Soft-Roaders

 
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.
 

A SHORT SUV HISTORY LESSON

Subaru Leone 4WD Wagon - the first SUV

There’s an ongoing argument between Suzuki and Toyota over who was first to introduce the SUV. The answer is neither of them.

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SOFT-ROADERS HAVE THEIR LIMITATIONS

Don't expect a soft-roader to go where the big boys can.

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.

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A USED SOFTROADER FOR BUSH TRAVEL - WHAT YOU NEED TO CONSIDER

Softroaders have limited off-road ability - here's what to look out for.

In this article we look at the most popular pre-2008 softroaders in the used market and check out their bush cred’.

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BEWARE THE RUN-FLAT TYRE AND THE EMERGENCY SPARE

Don't even think about buying a softroader with these stupidly dangerous tyres.

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.

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EUROPEAN SOFT-ROADERS

Why we don't test them.

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.

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SUBARU FORESTER

The Forester is our favourite Subaru - updated March 2016.

The Forester carries the DNA from the late 20th century Leone and Touring Wagons into the 21st century. The Forester is a great on-road performer, with quite good fire trail capability.

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SUBARU OUTBACK

Subaru has released an upggraded fifth-generation Outback wagon.- March 2016

The Outback drifted somewhat from its off-roading roots in recent years, but the 2015 model had enhanced 4WD capability. An uppgrade was introduced in March 2016.

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FORD'S 2015 TERRITORY UPGRADES

This may be the last Territory model - more's the pity.

Ford has upgraded the Territory for 2015 and sharpened pricing, with list prices for 4WD models down by $3000.

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HYUNDAI 2009 TREK 'n' TOW SANTA FE TEST

Hyundai introduced towing-specific suspension upgrades in 2009.

Hyundai and Cub Campers combined to celebrate the launch of a Trek ‘n’ Tow suspension kit for the Santa Fe seven-seater in 2009, when Hyundai made cosmetic and equipment changes to the range.

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HYUNDAI IX35 - April 2015

Market leadership came quickly for this well-specified SUV.

In early 2010 the ix35 replaced the original Hyundai Tucson that was launched in 2004, but in some global markets the name ‘Tucson’ was retained. When the ix35 was replaced in Australia in the third quarter 2015 the Tucson name was restored.

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HYUNDAI SANTA FE - updated October 2014

Hyundai's seven-seater is one of the best softroaders in the market.

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.

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ISSUES WITH 2003 SOFTROADERS

Don't believe the off-road antics you see on TV ads.

TV ads show softroaders doing all types of off-road driving, but none is really suitable for hard-core bush work. Knowing its shortcomings is the first step to happy off-bitumen travel in a softroader. We looked at five 2003 softroaders and drew up some criticisms and recommendations.

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JEEP'S 2015 CHEROKEE TURNS SOFT-ROADER

Jeep softens the Cherokee, but there is still a low-range option.

Jeep's Cherokee model has returned to the Australian market. The 2015 KL is based on the Fiat/Chrysler wide-compact platform, with petrol and diesel engine choices.

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JEEP COMPASS 2017

A new Jeep Compass is due for release in 2017 - November 2016

Jeep makes many claims for the forthcoming Compass and Compass Trailhawk models – most of which are apparently true. However, the claim ‘ best-in-class 4x4 off-road capabilities’ will need some proof, because it ignores the fact that Suzuki’s Grand Vitara has much better low-range gearing.

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JEEP RENEGADE - January 2016

A compact SUV with some useful off-road features.

We always reckoned there was a market for the Fiat Panda in Australia. Now it's arrived, badged Jeep Renegade.

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KIA SORENTO - 2011 MODEL

Kia’s diesel technology made the torquey Sorento AWD a powerful tow vehicle.

Kia’s Sorento brand started life as a body-on-frame, conventional 4WD wagon with low-range gearing and live rear axle and then morphed into an AWD or 2WD machine with monocoque construction and all-independent suspension.

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KIA SORENTO - Updated June 2015

The Sorento is a well made, high performance seven seater.

Although built on the parent company's - Hyundai's - Santa Fe platform the Kia Sorento has styling, powertrain and suspension settings of its own.

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KIA SPORTAGE 2014

This compact SUV has sparkling performance.

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.

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LAND ROVER DISCOVERY SPORT

The Freelander replacement has arrived and is due for upgrades in early 2017.

Land Rover has released the new Discovery Sport, the first member of the new Discovery family, Discovery Sport features optional 5+2 seating in a footprint no larger than that of the previous Freelander 2.

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MAHINDRA'S XUV500 SOFT-ROADER

Better known for its low-priced, rugged utes this Indian maker has softroader - May 2016 February 2016.

The seven-seat New Age XUV500 is available with on-demand AWD and a six-speed manual transmission. Auto models were released in May 2016.

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MAZDA CX-5 - January 2015

The top-selling medium SUV struts its stuff on and off road.

The largest-selling medium Soft-Roader wagon has been updated for 2015.

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MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER - updated April 2015

The latest Outlander bristles with technology.

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.

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NISSAN JUKE TURBO POCKET ROCKET - April 2015

The Juke Turbo packs a few surprises.

Small SUVs now proliferate, but this rapid little beast stands out from the crowd. It has some bush cred as well, we found.

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NISSAN MURANO WITH CVT

A stepless transmission has some benefits, especially when towing.

The Nissan Murano uses an Xtronic continuously variable transmission in place of a conventional automatic transmission. A CVT has ‘stepless’ gearing within upper and lower limits.

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NISSAN PATHFINDER - 2014 Models

Nissan abandons the 'real' 4WD wagon market.

The 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.

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NISSAN X-TRAIL - 2015 models

After 12 successful years the boxy X-Trail has been restyled.

The X-Trail has been a big seller for Nissan, with 140,000 sold in Australia since its introduction in 2001. The new, restyled model went on sale in March 2014 and the diesel in October.

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AROUND RED ROCKS - AN OUTBACK DOUBLE

Subaru outbacks pull Jayco Outbacks.

Back in 2004 Subaru and Jayco combined their strengths to illustrate the Outback’s abilities as a bush towing vehicle.

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SKODA'S ABOMINABLE SANDMAN - THE YETI

The Yeti survived tough outback conditions at the national launch.

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.

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SUBARU LIBERTY PETROL VS DIESEL - 2011 MODELS ON TEST

Which powerplant is best for your needs?

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.

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TOYOTA RAV4 TURBO-DIESEL TEST

Unless you want to tow, this machine is very good.

Toyota has 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 latest RAV4.

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TOYOTA'S 2008 KLUGER TARGETTED FORD'S TERRITORY

The Ford AWD wagon gave Toyota a fright.

Toyota’s Kluger was launched in 2003 and the fly in the Kulger’s ointment jar was Ford’s Territory, which consistently outsold the Toyota machine.

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COMPARISON TESTS OF SOME 2008 MODELS

We checked out five popular softroaders in varying conditions.

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.

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FORD'S 2006 ESCAPE ROUTE

The Escape scored a much-needed rework.

Ford's Escape model was five years old in 2006, gradually becoming better equipped as time went on. Ford gave its potent softroader a complete going-over in early 2006.

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ZOOM-ZOOM+ROOM = MAZDA'S 2008 CX-9

Mazda's large softroader is a class act.

Mazda joined the three-row seat SUV brigade with the Australian release of the CX-9 seven-seater.

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