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.

BEWARE THE RUN-FLAT TYRE AND THE EMERGENCY SPARE
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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A USED SOFTROADER FOR BUSH TRAVEL - WHAT YOU NEED TO CONSIDER
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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EUROPEAN SOFT-ROADERS
EUROPEAN SOFT-ROADERS
Why we don't test most of 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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FORD'S 2015 TERRITORY UPGRADES
FORD'S 2015 TERRITORY UPGRADES
This was the last Territory model - more's the pity.

Ford 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 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
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
HYUNDAI SANTA FE
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
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'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
JEEP COMPASS
A new Jeep Compass was released in December 2017

Jeep makes many claims for the 2018 Compass and Compass Trailhawk models , but ‘ 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
JEEP RENEGADE
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 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
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
KIA SPORTAGE
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
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
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
MAZDA CX-5 - January 2015
The top-selling medium SUV struts its stuff on and off road.

The largest-selling medium softroader wagon was updated for 2015 and thereafter came with a temporary spare tyre.

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MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER
MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER
The 2015 Outlander bristled 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
NISSAN JUKE TURBO POCKET ROCKET
The 2015 Juke Turbo packed 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
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
NISSAN PATHFINDER
Nissan abandons the 'real' 4WD wagon market.

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.

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 NISSAN X-TRAIL
NISSAN X-TRAIL
After 12 successful years the boxy X-Trail was restyled.

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.

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AROUND RED ROCKS - AN OUTBACK DOUBLE
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
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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CAN A 2WD REPLACE A 4WD
CAN A 2WD REPLACE A 4WD
In some cases a 2WD can give a 4WD softroader a run for its money - May 2017

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.

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SOFT-ROADERS HAVE THEIR LIMITATIONS
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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SUBARU FORESTER
SUBARU FORESTER
The Forester is our favourite Subaru.

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.

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SUBARU LIBERTY PETROL VS DIESEL - 2011 MODELS ON TEST
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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SUBARU OUTBACK
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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SUV - A SHORT HISTORY LESSON
SUV - A SHORT 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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TOYOTA RAV4 TURBO-DIESEL TEST
TOYOTA RAV4 TURBO-DIESEL TEST
Unless you want to tow, this machine is very good.

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.

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TOYOTA'S 2008 KLUGER TARGETTED FORD'S TERRITORY
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
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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ZOOM-ZOOM+ROOM = MAZDA'S 2008 CX-9
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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