Most ‘softroaders’ don’t meet our criteria for legitimate bush-travel vehicles, but we’ve had requests from softroader owners and potential buyers for some guidance in buying and operating these machines. In this section we’ve included our observations on past models – for those who are in the used-softroader market – as well as reviews of selected newer models. Unfortunately, most post-2015 vehicles are too ‘soft’ for any serious outback travelling, so we’re not wasting our time and yours testing them.
The Outback drifted somewhat from its off-roading roots in the early 2000s, but the 2015 model had enhanced 4WD capability. Upgrades were introduced in 2016 and 2021.
The Forester is a great on-road performer, with quite good fire trail capability. The 2016 Forester had some styling changes, a quieter, more comfortable cabin and upgraded instruments. In September 2018 Subaru launched the new generation of its top-selling Forester All-Wheel Drive wagon.
Land Rover Discovery Sport was the first member of the new Discovery family and featured optional 5+2 seating in a footprint no larger than that of the previous Freelander 2. Mild hybrid versions were announced in 2020.
The production GV80 realises the vision of the GV80 Concept first shown at the 2017 New York auto show. The interior and exterior styling of GV80 was a collaboration between Genesis design studios located in South Korea, the United States and Germany.
The success of the Peugeot 2008 DKR race machine in the 2016 Dakar event has prompted some off-road enthusiasts to suggest that there may be a place for a 2WD to challenge the accepted ability of a 4WD for off-road touring. It’s not that simple.
Jeep mademany claims for the 2018 Compass and Compass Trailhawk models , but ‘ best-in-class 4×4 off-road capabilities’ required proof, because it ignored the fact that Suzuki’s Grand Vitara has much better low-range gearing.
The seven-seat New Age XUV500 was available with on-demand AWD and a six-speed manual transmission. Auto models were released in May 2016.
We always reckoned there was a market for the Fiat Panda in Australia. Now it’s arrived, badged Jeep Renegade.
Don’t take any notice of TV ads showing soft-roaders tearing through beach-front salt water. Do it and you’re certain to void your warranty and you could be on the path to an expensive recovery or total loss.
Ford upgraded the Territory for 2015 and sharpened pricing, with list prices for 4WD models down by $3000.
Nearly all European soft-roaders now come with temporary spare wheels, run-flat tyres or no spare and a can of tyre inflation gas and sealant.
The 2014 Kia Sportage won the J.D. Power Germany Vehicle Ownership Satisfaction Study, in the hard-fought ‘Compact SUV’ category. The Sportage scored 83.6-percent driver satisfaction.
Jeep’s Cherokee model has returned to the Australian market. The 2015 KL was based on the Fiat/Chrysler wide-compact platform, with petrol and diesel engine choices.
Although built on the parent company’s – Hyundai’s – Santa Fe platform the Kia Sorento had styling, powertrain and suspension settings of its own. This test is of a 2015 model and we haven’t updated it, because Kias and Santa Fes are getting ‘softer’ every year.
The X-Trail has been a big seller for Nissan, with 140,000 sold in Australia since its introduction in 2001. The restyled model went on sale in March 2014 and was updated in May 2017. We reckon it’s become too soft for bush work, so we haven’t updated our testing.
The largest-selling medium softroader wagon was updated for 2015 and thereafter came with a temporary spare tyre.
Early Santa Fes were solidly made, but the latest model takes the Hyundai brand to a whole new level. This vehicle has impressive specifications, is strongly made and tows well.
The post-2014 Nissan Pathfinder is now a definite softroader, with a monocoque body and no low range gearing. It also comes with V6 petrol power and a continuously variable transmission, making it, in effect, a seven-seat Murano. We won’t test future models, because they’re too soft for bush work.
Run-flat tyres and emergency spare tyres have no place in the Australian market, especially for people who want use their SUVs for trips more than 100km away from service back-up.
Our continual monitoring of softroaders since 2000 has seen us checking out some in head-to-head comparisons. Here’s a test we did in 2008.
Toyota joined the move to diesel power in the Australian softroader market with the introduction of a frugal yet potent 2.2-litre option for its RAV4. After this model Toyota fitted a temporary spare wheel and we stopped testing RAVs.
Subaru has a proud history in Australia and the company is responsible for starting the entire all-wheel-drive movement, despite Toyota’s totally incorrect claims that the RAV 4 was the first SUV.
If true to its name the Yeti should have been launched on the snowy slopes of the Himalayas, but the deep sand of Australia’s Finke River served just as well to demonstrate this new wagon’s considerable ability.
The Nissan Murano used an Xtronic continuously variable transmission in place of a conventional automatic transmission. A CVT has ‘stepless’ gearing within upper and lower limits.
The Outlander has always been one of the best softroaders, although Mitsubishi’s sometimes radical front end styling alienated many loyal customers over the years.
In this article we look at the most popular pre-2008 softroaders in the used market and check out their bush cred’.
There was an ongoing argument between Suzuki and Toyota over who was first to introduce the SUV. The answer is neither of them.