marvel of engineering. It handles like a sedan yet has a tightly constructed cabin with space in which to roam. The V8 diesel is incredible, too.
Thanks to healthy standard spec, a proven powertrain and a versatile interior, the Tourneo has defeated the Hyundai H-1. Besides being endowed with a multitude of features that some rivals can’t match, the big Ford makes a strong case for itself in the pricing stakes. And, if all of that doesn’t impress, there’s always the acres of room, proof that sometimes bigger is, in fact, better.
We’ve moved the bakkie-based SUVs to this sub-section because they aren’t as accomplished as purpose-built SUVs. That said, there’s still great value here. Last year’s award winner, the Chevrolet Trailblazer, remains our pick. The Toyota Fortuner and rejuvenated Mitsubishi Triton aren’t far behind.
Check out all the winners from our Top 12 Best Buys for 2014 here (click).